SOM-849CA3: SOM-849CA3: Post-Medieval sileverware hoard

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HOARD

Unique ID: SOM-849CA3

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Seventeenth century silverware hoard: Treasure case 2008 T645.

Curator's report: The hoard comprises six silver items: four slip top spoons, a goblet and a bell salt, and the incomplete earthenware vessel in which the silver was concealed. An identical owner's mark can be seen on each piece of silverware. This comprises a G and an A surmounted by a C, all formed from numerous pecked dots.

Spoons
All four of the silver slip top spoons were manufactured in London. The crowned facing leopard's head (for London) is stamped just inside each fig-shaped bowl, adjacent to the stem, orientated with the crown beside the stem. On the back of each stem, beside the bowl, there are two marks: the maker's stamp and the lion passant. The date letters are located on the back of the stems, close to each terminal.

Three of the spoons are similar in dimensions. They have the same maker's mark (IF within an ornate shield, with two pellets above the initials and a mullet flanked by two pellets below) and hallmark letter ('v' within a square shield, for 1617) and presumably formed part of a purpose-made set. This maker's mark has not been identified with a particular maker, but the same mark features on three spoons with lion sejant terminals which date from 1617-8 and are in the collection of the British Museum (Jackson 1949, p. 114). The angled terminals of two of the three spoons are engraved with the letters MD and the other is plain.

The fourth spoon has a shorter stem and a different year stamp and maker's mark. The year stamp is a 'k' within a square shield, for 1607. The maker's mark is a crescent enclosing an indistinct letter, within a wavy-edged shield. There are a number of spoons of various types with similar makers' marks dating from 1607-8 (Jackson 1949, p. 110). All four spoons are marked with the CGA owner's mark on the back of the bowls, adjacent to the stem.

Goblet
The goblet is in two pieces (the stem has come away from the beaker) and the stem itself has been bent. The beaker is circular and flares slightly from the base to the rim. The baluster-like stem of the goblet has been turned and is decorated with a number of incised circumferential lines. The hallmarks are located on the exterior of the beaker, about 12-15mm from the rim. They comprise (from left to right) the maker's stamp, the crowned leopard's head, the lion passant and the date letter, which is in this case is a 'q' within a square shield, for 1633. The maker's mark features the letters RS with a single mullet above and a large pellet below, all within an ornate shield. This precise mark is not listed in Jackson's 'English Goldsmiths and their Marks' (1949) but there are a number of similar marks, including one which is near identical with the exception of the pellet, which has a heart in its place. This mark is stamped on the foot of a small salver dating from 1635-6 (p. 119). The CGA owner's mark is located on the exterior of the beaker, opposite the hallmarks.

Bell salt
The bell salt comprises four separate pieces, which become progressively larger from top to bottom. The dished interiors of the two lower tiers would have been used to store salt and the perforated sphere at the apex was a pepper castor. The shaker unscrews to allow more pepper to be added. Comparable examples have three spherical feet, which this example lacks.

The lower and middle sections are hallmarked. One the lower section, the hallmarks are located about one third of the way up on the exterior surface. They are (from left to right) the date letter ('s' within a square shield, for 1615), the lion passant, the crowned leopard's head and the maker's mark. The latter two marks are rather indistinct. The maker's mark appears to be an anchor flanked by two letters (DG?) within a shield. A similar mark has been recorded on communion cup and paten sets from St Lawrence, Jewry and St Michael Bassetshaw, both in London (Jackson 1949, p. 117). However these marks are associated with hallmarks dating from 1629-30, so they are not necessarily associated with the same maker. The CGA owner's mark is located on the opposite side to the hallmarks, just below the seat for the middle section.

The central section's hallmarks are less clear again. They are located about half way up on the exterior surface and comprise (from left to right) the maker's stamp, the leopard's head (presumably, although there is some minor damage in this area), the lion passant and the date letter, in this case an 'r', for 1614. The maker's mark is not the same as the mark on the base. It appears to be a monogram consisting of a T superimposed on a W, within an unclear shield. Broadly similar stamps feature on a communion cup from Penmark, Glamorgan, dating from 1602-3 and on a standing cup from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which dates from 1607-8 (Jackson 1949, pp. 109-10).

