The Jersey torque
The oldest surviving item of Channel Island silver or gold is without doubt the Jersey bronze age gold torque. This was discovered on 17 December 1889 during the building of a new house in Lewis Street, St Helier. The torque is over 3,000 years old and is of Irish or Celtic origin. The torque comprises a four flanged golden spiral of over 140 centimetres in length and weighing 24 ounces. Its present necklace shape is the result of the repair work carried out: when discovered the torque was shaped as a concentric spiral. Its use is uncertain although it was most probably the property of a tribal chief. The torque was not claimed as treasure trove and was purchased by the Société Jersiaise for £75. It is currently on view at the Jersey Museum.
Cups and drinking vessels
The first written record of Channel Island silver cups, in 1274, refers to Pierre L'Archier's cup in 1274 and the second reference, to the theft of cups by the Rector of Grouville in 1306. Whilst these cups may have been ecclesiastical it is likely that the seigneural classes owned cups in the 13th and 14th centuries. Following the English form, these cups were probably footed and would have had separate lids. The mention of two silver Hanaps in the will of Jean Bonnamy of 1496 would indicate that cups had become more elaborate as the wealth of the seigneural classes increased. These hanaps may have taken the form of substantial standing cups.
The goblet or coupe a vin derives from classical styles and is essentially a smaller form of the deep late medieval standing cup. The earliest Channel Island one is an unmarked example engraved cete coupe apartient a La paroise de Sainct Clement 1594 . This cup designed as a communion cup is similar to a number of other undated examples in local churches.
This type of cup, similar in form to the glass wine goblet, continued to be made throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries diminishing in popularity as its place at table was taken by glass. Their use was initially mainly secular, but over the years many passed by descent and gift into the hands of the church and thus into ecclesiastical usage.
The survival of so many cups can be put down to the form of Protestantism followed in the Channel Islands, which involved taking communion quarterly instead of on Sundays and holy days. Quarterly communion took on the nature of a feast and attendance was compulsory for all those aged over 12.
The wealthy families, being fearful of the spread of disease and wishing to demonstrate their status, used their own silver cups for communion. The height of these wine cups varies from five to ten inches but it is probable that larger cups existed in the 17th century. A number of early cups may have been converted into goblets in the 17th century as is indicated by the record of an existing cup having been converted by Jean Le Bayllyff in 1638 for St Saviour's Church, Jersey, and a will of 1634 which refers to a coupe d'argent bastie en goublet.
Jersey and Guernsey presentation cups
These cups are commonly known as christening cups and there are substantial stylistic differences between the designs of the cups of the two islands. The Jersey cup is about one and a half inches high and four inches in diameter. The Guernsey cup is approximately two and a half inches high and three inches in diameter with an everted or splayed out top. Both cups were constructed by first marking a circle with dividers on a sheet of silver and forming the cut circle by hammering into a saucer shaped bowl. The Jersey cup, being shallow, would then be finished off on a sand-filled leather saddle. The Guernsey cup, being much deeper, necessitated raising on an iron-raising stake and planishing, using a flat hammer. The rim foot and the cast scroll handles would then be soldered on.
The Guernsey christening cup may ultimately derive from a medieval prototype, and a 12th century cup of this general form in silver mounted crystal is held at St Mark's Treasury in Venice. Guernsey cups, although rarely decorated, resemble late 17th century cups from the south-west of England.
The Jersey christening cup, effectively a porringer or ecuelle, survives from the late 17th century, and was made well into the 18th. It derives ultimately from the medieval two handled bowl or shallow cup exemplified by the Venice cup and closely resembling a form used in Brittany, an example of which, circa 1700 from Morlaix, was in the Louis Carré collection. There may also have been lidded examples, as many English porringers are equipped with lids, and the type may also have existed in very much larger sizes, as in 17th and early 18th century England.
A number of cups made by Robert Barbedor have survived all dating from the turn of the 18th century, these cups with fluted decoration resemble English porringers of the same date.
Christening cups are perhaps the most particularly local silver items. Although known now as christening cups it was felt by the historian Edith Carey, that these were what were referred to in the Guernsey bequests of the 17th century as coupes à biére. This is unlikely, particularly as some of the coupes à biére were quite large. The 1693 bequest of Marie Mauger of Guernsey, wife of an Englishman, Edward Cotton, to her nephew and godson Edward Mauger refers to a coupe d'argent à biére of 12 ounces marked with the owners initials ECM. It is far more likely that a coupe à biére was an 18th century pint or half pint beer mug, a good quality pint mug being about 12 ounces.
Another possibility, particularly in view of the fact that the testator's husband was English, is that the cup referred to is similar in type to the two handled college cup, the earliest of which is the 1616 cup owned by the Mercers Company of London. Other examples exist in the Cambridge and Eton College collections.
