Old Jersey silver

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This article by T W Attenborough was first published in the 1934 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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It is the intention of this paper to give a brief resume of the various types of old silver of Jersey manufacture remaining in the island and to make some reference to the makers' marks on the existing specimens.

Trinity Church chalice

350-year tradition

During a period of at least 350 years, the silversmith exercised his craft here with no mean ability and many specimens of his workmanship remain, though many more, alas, have been scattered and destroyed.

That such a craftmanship should have disappeared from our midst is a thing we all, I feel sure, regret and it behoves us to guard jealously the specimens which remain. The finest examples of Jersey-made silver articles which are still in existence are in the various parish churches and I have little doubt that but for the general destruction and theft at the Reformation we should have many more and some much older than any we now possess.

I do not think for a moment that the chalices, patens, paxes, cruets, and candlesticks which must have existed in the parish churches before they were stolen by the commissioners of Edward VI were all of English or French origin. There are specimens of local silver in existence which were made prior to this date showing that there were silversmiths in the island quite capable of making articles destined for ecclesiastical use.

The oldest, and I believe, the only piece of silver made for ecclesiastical purposes of pre-reformation date is the mutilated chalice from the parish of Trinity. Only the bowl and foot remain but a fine modern restoration of the chalice was given to the parish by Athelstan Riley.

I feel sure that this is of local make. The foot shows the peculiar feature of being octagonal. The almost universal rule in England and France was a hexagonal or six-sided foot.

The only other old chalices I know of with eight-sided feet are one in the Musee de Cluny (of French make) and one in the Catholic church of Fernyhalgh, in Lancashire, of Irish make. The convex sides of the foot point to a date of from 1510 to 1530.

Prior to that they were generally slightly concave. Examples of the former may be seen at St Sampson's, Guernsey; Jurby, Isle of Man, Wylie, Wilts (a late and beautiful specimen) and also in a French chalice given by Mary, Queen of Scots to the church of St Jean du Doigt in Brittany, examples of the latter at Hornby, Claughton Leominster and elsewhere.

This chalice has no hall or maker's mark of any description, as it almost certainly would were it of English origin and the bowl is larger and of a different shape from those of French chalices of the period. It also shows the peculiar feature of having no Cross, Crucifix, or other religious image on the foot. This is undoubtedly the most interesting piece of local silver remaining in the island.

St Brelade bowl

St Brelade and St Mary

The other seven pieces are also rather peculiar. Four belong to the parish of St Brelade, and two to the parish of St Mary and one is in private possession. These are, of course, of secular origin and, while they may have been made for fruit dishes, I am inclined to think they were intended to be used for drinking bowls, and are in fact mazer bowls.

The fine workmanship, the Tudor Rose, and the enamelling on the St Brelade bowls point to a date of about 1530. I do not know of any similar bowls in England or France, nor do I know if any others exist in the island in private possession.

Hall and makers' marks are absent but they are almost certainly of local make. The next class comprises the cups in the churches and in private possession. These, apparently, were made in the second half of the 16th and the first half of the 17th century. The earliest examples have shallow bowls and the bowl gradually becomes deeper in the later specimens.

The oldest in the island is dated 1594 and is from the parish of St Clement. There are others about the same date from St Martin (inscribed Lorrains Baudains) and St Lawrence (with the London hall mark of 1598). This is probably the oldest hall-marked piece of Jersey silver. A beautiful specimen is in the possession of the Rev E J Gallichan. I think the earlier examples were domestic drinking cups, but some of the latter were specially made for church use, for instance two at Trinity and two at St John were made by a silversmith named Girard at Rennes and were given by his daughter, who married a de Carteret, to these churches.

Except for the shape of the bowl, all these cups are similar, they have a conical bowl, a turned baluster stem and a circular foot. There are quite a number (17) in Jersey churches and several in private possession.

The Communion cups at Grouville are peculiar in copying the English shape of the period. One was made by the treasurer of the parish (mark AH) I suspect his name was Hardy and that he was one of a family of Jersey silversmiths. These cups are of exceptionally fine workmanship.

The one cup of the 18th century in the local churches is at St Martin. It is of a different type and is by the same silversmith who made the platters at St Aubin and some of the other churches.