The difference in date letters and maker's marks raises the possibility that the lower and central section were not originally made as a set. They do not fit together perfectly, but this may be due to the effects of burial, or having been accidentally dropped at some point. The upper section is stamped with the same maker's mark as the middle section, in the centre of its base. It fits snugly with the central tier and was presumably made to fit it. The upper section consists of a dome surmounted by a sphere that is perforated by eight equally spaced circular holes. It has a ribbed and coned terminal at the apex. The screw thread that holds the two sections together has five twists.

Ceramic vessel
The silverware was discovered within an internally glazed earthenware jar. David Dawson has examined the pot and provided the following report.

The pottery vessel in which the hoard was found is fragmentary. Twenty-four sherds were recovered which represent approximately one half of the original pot. The whole of the base is represented although there appears to be an old break on one side. There is only one rim sherd and its edges also appear to be old breaks.

The form is a plain jar (MPRG type 4; Brown 1998). The fabric is a hard-fired red earthenware that has been reduced and mostly reoxidised. The internal green glaze is a good glossy lead-glaze coloured dark green from the reduced fabric underneath. It has all the characteristics of the ware found associated with kiln debris in the construction of the Nether Stowey by-pass in 1968 (Coleman-Smith & Pearson 1970). This type of ware has been found stratified in Bristol in excavations at St. Nicholas' Almshouses and Narrow Quay in deposits dated to the mid-17th and late 16th/early 17th centuries respectively (Barton 1964, Good 1987).

Deposition

The hoard is most likely to have been hidden for safekeeping during the English Civil War. At this time, Stowey Court, which is located about 800m from the findspot, was used as a royalist garrison. According to a note in the earliest surviving Nether Stowey parish register, "it is supposed that the register books before this were burnt in the great house [i.e. Stowey Court] in this parish in the time of the great rebellion, the parishioners having removed their best goods & things of value into it, it being made a garrison by the king's forces." (Somerset Record Office reference D/P/n.sty 2/1/1). This indicates there was considerable upheaval and uncertainty in the area at the time and that locals were concerned for the safety of their more valuable possessions.

The CGA owner's mark may possibly relate to the Civil War era owner of Stowey Court, Angel Grey, and his first wife Catherine, although the initials are not in the expected arrangement and the occurrence of these three letters may be coincident. Mr Grey was born in c. 1603 and purchased the lordship at Stowey in 1627. He was still living in Nether Stowey in the 1660s, as he signed a document as Justice of the Peace in 1664 and was entered in the poll tax for the parish in March of 1666/7 (pers. comm. Mary Siraut, Victoria County History, Somerset) (Somerset Record Office Q/SR 106/32 and DD/WY 34). Grey died in 1670 and was buried at Stamford. The land where the hoard was buried was probably in the ownership of the lord of the manor during the seventeenth century.

The person who concealed the hoard need not have been its owner. It could have been entrusted to a servant to be hidden, or it could have been looted, perhaps by a soldier who was garrisoned at Stowey Court, who subsequently was not in a position to recover the items, or (not being local) could not locate the exact spot where they were hidden. If a soldier had looted the silverware, it is possible that the items had previously belonged to a family in some other part of the country.

References

Barton, K.J., 1964, 'The excavation of a medieval bastion at St. Nicholas's Almshouses, King Street, Bristol', Medieval Archaeol. 8 ,184-212.

Brown et al., 1998, A guide to the classification of Medieval ceramic forms, London: Medieval Pottery Research Group Occasional Paper 1.

Coleman-Smith, R., & Pearson, T., 1970, Excavations at Donyatt and Nether Stowey, Southampton: Donyatt Research Group 1970 Interim Report.

Good, G.L., 1987, 'Excavations at Narrow Quay, Bristol, 1978-9', Post-medieval Archaeol. 21, 25-126.