From the 17th century, cups from Jersey and Guernsey were traditionally given as presents. In 1670 Alice Fashin bequeathed 30 livres tournois to her son-in-law Nicolas Ozanne, a silversmith, directing that he make two silver cups for his sons and instructing that he engrave their names upon them. These must have been rather special cups as the usual price for a silver cup in the late 17th century was between three and seven livres tournois.
Small cups are mentioned in wills. In 1666 Benoist Le Lievre bequeathed to his niece Marie Girard ma petit ronde coupe d'argent à vin. Edith Carey concluded that this referred to a cup without a handle but the gift may refer either to a secular wine cup described above or to a small deep silver drinking bowl similar to those produced in England well into the 18th century and in Scandinavia into the 19th. These were derived from an ancient type, of which the British Museum holds an Anglo-Saxon example. It should be noted that a number of Jersey cups were in fact made by Guernsey silversmiths. These are sometimes identifiable as they often have a rim foot unlike the pure Jersey cup which has no foot.
A form of two handled cup was produced in the Islands by Pierre Amiraux, JC, PD, Jean Gavey, Thomas Mauger, and Jacques Quesnel all of Jersey: surprisingly few survive from Guernsey. These cups which largely follow English styles of the period are likely to have been for display or ceremonial purposes rather than for drinking and their design closely follows the English taste of the early to mid-18th century. A very few have survived with lids, an example being that made by Jean Gavey and bearing the arms of Selwyn impaling Moore. This cup was made around 1735.
The current usage of this style of cup by a number of societies may indicate the original method of their use: Two drinkers stand face to face flanked by outer guards standing with their backs to the drinkers.
One of the drinkers hands the cup to the other drinker whilst retaining the lid which is held above the first drinker's head. When the drinker has sipped from the cup he replaces the lid and turns to the next in line who repeats the process.
Beakers may well have been common in the Channel Islands during the 17th century, as they appear to have been in south-west England and in Normandy at that time. They have not been noted in any inventories until that of Anne Sealle of Jersey, taken in 1703, which listed 2 tankards, 2 mugs and 2 beakers, referring to them as tasses. Those that survive are of the 18th century, most having everted rims, but some are straight sided. Both designs resemble types also found in France.
It may be that their use was made popular by the Huguenot goldsmiths of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, for many resemble the French coffee beakers of the period. The relatively large number which survive is probably related to their frequent use as gifts, for christenings and weddings, and it may be that, like the Jersey and Guernsey christening cups, this enabled their manufacture to be continued after they had gone out of general use as drinking vessels.
Edith Carey hypothesised that the coupe à vin described in the Benoist Le Lievre bequest of 1666 was a form of beaker although it is more likely that a coupe à vin was a wine cup as described above.
Tankards and mugs
The silver mug of bellied form which became popular early in the 17th century, was a diminutive form of spoutless jug, and like it also existed in stoneware and coloured glass, late 16th century examples in the larger sizes often being silver-mounted. A Jersey inventory of 1668 shows a pot de verre bleu, perhaps from Bristol, and three others of faience, again possibly of Bristol Delft. As we have seen above, the silver coupes à bieres of 17th century inventories and bequests, which could weigh as much as twelve ounces are likely to have been mugs, but a Jersey inventory of 1703 is the first clearly to name silver mugs, of which Anne Sealle had two. Surviving examples, of baluster rather than bellied form date from the 18th century, Channel island examples of this period sometimes differing from English in having a flattened leaf design on their thumbpieces.
That the lidded tankard had been introduced by 1668 is suggested by the presence of seven pewter examples in the Messervy estate, and since one of them leaked they may have been in use for some time. A tanquard d'argent appears in a Guernsey will of 1672, and two silver tencars in a Jersey inventory at 1703. Another appears In a Jersey inventory of 1745, but no examples have survived other than one in the Lynam collection in the United States that may be the work of Pierre Amiraux II. A derivative type, the collecting jug, does however survive, and St. Aubin’s church, Jersey, has two of circa l750 by Jean Gavey, similar examples in copper being held in other Jersey churches.
Bowls appear in documents in south-west England from the late 14th century onwards, and though none have been noted in medieval Channel Island documents, examples must have been owned by the seigneural class. A bowl was essentially a shallow cup, usually footed, often used as a drinking vessel, and it is not always possible to determine whether cup or bowl in our sense of those words is meant, as words have slowly changed their meaning. For example, a West Country will of 1447 refers to a cup called a bolle-pece or bowl-piece.