Church platters

We can next consider the platters in the churches, some of which are of local make. Most are of the form of an ordinary dinner plate, like the specimen in the Museum which was Dean Bandinel's. Some are deeper and are intended to be used as baptismal fonts. The fine specimen at St Aubin is the work of the maker of the cup at St Martin. There is also a fine Fonds de bapteme at the Town church, but I doubt if this is of local make. It would be interesting to know if any of these platters remain in private possession in the island as there must at one time have been quite a number.

We next come to the various christening and other cups. The earliest of these seem to date from the beginning of the 18th century. They consist of a flat bowl and two artistic side handles. I am afraid not many of the old ones remain but it is interesting to note that this is the one type of old Jersey silver of which modern replicas are made, unfortunately not in Jersey. The modern specimens are made in Birmingham. It is a pity that these beautiful little bowls are not still made here.

It would be interesting if those remaining in the island could be catalogued. A very fine loving cup is the property of the Societe and another is in the possession of the Rev E J Gallichan. Others probably exist and here again the desirability of cataloguing is emphasised. This article pictured is the local prototype of the baby's feeding bottle, the Pap Boat, and really is much the same shape as the modern feeding cup. A fair number still remain, some of much cruder workmanship than this specimen which is quite nicely made; its date is about 1790.

Jersey silver spoons

Spoons

The next and last class is the largest: the spoons, and there must be thousands of Jersey made spoons still in existence. The spoon is perhaps the oldest domestic utensil. One of the oldest, at least in part, still in use, is the anointing spoon used at the coronation of the Kings of England.

The earliest hall-marked spoon dates from 1488. During the 15th and 16th century, apostle spoons were made and still exist, though complete sets are exceedingly rare. The bowl of the early spoons differs very much in shape from the modern and there is no differentiation into table, dessert, and teaspoons. One spoon had to serve for all purposes.

The earliest Jersey spoons seem to date from the Restoration period, that is with a three rayed tail as is shown by those pictured. In England this type did not last for long, but was changed for the Queen Anne ratstail, which in George II's reign became truncated and finally in George III's reign became truncated still more.

In Jersey, however, this Jacobean type seems to have lasted much longer, well on into the 18th century and then suddenly changed into the fiddle backed type, which lasted well on into the 19th century.

Christening bowl

The Guernsey spoons of the period had a longer bowl.

Teaspoons came into use in England during the reign of Queen Anne, who was an inveterate tea drinker, and from then on many delightful specimens occur. The Jersey teaspoons seem to have been made during the second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, these shown being typical examples. They all have more or less engraving on the stem and handle and there are still many in daily use in the island. I believe their manufacture was stimulated by sets being given to girls as a christening present.

Teaspoons naturally suggest sugar tongs and caddy spoons. I think some of these tongs are of local make and I cannot resist at the same time showing a very beautiful pair which belongs to Mr Ralph Mollet. There seem to be no Jersey caddy spoons.

I have never seen any Jersey specimens of punch bowls or ladles, sauce boats, coasters, tea or coffee pots, muffineers or candlesticks and I doubt if any were ever made here. Strange to say snuff boxes are very rare, it is quite possible that wine strainers may have been made in Jersey.

I have been unable to obtain one of the old Jersey forks to illustrate this paper, a few certainly exist but they are very rare. Forks did not come into general use until the beginning of the 18th century and were three pronged. This pattern continued in use until about 1790 when the fourth prong variety replaced it. I shall be glad to hear of any local specimens existing.

A very interesting masonic jewel was made for the Military Artificers Valorous Lodge No 293 in 1795 and consists of square, level and plumb rule. The mark is LG, which is found on many of the pieces of church and domestic silver.

Makers' marks

The chief makers' marks are

Loving cup
*TB 1659 St Clement
  • AH 1684 Grouville. I think there must have been a family of the name of Hardy who were silversmiths for a considerable period as GH is another local mark.
  • LG sometimes surmounted with a crown. There are many pieces with this mark, the earliest I can trace is 1731 and the latest 1795. I think the name was Le Gallais and certainly one of the two finest workers here in the 18th century.
  • PA (P Aubin?) from about 1760 to 1780. Also a fine worker and the maker of the loving cup in the Museum.

Other interesting marks:

  • WY Grouville 1688.
  • TP 1677 St John
  • K 1654 Trinity

and finally the makers of many of the spoons

  • CWQ and JQ (Quesnel)

I shall be glad if anyone can help me to identify any of these marks.

Later book

  • Silver the full text of a 1990s work on Jersey silver
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