It is obvious that wood was the material first used for bowls. Although plain at first they were afterwards ornamented and carved, then mounted in silver, and then when wood became too common a material, silver alone was used. Mention of ancient bowls, often spoken of as cups, is frequently met with in records of the plate still owned by old colleges, churches and abbeys. There are many examples too, in museums and in the halls of the old city companies and trade guilds. Describing the mazer bowl it is stated in the Guide of the Mediaeval Room in the British Museum that " these are shallow drinking-cups usually made of the spotted or bird's eye maple, whence its name." It is further pointed out that these beautiful bowls of maple often carved with legends are not to be confused with the still earlier bowls of common beechwood. In the British Museum there are several fine old bowls, two from the Franks Bequest having covers. Another hall-marked in 1532 has upon it a carved legend which reads : " Cup of the Rochester refrectory, given by Brother Robert Pecham." In the Victoria and Albert Museum, rich in all manner of ancient plate, there are examples on view ; the one we illustrate in Figure 8, facing page 24, is a fifteenth century mazer bowl made of maple wood and mounted in silver. It is the very beautiful bowl known as the Cromwell mazer and comes from the Francis Reubell Bryan Bequest, the date is given as the second half of the fifteenth century. In the middle is a boss on which are engraved figures of the Virgin and Child, enthroned. The official report of this mazer is that it was formerly in the possession of the Lambert family at Hull. The Rokewood mazer which was given to the nation by subscribers is of maple wood and is mounted in silver-gilt. On it there is a curious inscription given in the language of Chaucer ; it was formerly in the possession of J. G. Rokewood, F.R.S., a director of the Society of Antiquaries. Many writers have referred to these ancient bowls, one of the most interesting papers on the subject being by Mr. W. H. St. John Hope on " Mazers," published in Archaeologia many years ago. There is something very interesting about these ancient bowls of wood and afterwards of silver, for they carry us back to much earlier days when cup and bowl were synonymous terms. The Saxon wassail bowl or cup (see page 294) was a token of friendship and goodwill. In Hone's Every Day Book, Vol. II, there is much interesting matter about these bowls of early days, long before the silver bowls which in more modern times were dubbed " punch bowls " (see chapter xxiii) were commonly used. We learn of the bowl of carved wood and of the not infrequent custom of carving a wooden bowl on the beam
of the homestead to indicate a welcome and friendly reception. In an old mansion in Kent such a bowl was cut on the beam of the houseplace ; on it two birds which an expert thought were two hawks. After much research it was discovered that this was a rebus on the name of the original owner of the house who was a Mr. Hawks. An old Devonshire custom on New Year's Eve was to sing from door to door the following lines : "A massy bowl, to deck the jovial day, Flash'd from its ample round a sunlike ray. For many a century it shone forth to grace The festive spirit of the Anderton race."
Proud indeed are those old companies, institutions and private persons who have the good fortune to possess an old mazer bowl.