Apart from the bowl made only of silver, the silver mounted wooden mazer was perhaps used in the Channel Islands. Representing them are six silver mazer bowls, of the same form, held in Jersey churches. These apparently date from the early part of the 16th century. The silver-mounted wooden mazer, apart from the silver bezel which protected its rim, had a central silver boss or print, and the custom of engraving or mounting a decoration in the centre of the bowl persisted after the whole bowl came to be made of silver. Two of the Jersey examples have these central prints, one showing a Tudorrose, and the other being set with an enamelled disk, bearing a coat of arms now defaced. Tazzas known to have been owned in Guernsey also had these central prints, and are discussed below.
A further form of the Jersey cups which might have existed would have had flat handles level with the rim, and many English porringers of this type exist. Some had only one flat handle, and these are related to the essai á vin, tostevin or wine-taster, of which a Guernsey example of the early 18th century by IH has a flat handle. A silver bowl called le taster appears in a West Country will of 1403, and others appear in 16th century inventories, but their form is unknown.
Sugar bowls were made in the Channel Islands during the 18th century and at least one lidded example has survived made by Guillaume Henry of Guernsey.
Punch bowls and ladles
The custom of brewing and drinking punch was introduced into England after the Restoration of the Monarchy. The punch was made in a large bowl and served with a ladle. It is likely that many punch bowls had a separate ring which allowed their conversion to a Monteith. This type of bowl is named after Monsieur Monteith, whose cloak the scalloped rim resembled. Monteiths were used to cool wine glasses, the stem of the wine glass being held in the notches of the scalloped rim of the bowl. A punch bowl, made around 1700 by Robert Barbedor, survives and is known as the Dumaresq bowl. A number of English made bowls, imported to the Islands, also exist. 18th century punch ladles made by both Jersey and Guernsey makers are quite common. These generally follow the English styles with turned wood handles.
Dishes and tazzas
The medieval dish often took the form of a wide shallow footed bowl and again it is difficult to separate these from the cups and bowls of various types mentioned in the early wills and inventories. These dishes were often centre-pieces of the seigneural table, and, if used for food at all, would have been used only for its display rather than for eating, It is considered that smaller and perhaps unfooted examples might have been used as sideplates and a West Country will of 1459 mentions 12 silver discos.
The tazza, a footed dish, is the earliest form mentioned in Channel Island wills. Like the mazer, these generally had a central engraved or repoussée picture or coat of arms, surrounded by other decoration, often consisting of a series of biblical or classical scenes.
The previously mentioned tazza bequeathed in 1577 by Nicolas Careye must already have been old, unless it was obtained in France, as it is described as ma platte tasse ou le portrait de St Jacques est au fond. Such a piece would hardly have been made in England after the Reformation. Another of the same type had a representation of St Nicholas, and this is likely to have been one owned by Sire Pierre Carey, ordained Rector of St Saviour, Guernsey, in 1518.
Other tazzas are recorded but in any event it is most unlikely that such ornate and complicated items were within the competence of the local silversmiths and were more than likely imported. This is confirmed by one example, now lost, which belonged to Nicholas de Sausmarez of Guernsey, and bore the de Sausmarez arms in its centre. This tazza bore the London hall marks for 1565 and was sold at Christies in 1912 for £1,200. It is subsequently known to have been offered for sale at Crichton's, New Bond Street, London, at £2,000 but it cannot now be traced. The engraving of armorials in the centres of such pieces may seem advanced for the day, but West Country wills and inventories include cups decorated in this way as early as 1362. One of the St Brelade's mazers, of the early 16th century, contains an enamel which once bore a shield of arms. No tazzas remain in the Channel Islands as, unfortunately, none were given to local churches, but a fine example is preserved at St Michael's, Southampton.
The general shape of these vessels persists in the Channel Island churches in the form of the large footed patens of the early 18th century and a domestic footed salver of 1757 by Guillaume Henry is preserved at St Sampson in Guernsey.
The domestic silver platter, jatte or plat first appears in a West Country will of 1413, where it is described as a flatpece, the idea of flatness also being conveyed by the later names plat, plate and platter. The earliest surviving Channel island examples are of the 17th century, some having been given to churches as patens or alms dishes.
That of 1677 at St John's, Jersey, by Thomas le Vavasseur dit Durell, is the earliest, followed by one of 1688 at Grouville, by William Young of Southampton and Jersey, and by two unmarked examples of 1699 at St Saviour, Guernsey. 18th century examples exist by Robert Barbedor, 1704, and Jean Gavey, 1740, both preserved in Jersey churches. These doubtless represent the plates used at table by the seigneurs and wealthy merchants.
A further form of dish, the saucer, appears in wills and inventories in south west England from 1459, and as its name sawcere implies was employed as a sauce dish. Among pewter plates and platters, a Jersey inventory of 1668 lists three saucieres, which are doubtless these, but none now remain in silver. An example of an embossed 17th century form, used for rosewater, survives in St John’s church, Jersey. It is unmarked and might be the work of a local silversmith.
