A Dish of TEA

In another chapter special reference is made to the then comparatively new custom of tea drinking ; the tea table became a regular institution, and the rare silver now treasured as charming and comparatively inexpensive r?presentation of the art of that period was coming into r vogue. A dish of tea was drank out of choice china, and the beverage to which was added a lump of sugar, was stirred with a delightful little spoon engraved according to the prevailing style of ornament most favoured by the owner. Sugar tongs and caddy spoons were sometimes engraved in like designs, although the varied patterns and shapes then created according to the fancy of the silversmiths provided many little objects of table use in silver suitable for presents. Urns, vases, sugar boxes, peppers, and casters for a variety of uses were being made. There were dishes of silver and many things to make the table bright-shining platters contrasting with the white porcelain and richly coloured tea sets. It is undoubtedly among the eighteenth century silver that the home connoisseur revels, and care-fully traces the date marks and deciphers the initials engraved thereon, many of them indicating the family pedigree, and linking up the period of the four first Georges with that of the Fifth of the Georges under whom many readers of this book are now living. There are really so very many things of an inexpensive type a collector can secure as representative of the table silver of the Georgian period that it is impossible here to do more than mention a few of the striking features-these articles are more particularly described in the several chapters devoted to them. It was in the eighteenth century that the tea table came into vogue, and as the famous " set down " teas became general, the mahogany table creaked under the good things set out. The silver tea and coffee set was the admiration of all, but it was of later date than the charming cream jugs, basins, and sucrieres of a few years earlier. Spoons and forks, sugar tongs, ladles, little cruets, and egg frames were additions of considerable interest, but although the massive flagons and large drinking cups had given way to tea sets, punch bowls and ladles and spirit decanters (sometimes silver mounted) were decorated with beautifully engraved silver labels hung from delicate chains, and sugar crushers and toddy ladles and the sweet-meat dishes of such exquisite shapes were among the appointments of a well-furnished household. The pepper pots and casters were formerly heavy and large but they were gradually reduced in size and some in miniature were added and used in conjunction with the larger casters. The heavy table cruet frame appeared at this time, holding a number of large cut glass bottles, silver mounted. The blue-liner mustard pot came in about the middle of the eighteenth century, and of these old pots there are many varieties, the perforated sides through which the blue liner shows up being very decorative ; it is these older eighteenth century patterns which are mostly reproduced to-day. The patterns of table silver introduced at this period have been found so satisfactory, and answer so well for the purposes for which they were made, that although fashion has changed somewhat in their use, there are few innovations in modern table appointments, and most of the eighteenth century designs have been repeated again and again, sometimes in sterling silver, at others in metal and alloys of more modern types. The illustrations in this volume, which represent the silversmiths work of the eighteenth century, include some very beautiful pieces, and varied in style. There are two sugar baskets, quite different in design and decoration, and yet made at dates not far removed. Figure 29 is a pierced and chased basket, with blue glass lining, made in 1774 ; and Figure 14 is a basket of Adam style of ornament, chased and fluted, also made in the reign of George III, 1784. The very handsome silver butter box with cover, shown in Figure 15, is engraved and pierced ; it stands on four feet, and has the initials of the original owner on a side panel, the date of this unusual and interesting piece is 1788. The style and ornament of engraving altered as the century wore on, but there was but little difference between the silver plate of the early days of George III, and the later days of his grandfather. The two vases and covers shown in Figure 13 are rare examples of the somewhat earlier period, the handiwork of Ayme Videau, the hall-mark being 1758. Casters of unusually large size were made throughout the reigns of George II and George III, and it is probable that few modern reproductions have more closely followed the original models than the replicas of casters of the well-known styles of the eighteenth century. The three very handsome casters shown in Figures 16, 17, and 18, octagonal in shape, were of somewhat earlier time, and their form clearly shows their close connection with the Queen Anne period. The larger one shown in the centre of the page measures 8.