C. J. Jackson, 1949, English Goldsmiths and their Marks. London: Batsford.

Acknowledgements

I am very grateful to Mary Siraut and to David Dawson for their help during the preparation of this report.

Prepared by Dr Naomi Payne Historic Environment Officer (Archaeology) Somerset County Council

Notes:

Upon returning to the findspot at a later date to carry out further detecting the finder discovered a strip of metal with 'feet' attached, which appears to be the base of the bell salt. The coroner agreed that these could be added to the original hoard, though they were found some distance away. The following report was prepared for the aditional items:

Silver bell salt base and feet

A contorted silver strip with three incomplete spheres attached. Found in the same garden as the Nether Stowey seventeenth century silverware hoard (treasure case 2008 T645), but at the opposite side, and thought to be part of the base of the four tier bell salt that comprised part of the hoard.

The strip would probably have been complete and circular originally, attached at a right angle to the base of the bell salt with the three spheres acting as feet. The strip is long, thin and undecorated, with the three spherical, hollow feet attached at regular intervals along its length. Each of the feet is formed from two halves, apparently soldered together. One half of each foot has become detached, each being found separately, but close to the object. One edge of the strip is quite rough where it would clearly have been attached to the base of the salt. There is a single break at one point, both ends fitting cleanly together.

In her report for the original hoard Naomi Payne noted that all comparable contemporary examples of bell salts feature small spherical feet attached to the base, something that this one apparently lacked. See for example two illustrated in 'Treasures at Salters' Hall' (Hugh 2000), the first dated 1613 (ibid. 45) and the second 1597 (ibid. 97) and a standing salt dated 1589 with similar globular feet, but this time on a square base (ibid. 2). However, the base of this salt, as it was originally discovered, was simply straight-sided, with an overhanging lip a short distance above. This design was seemingly impractical as the complete salt may have been unstable and marked any furniture upon which it stood. It was suggested, therefore, that the object may have originally had the more common form of base with feet, but that this could have been lost at some point, perhaps during the circumstances that led to the deposition of the hoard; a theory that this discovery confirms.

The crumpled condition of the object, which appears to have occurred prior to deposition, and its discovery some distance from the hoard itself does raise several questions. The rest of the hoard was discovered entirely within the remains of a broken earthenware jar and was in relatively good condition, making it unlikely that only a small piece could have become separated following deposition. Instead it would seem that this fragment was either accidentally lost or deliberately deposited elsewhere when the hoard was originally buried.

The original report suggested that the hoard may have been hidden during the Civil War, either deliberately by its owner or by someone who had looted it. However, it is possible that more care would have been taken to leave the base with the rest of the hoard if it had been hidden by, or on behalf of, the original owner. Might the base have been thrown aside during the rush to bury the hoard, therefore, perhaps by a looter who had little concern for such a small fragment?

References

Hugh, G. (2000) 'Treasures at Salters' Hall', East Sussex.

Anna Booth

Somerset Finds Liaison Officer

Measurements (bearing in mind that some of the feet have become distorted):

Band

Width of band: 4.19mm, approx. length of band: 345mm Weight: 24.4g

Attached feet:

  1. Diameter: 17.57mm, Thickness: 0.99mm
  2. Diameter: 19.48mm, Thickness: 1.73mm
  3. Diameter: 19.62mm, Thickness: 1.23mm

Separated feet

  1. Diameter: 18.34mm, Thickness: 1.26mm, Weight: 2.3g

  2. Diameter: 17.99mm, Thickness: 1.22mm, Weight: 2.1g

Diameter: 22.70mm, Thickness: 1.77mm, Weight: 2.8g

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Somerset County Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2008T645

Chronology

Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 13

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 26th October 2008

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Anna Booth
Identified by: Ms Anna Booth

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2008T645

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Somerset (County)
District: Sedgemoor (District)
To be known as: Nether Stowey

Spatial coordinates


Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Discovery circumstances: Base of pot 16" below ground surface
Current location: Somerset County Museum

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Audit data

Recording Institution: SOM
Created: 10 years ago
Updated: 7 years ago

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