The charger, mentioned in West Country wills from 1388, was probably also owned by the seigneurial class, but no examples survive, and none have been reported from wills. The salver or the smaller waiter, was produced locally in the 18th century, and tended to follow English styles, Guillaume Henry of Guernsey producing some fine examples occasionally with quite unusual borders. A number of presentation Militia salvers of English manufacture have survived mainly dating from the early 19th century.
The standing salt of late medieval times, though it might contain salt, seems to have been a centrepiece at table rather than as a real receptacle, and a supply of salt was placed on the table in lesser trencher salts, within reach of the diners. Like the bronze or silver aquamanile, which contained water, it might assume fantastic forms, and in England in 1380 the Earl of March had one which was in the form of a dog. Doubtless those Seigneurs of the 16th century who owned tazzas would have owned equally extravagant salts, but none are known to have survived. However there are several indications that earlier standing salts did survive well into the 17th century. A Guernsey will of 1657 mentions a salière d'argent d'oré, and this may be such a survival. A silver salt fetched £36 tournois in a Jersey sale of 1676, which suggests that the salt weighed 11 ounces. In 1686 there is a mention of a silver-gilt salt cellar in three separate parts, and this must be one of the rare bell salts with compartments for spices, made circa 1590-1610.
The first silver salt in general use amongst the richer classes was doubtless the trencher, which had been in use for salt in the final years of the stranding salt, when that had become merely ornamental.
The concurrence of both types, in pewter at least, is suggested by a Jersey inventory of 1668, which lists one salt in the main room with a silver cup, and four small salts in another room with the rest of the household pewter. Anne Sealle of Jersey owned a set of 4 silver salts in 1703, which seem likely to have been trenchers and a reference to a salt in a Guernsey will of 1693 may also refer to a trencher salt. Mid-18th century examples by Pierre Maingy of Guernsey are known, and were later succeeded by the three-legged variety made by Guillaume Henry of Guernsey and Pierre Amiraux of Jersey, of which a number can be found.
A drum pepper with a strap handle exists by Guillaume Henry, and may reflect a type introduced in the 17th century. A Guernsey inventory of 1732 mentions a poivrier, and lighthouse peppers of the mid-18th century are known.
Silver candlesticks appear occasionally in English inventories from the 14th century onwards, and the Channel Island seigneur of the 16th century who owned other important table silver may well have owned some. The ownership of silver candlesticks or wall sconces in the Channel Islands in 1700 may be attested by the existence of a silver snuffers tray of that date by Pierre Amiraux I of Jersey, but no candlesticks are now known which are earlier than the mid-18th century, and these closely follow English styles. Guillaume Henry of Guernsey produced particularly fine examples a number of which have survived with marked sconces, and the Guernsey goldsmith I.A. copied some by Richard Cafe of London. A candelabrum of 1848 by Rawlins & Sumner of London bears an overmark showing it to have been retailed by John le Gallais of Jersey, and advertisements that appeared in the local newspapers in the late 18th century refer to the importation of candelabra.
Roman silver spoons are not uncommon, and it is likely that the spoon was introduced into the Channel Islands in Roman times, though none have been reported. Curiously, very few post-Roman silver spoons from before the later Middle Ages have survived in south west England or north west France, the only notable examples being a late Saxon spoon from Taunton and a Saxon spoon and fork combined from Sevington, Wiltshire. From the late 15th century they are mentioned with increasing frequency in West Country wills, and in 1496 a Guernsey will provides that the testator's silver culys should be divided equally amongst his children chacun sa part, l'un comme l'austre, suggesting that he had a number of them.
The earliest surviving spoon is an unmarked seal-top of circa 1610, found in the garden wall of a house in St. Saviour, Jersey. Its seal bears the engraved initials M I, probably those of Marie Ingouville, who owned the property at the time. It is not known if this spoon was of local manufacture although this is somewhat unlikely as no other seal-top spoons are known. No examples of the Puritan style of spoon have survived and therefore the earliest Channel Island spoon must be considered as the Trefid.
The Trefid spoon was introduced in England in the 1660s with surviving Channel Island examples dating from the 1690s. However, unlike in England, where it was obsolete by 1710, it continued to be made well into the 18th century in the Channel Islands. The earliest examples have a plain back; this is followed by a rat-tail; then a drop and double drop, these having been introduced as a means of strengthening the spoon.
Dating local Trefid spoons can be aided by applying the stylistic changes that occurred in English Trefid designs. The stems of early Trefid spoons were parallel, only widening to form the bulbous top at the very end of the stem. As the style developed throughout the 17th century, the beginning of the bulbous end moved gradually down the stem. The bowl of the spoon was initially round and gradually became more elongated as the style developed.