-~ inches in height, and the two others shown beside it, measure 64 inches. They were all made by Augustus Courtauld, and were hall-marked in London in 1713. Another piece of Queen Anne silver is shown in Figure 26, which represents a pair of silver snuffers with silver stand, made by Louis Mettayer, and hall-marked in 1708. As more fully described in Chapter xxii, Candlesticks, many fine pillar candlesticks were made during the reign of George II, when a very elaborate style of ornamentation was in vogue. A typical example is that shown in Figure 25, which represents one of a pair of silver candlesticks made by Philips Garden, in 1743. The design was cast, enriched by tooling and chasing, the chief subjects treated being flowers, shells and scrolls. Another illustration given in connection with this period is a very fine coffee pot, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, made by Isaac Dighton, and hall-marked in London (see Figure 27). Figure 28 represents a two-handled vase and cover, made by L. Courtauld, hall-marked in London 1771. Among the interesting specimens of eighteenth century silver rarely met with in private collections are the so-called Irish potato rings, a peculiar style of table ornament, chiefly manufactured in Ireland or for the Irish market, and peculiar to that country during a very short period. The example shown in Figure 24 is a fine ring measuring 64 inches across the top, the work of W. Hughes, of Dublin, in 1774. There is a great variety of cake baskets, some with open silver wire-work frames, others perforated, and many of solid basket shapes, enriched with choice engraving. In the Victoria and Albert Museum may be seen many fine examples, one being of the wire-work type in silver-gilt ; the hall-mark is 1770. From the Murray bequest, the Museum received a very fine basket made by S. Herbert & Co., of Foster Lane, described in the catalogue as " oval, pierced, and decorated with an applied border of flowers and scroll work, cast and chased," it is hall-marked 1755-1756. This fine example, along with other baskets, may be seen in the recently re-arranged silver plate collection in the central hall of the Museum. The basket shown in Figure 59 is of the open wire-work type. The fine chocolate pot illustrated in Figure 2 is one of the beautiful pieces of plate in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington. It has an oviform body, chased and repousse with foliage and festoons of drapery. It stands on a triangular base supported by three curved legs terminating in applied satyr masks. It was made by Henry Greenway and is hall-marked 1777-1778, London. Among the sundry domestic silver generally in use towards the closing years of the eighteenth century were lemon strainers, such as that illustrated in Figure 66, a very choice example in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the same collection are two beautiful waiters used about the same period ; these are shown in Figure 44. Spice boxes were much in vogue during the latter half of the eighteenth century ; the silver box illustrated in Figure 46 was hall-marked in London, and is in the National Collection at South Kensington. Of the smaller and yet equally interesting pieces of old silver of the Georgian period there are many. The cream jug shown in Figure 48 is of the approved high helmet shape, its engraving is of the ribbon and wreath style and upon either side is an urn, and round the circular foot a row of bead ornament ; the handle is strengthened by thread pattern relief. This jug matches tea spoons and sugar tongs of the same date, 1793, all being engraved in script with the double initials of the original owner and his wife, " RC " and " LC." Figure 49 is an example of an old punch ladle of cherry wood with silver rim and twisted horn handle : and the two little caddy spoons shown in Figures 50 and 51 are from a small collection of these interesting relics of days long past, one is of silver and handsomely engraved bearing the initial of the owner " S," the other has a pearl handle. To collect old sugar tongs is a delightful hobby and not at all expensive. Figures 60, 61, and 62 are three distinct types : (B) is of the open-work design, (c) an engraved pattern and the third (A) a small pair of sugar nippers. There really seems to be no limit to the little things one might secure in Georgian silver and almost every old silver basket examined presents some new variety. For instance, there are the curious long marrow spoons, some very fine examples are in the Fitzhenry collection at South Kensington. Another group may be made of spoons with perforated bowls among which there are some large ones like those given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Miss Francis Newman in 1908. Then there are gravy spoons with strainers and asparagus tongs, and the beautiful old fish slices on the blades of which silversmiths of old were wont to expend much time in their decoration, the best period is about 1760-1770, when so many triangular fish slices were made. When the century closes the chief interest in the old silver seems to be lost in the modern types which have not the charm of the old, although during the first few years of the nineteenth century-still Georgian days, there was not much change visible in the work of the silversmiths.