Some of these 17th century spoons would appear to have been quite substantial, for 14 spoons in a Jersey sale of 1676 sold for £50 tournois, this at a time when second-hand silver sold for roughly the metal price. The previous lot, a platter, went for 66 sous the ounce, that is 5s 3d Sterling, and at this price the spoons would have weighed on average slightly over one ounce each.
Dognose spoons made a brief appearance in the Channel Islands early in the 18th century. The dognose spoon is basically a trefid without the cut top. In England dognose spoons were made from 1690-1715.
The Hanoverian pattern was introduced in England around 1710 and in the Channel Islands within a few years. One Hanoverian example by Guillaume Henry of Guernsey has a cowrie-shell bowl mounted in a cut-card work bezel, but this is obviously very unusual.
Until the 1760s, spoons were always placed face down on the table. It is for this reason that any engraving is on the back of the spoon and the Trefid end is turned up to allow the spoon to lie flat on the table.
From 1760, both the Trefid and the Hanoverian forms were gradually replaced by the Old English pattern. This ties in with the change in England to placing spoons face upwards on the table, the Old English pattern differing from the Hanoverian in that the end is turned down and any engraving is on the front.
The fiddle pattern, named as such because it resembled a fiddle or violin, was introduced in the islands at the end of the 18th century, but the Old English pattern continued to be made concurrently.
In England, until the mid-18th century, silver flatware was a personal item taken with one when dining out. But gradually the practice of laying out flatware for one's guests became fashionable. This change is difficult to identify in the Channel Islands although it would likely have taken place in the homes of the merchants and seigneurs. However although sets of local spoons do exist, there are no surviving complete sets of Channel Island flatware of any date.
Trefid Spoons, table spoons, and tea spoons were produced by the majority of local silversmiths and numerically represent the largest proportion of local production throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mote spoons or skimmers were common in England in the 18th century however examples made in the Channel Islands are rare survivors. The pierced bowl of the spoon was used to skim the tea leaves from the top of a cup and the spiked end to clear blockages in the spout of a tea pot. Surviving local examples all from the late 18th century and were made by Pierre Amiraux and Guillaume Henry, in one case an Amiraux spoon of fine quality was overstruck by George Hamon.
One particular type of spoon found in the Channel Islands is the military prize spoon, generally militia but sometimes artillery. This class of spoon, initially simply a suitably engraved domestic spoon, came into being during the Napoleonic War, and was awarded, often as a shooting prize, by the regimental colonel. In 1806 the Inspector of Militia, Lieutenant Colonel J. Le Couteur, and the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, General Don, arranged for the subsequent production of such spoons, and their presentation annually by the States of Jersey.
Dies were cut, and the spoons struck from them show the arms of the States and appropriate trophies of arms. The initial issues were struck by Jacques Quesnel conceivably from dies supplied by Boulton and Watt of Birmingham, but, in the course of the century, new issues, rather than simply the dies for them came to be ordered from English firms, the maker's initial marks usually being overstruck by Jersey goldsmiths. Some may have been made by James & Josiah Williams of Bristol, who are known to have exported quantities of spoons to the Channel Islands, and who made similar prize spoons for the Royal Jamaica Militia.
By the 1840s the importation of spoons from English firms had assumed such proportions that it became impractical for the island goldsmiths to make their own, and from that time until shortly after the First World War, English spoons, with their maker's marks overstruck by Jersey goldsmiths, become commonplace, the most frequently encountered having the marks of John le Gallais, Charles William Quesnel and C T Maine. Many of these spoons were given as christening presents, (the traditional christening cups not having been produced for some years), and many are decorated with forms of bright-cut engraving of a type seldom used in England.
Many items were imported from England in the 19th century for presentation to the Royal Militia forces and an excellent collection can be seen at Elizabeth Castle in Jersey. It is likely that these items, often of elaborate design rather than the standard goods produced by the local silversmiths, would have been ordered through local retailers. Local Militia swagger sticks are unmarked, but it is likely that they were manufactured in England and retailed to officers locally.
The sweetmeat or sucket fork appears in Anglo-Saxon Wiltshire combined with a spoon, a form which persisted into 17th century Dorset and may possibly have reached the Channel Islands. Forks described as for eating green ginger are listed in English inventories from 1300 onwards, and must have had other uses since one of 1399 weighed 15 1/2 ounces. The teaspoon-sized sucket fork was made by West Country by goldsmiths well into the 17th Century, and again the type may have existed in the Channel Islands. That it did, and that it was the initial type in the islands, may be suggested by the diminutive forchette of Channel Island inventories, a word which one finds in Latin inventories from 1304, rather than forche, a word which one finds in Anglo-French inventories from 1399.
The table-fork as we know it was introduced into England from Italy in the first years of the 17th century, and inventories show its increasing use in the Channel Islands by the end of that century. A set of six changed hands at a Jersey sale of 1676 for £20 tournois, and it is the price realised that shows us that these forchettes were of full size, for the initial silver lot in that sale, a platter, fetched 65 sous the ounce, just over the metal price, suggesting that the forks weighed an ounce each, as did the spoons with them. A Guernsey farmhouse inventory of 1682 lists a fork which had not been there for the inventory of 1644. The inventory of Anne Sealle of Jersey, taken in 1703, lists 7 silver forks, and a Guernsey inventory of 1732 lists a further six.
The earlier forks of these inventories may have been of the stump-end type, which has not survived in the Channel Islands but which were made in reasonable quantity in France, and which broadly resemble the English puritan forks. Anne Sealle’s forks may have been trefid, of which some of circa 1720-1750 are known by Channel Island makers. A few dog-nose examples are also known. The old English and fiddle-pattern forks are likely to have been introduced concurrently with the matching spoons. A set of l2 forks by Jacques Quesnel survives in a private collection. Some forks, particularly in the smaller sizes, are found bright-cut in the local style, and perhaps belonged to christening sets.
The rarity of silver forks as against spoons is upheld even by relatively modern records. The sale of Philippe Dumaresq's effects in 1819 contained only 4 forks, one of which was said to be of 1706, against more than 100 spoons. Again, the Moise Orange sale of 1866 contained no forks at all, but a large number of spoons. This would suggest that the forks in general use were the steel ones with bone handles, that matched the knives, and had been paired with them in the 17th century sets that gentlemen carried in a leather case, and again paired with then in the upright cutlery boxes of the Georgian period.
A silver knife from Ferrara, Italy, appears in the Bonamy wedding settlement of 1505 and silvermounted knives would have been commonplace amongst the rich from medieval times onwards. These were not table knives, which were not provided at that time, but were carried on the person. This practice survived in rural France and French Canada at least until the end of the 18th century, and might have been a practice as late as this in the Channel Islands. No 18th century silver-mounted table knives by Channel Island makers are known, and the wealthier people who used them appear to have relied on imports.
Sword hilts were made by local silversmiths. These hilts were mounted on generally imported blades and sold to the serving officers in the Royal Militias. One example is by Jean Gavey made around 1750. This sword purchased for the Jersey Museum in 1974 has disappeared from the museum collection and may have been stolen. Another sword with a hilt by Jacques Quesnel also made in the mid-18th century survives.
Tea and coffee pots
It is not surprising that, with the islands’ interest in international trade in the 18th century, wealthy islanders were amongst the first provincial tea and coffee drinkers in the British Isles. A number of coffee pots survive as do a few tea pots.
It would appear that tea was first brought to the Island in 1715, as a china tea cup has survived in Guernsey with the inscription First tea cup brought into the Island by Mons Jean Andros in the year 1715. Jean Andros, the seigneur de Sausmarez, was a great exponent of tea drinking. As we have seen, he gave a tea pot and stand, two pairs of sugar tongs, two strainers and a milk jug, 14 tea spoons, 12 large spoons, six forks, two salts, one pepper and a tankard all being made of silver to his daughter Elizabeth on the occasion of her marriage to John Guille, Seigneur of St George, in 1732. Tea was first introduced into England in the late 1650s, Samuel Pepys recording that he first drank tea in 1660. It was first sold as a quasi medication and was a very expensive drink, as late as 1779 comment was made that tea was an expensive new luxury in Guernsey.
As a result of the high cost of tea early tea pots were small. A number of bullet shaped tea pots were made in the islands from c1730-1750 a number being of fine quality exhibiting the best London makers techniques of the day including concealed hinges, fine chasing and engraving. Examples survive by P B and Philippe Le Vavasseur dit Durell of Jersey and Guillaume Henry of Guernsey.
Coffee was regularly drunk by the mid-18th century as a number of coffee houses existed where gentlemen sat and discussed the hotly contested political matters of the day. Coffee was an expensive luxury, even in 1745 coffee sold in Jersey for 15 sous per pound.
Coffee pots of good quality were made in the islands from the 1730’s following the styles of the contemporary English makers. There are nine known surviving pots, three by Jean Gavey, one by Edouard Gavey, two by Pierre Amiraux II all of Jersey and three by Guillaume Henry of Guernsey. The majority of the local coffee pots are engraved with fine contemporary coats of arms of local families.
The Jean Gavey pots are all of extremely high quality, well up to the best London standard and may indicate the influence of Edouard Gavey who worked in London in the mid-18th century and may have returned to Jersey to assist his father. The three pots weigh 34oz 38oz and 40oz receptively and are fitted with identical spouts and handle mounts. Each pot is engraved with contemporary local coats of arms.
The Guillaume Henry pots are also of excellent quality although the heavy chasing on one surviving pot is not contemporary work. The Pierre Amiraux II pot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is another fine example although it is not engraved with a coat of arms, the cast spout and handle mounts are identical to those on the Amiraux pot at the Jersey Museum. The coffee pot in the Jersey museum collection has been considerably altered over the years and shows the signs of repair and part replacement that would be expected over its lifetime including the replacement of the original handle by one made of silver.
The majority of the surviving pots are in remarkable condition and there has been some debate as to their authenticity. Recently tests carried out by Goldsmiths Hall on a Jean Gavey pot have however shown the silver to be 18th century. Comparison to other work by Pierre Amiraux, Jean Gavey and Guillaume Henry shows beyond doubt that these silversmiths were perfectly capable of producing pots of such quality and indeed surviving church plate by these makers and of undoubted provenance shows remarkable similarity of form and quality to the coffee pots.
Many of the heavier quality items of Channel Island silver have survived in remarkable condition and as in the case of the coffee pots this is simply explained by the fact that they were likely always regarded by their owners as the best works of local silversmiths and thus highly prized.
Milk and cream jugs were made by E D, I L, and George Mauger of Jersey and by J A, Guillaume Henry and Pierre Maingy of Guernsey.
A number of pap boats of local manufacture have survived. Pap was a tacky mixture of flour or bread, sugar and water or milk. Pap boats were likely used as children's feeding bowls. Introduced in England circa 1710 they first appeared in the Channel Islands in the 1730s being produced until the 1830s. The early examples are of very plain form, while those with reeded borders were made at the turn of the 19th century. Jersey examples were made by L L P and George Mauger and Guernsey examples by Guillaume Henry.
Marrow and toast was a popular delicacy from the 18th century. The marrow scoop first appeared in England in the early 18th century and examples were made in the Channel Islands by the 1740s. In England at the beginning of the 18th century a single marrow scoop was often sold to compliment a set of a dozen spoons, knives and forks but by the end of the century marrow scoops were sold in separate sets. It would seem likely that initially their usage was communal and that later each diner was supplied with his own scoop. Marrow scoops were made in Jersey by George Hamon and Thomas Mauger.
Many Channel Island meat skewers survive. They vary in size from five to 11 inches. The large skewers were used for meat and the small skewers for poultry. The earliest examples date from the mid-18th century which is commensurate with the majority of surviving English skewers. That they were originally sold in large sets is quite apparent from the survival of a number of sets. The early examples are quite simple with ovular section blades. The later examples (now often used as paper knives) have sharp edges and are of flatter or lozenge section. Guernsey examples were made by Guillaume Henry and Jersey examples by Thomas de Gruchy and Jacques Quesnel.
Until the early 19th century when candle production improved, candles required constant trimming with scissors, which was performed with a type of scissors that incorporated a chamber near its point to cut the used wick. These scissors and snuffers were often [urchased with a tray or stand and the earliest English examples date from the early 16th century.
A number of Channel Island snuffer stands survive including an early 18th century example by Pierre Amiraux I. Later mid-18th century examples were made by Guillaume Henry of Guernsey in the English taste of the time in both the horizontal and vertical forms. It would appear that the majority of candle scissors were imported. This seems logical as, by the end of the 18th century, the manufacture of scissors was quite an engineering exercise, especially with the growing popularity of snapping spring loaded “guillotines”. Even in England, it was usual for the stand and snuffers to be made by different makers.
The earliest English sugar nippers date from the late 17th century and were in the form of fire tongs. The scissors type was introduced in the 1710s and by the mid-18th century sugar tongs in this form were common. It is this form that the majority of Channel Islands “nips” follow. Channel Island examples are often engraved with the owners initials at their centre hinge. Scissors nippers were replaced by sugar tongs in the last quarter of the 18th century. Jersey examples are known by Pierre Amiraux, L C, Thomas de Gruchy, George Hamon, M, Jacques Quesnel and Charles Quesnel. Guernsey examples by J H, Pierre Maingy and P N.
Flagons, or Stoops were known in England from the late 16th century and the earliest examples were made for domestic use, only later passing to church use. The English flagon, now part of the Elizabeth Castle plate, is a particularly fine example. Made in London in 1608, it was presented to the island during the Civil War for use at communion. Pierre Amiraux of Jersey and Pierre Maingy of Guernsey made flagons that have survived although these were likely to have been made for church use.
Shoe buckles made of silver with steel tongues were both imported and made locally during the 18th century. Shoe buckles were an essential part of fashionable 18th century dress. Many of the local newspaper advertisements of the late 18th century specifically mention shoe buckles as imported wares. Pierre Amiraux, Thomas Cartault, and George Hamon of Jersey all produced buckles although few, if any, buckles of Guernsey manufacture survive.
Batons de justice
An act of the States of Jersey of 1806 required that Constables and Centeniers provide themselves with tipstaves as a symbol of their authority. The Batons were to be made in the style of the wooden tipstaff then in the possession of the Constable of St Helier. This requirement was extended to Vingteniers and Constables Officers in 1840. The early Batons were made of wood sometimes with a cast metal crown.
A later design, about six inches long, consists of a slim ivory or ebony handle with a cast silver or plated finial at the base, and a cast silver or plated crown at the head. A few examples are gilded.
Close inspection of the heads reveals that they were probably all made from the same cast. None of the silver parts bear any maker’s mark although on occasion they bear an engraved Parish initial and a number.
Whilst it has been argued that this form of Baton may have been locally manufactured (as were many of the earlier wooden Batons) it is most unlikely, as this style of Baton was probably not introduced until the 1880's by which date there was little local silversmithing. It is much more likely that these Batons were manufactured in England to special order. A number of reproduction Batons in this style were made recently in the Far East for presentation to Jersey police officers.
Many other items of local manufacture survive including wine labels, wine tasters, nutmeg graters, snuff boxes and brandy pans. Additionally local silversmiths would have produced special commissions at the request of customers who had seen similar items abroad or in England.
It should be remembered that, before the Napoleonic period, much of the bread-and-butter work of the Island goldsmiths would have been the manufacture of the many small items listed in inventories of the period. The inventory of Charles de Carteret, taken in 1696, lists silver and gold buttons for waistcoats, coats and sleeves.
The inventory of Jean Messervy, taken in 1668, also lists three of the large-headed silver pins, made from ancient times onwards, which were also for fastening clothes. Of related use was the bodkin in the same inventory, and one is known by George Hamon. These were essential for rethreading the coloured ribbons used to tighten shirts, night-clothes and underclothes, the ribbons being removed when the clothes were washed because the dyes ran.
Other small pieces listed were silver rings, a silver thimble, and intriguingly une coeur d’argent, doubtless one of the little heart shaped lockets, often with internal divisions for use as pommanders, many of which were commemorating Charles I . Related to the pommander may be the bouteille d’argent owned by Anne Seale of Jersey in 1703, which for its place in her inventory suggests that it was a sent flask.
Many local christening cups, mugs and beakers bear inscriptions in French relating to their gift. The donor's and recipient's initials usually comprise of three letters. The first of the letters is the individual's first name and the second and third are the surname broken into two parts, usually the first two syllables. This differs from the practice in England where three initials would usually indicate the surname and first names of a husband and wife.
Thus in the Channel Islands, the name Jean Le Sueur would appear as JLS and Jacques Hemery as JHM. This form of syllabic initialling is also seen on Channel Island marriage stones above the doors of so many houses where the initials of husband and wife are separated by entwined hearts and a date. The inscriptions on christening cups may refer to family members but the great majority relate to those gifted by a godfather, parein or godmother, mareine.
The initials on the earliest 17th century pieces are very simply pricked and are clearly not the work of a skilled engraver. However over the next century the style of initialling became more skilled and once learnt is usually easily identifiable. This particular style of 18th century local engraved initialling is very often the first clue to a piece’s Channel Island origin.
The engraving of arms on local silver in the 17th century is evidenced by the survival on a few pieces of ecclesiastical silver but the vast majority of pieces engraved with arms date from the 18th century.
By the second quarter of the 18th century many of the finer items of Channel Island silver, including coffee and tea pots, salvers, large cups and bowls were engraved with the coats of arms of local families. The arms are best identified in Bertrand Payne's Armorial of the Islands, however care should be taken as Payne’s contains numerous errors. Styles of armorial engraving on Channel Islands pieces are often out of date and therefore should not always be used to date a piece.
The Guernsey silversmith Guillaume Henry was or employed a particularly skilled engraver and a some of his work is unique in this respect. Henry produced a hot milk jug in c1740 as a masterful copy of a similar jug made by Paul de Lamerie in 1723. This jug bears a fine armorial within a cartouche. A salver made by Henry exhibits a fine and unusual cast border with a matching engraved vacant cartouche.
This vacant cartouche is likely explained by the salver having been made for the silversmith's stock. The use of engraved or cast shell motifs is also a further indication of Channel Island origin, particularly on pieces dating from the mid-18th century. In Jersey too by the mid 18th century coffee and tea pots by Pierre Amiraux II and Jean Gavey bear armorials of local families applied by an expert engraver capable of London standard work.
Bright-cut engraving made an appearance on Channel Islands around 1775 being used for about 25 years. This technique of angled cutting with a curved burin clearly became very popular in the Islands and many spoons, including a number of Militia spoons have survived.