ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver



Article # 240 by David Mckinley

(click on images to enlarge)


On page 591 of his invaluable work "London Goldsmiths 1697 - 1837 Their Marks and Lives" the late Arthur Grimwade makes the following observation: "The disentangling of identities of the Margas family is not easy from the documentary evidence and repetition of Christian names".
How right he was and it has to be said that, if anything, as more of this documentary evidence has come to light, the task has become more difficult.

The earliest record of a Margas so far found dates to the mid 16th century in Rouen in northern France when a Jacques Margas, whose background has not yet been established, had three children the eldest of whom was a boy, who, in accordance with tradition, was named Jacques after his father. The family were Huguenots (note 1) and Huguenots of 17th century France were of that class of society known as the bourgeoisie. They were mostly merchants or craftsmen and the Margas family originally fell into the merchant category.
This second Jacques Margas became a merchant and in 1574 he married Marion Le Faux. (note 1) He and Marion had four children, two boys and two girls. The first boy was named Jacques and became a merchant like his father. He was followed by a daughter whom they named Catherine and in 1605 she married a goldsmith named Nicolas Morisse (note 2) who had been apprenticed to his father as was the usual practice since the tradition was for a craftsman to pass his skills on to his sons.
Catherine was followed by another daughter who was baptised Madeleine and lastly a second son was born in 1593 and he was baptised Jean (note 1). This son did not follow his brother into the family business but instead became a master goldsmith and although there is no record of his apprenticeship it seems almost certain that he learnt his craft from his brother-in-law Nicolas Morisse.
In 1618 Jean married Ysabeau Valentin and this union gave rise to the lines of goldsmiths from which members later came to London. Jean and Ysabeau had six surviving children, two girls, Elizabeth (born 1623) and Anne (born 1633) and four boys, Jean (born 1626), Samuel (born 1627), Guillaume (born 1629) and Isaac (born 1636). All but Anne and Isaac became part of the goldsmiths' fraternity of Rouen. Elizabeth married Etienne Le Page, who was a master goldsmith, in 1646 and Jean, Samuel and Guillaume all became master goldsmiths. (note 3)

Jean died in 1660 but Samuel and Guillaume both married and both had children who came to England. Guillaume married Marie Agasse in 1651 and they had seven surviving children; Etienne (born 1652), Marguerite (born 1657), Jacques (born 1658), Madeleine (born 1660) Guillaume (born 1665), Elizabeth (born 1667) and Rachel (born 1670). Marguerite married Abraham Martel who was a master goldsmith and Rachel married Pierre Dubuisson who was also a master goldsmith. (note 3) The three boys presumably were apprenticed to their father in accordance with tradition and later Jacques is recorded in London as goldsmith when he married an Anne Margas. Thus by the mid 17th century there was a line of the Margas family well established within the fraternity of goldsmiths in Rouen.

Samuel married Marthe Harache (note 1) whose cousin was the famous Pierre Harache junior who came from one of the most important families of goldsmiths in Rouen and later in London.
Samuel and Marthe had twelve children of whom only four survived into adulthood. Their son Samuel was born in 1656 and he became a master goldsmith. (note 4) Although he was not the first member of the Margas family to come to England he was the first Margas goldsmith known to have made the journey. His name is recorded in the list of those making their Reconnsissance at the Savoy church in London on 20th March 1687 when he was 32 years of age. (note 4) He had married Madeleine Pantin, who came from another important family of Rouen goldsmiths, in 1681 (note 4) and they had three children before coming to England; Samuel born in 1683, Jacob born in 1684 and Anne born in 1685 (note 5). All are believed to have been in London in 1687.
Samuel set up a workshop in the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields but it appears that he made no contact with the Goldsmiths' Company so that his name does not appear in their records and no maker's mark was registered in his name. He did however bring his mark punch with him (note 5) and it has been identified on a snuffers tray dated 1698 (note 6) (Grimwade 3796). It can be attributed to him because it incorporates the Agnus Dei which is the emblem of Rouen and was used by him in Rouen. (note 5)

Mark of Samuel Margas senior Heraldic form of Agnus Dei
Mark of Samuel Margas senior (left) and Heraldic form of Agnus Dei (right)

There is a mystery surrounding this mark: Firstly as the piece on which it appears is dated it must have passed through Hall and this means that it was assayed together with a "parcel" submitted by a registered freeman of the Company. The process known as "colouring". The question therefore arises; who submitted it? Secondly by its date the snuffers tray should have been of Britannia standard but the mark is clearly what in this country would be a Sterling maker's mark!

Neither of Samuel's sons was apprenticed to him. Jacob, born in 1684, was apprenticed to Thomas Jenkins (Freeman of the Butchers' Company) at the age of 15 in 1699 and this suggests that Samuel was deceased by then although to date no burial record has been found for him.
The likely date for his death can be fairly accurately estimated as c1698 for the following reason:
The marking year at the London assay office for the year 1698 started on 6th June so as the snuffers tray was dated 1698 Samuel must have been alive in June of that year. His son Jacob was apprenticed to Thomas Jenkins on 12th January 1699 indicating that he was dead by then. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that Samuel Margas senior probably died during the last six months of the year 1698.
Jacob's elder brother Samuel must also have died well before this date and a second son named Samuel born to Samuel senior and Madeleine in about 1694 so that it would have been this brother who was apprenticed to Jacob on 8th January 1708 and free of the Butchers' Company on 12th January1714. (note 6) Grimwade observes: "It seems probable the second son Samuel was born in London about 1690". (note 6) No burial record has as yet been found for Jacob's elder brother and no baptismal record for his younger brother Samuel either.
Samuel junior produced some fine work from the outset as can be seen by the illustration below.
An entry in the Swallow Street church marriage registers for the year 1691 reads: "Jacques Margas orfeure married 26th December to Anne née Margas, presentée par Samuel son frère." (note 6)

Kettle on stand by Samuel Margas junior c1715
Kettle on stand by Samuel Margas junior c1715

Now as Samuel Margas senior's daughter Anne would have been only six years of age in 1691 it is quite obvious that she was not the bride at this wedding so the Anne in question must have come from another branch of the family. The records at Threadneedle Street church show that an Anne Margas presented her temoignage on 25th December 1686. Unfortunately no further information about her has as yet come to light but the temoignage record does not show her as a wife so that the assumption must be that she was a spinster at the time of her arrival in England making her marriage five years later altogether feasible. She is therefore the most likely candidate to have been Jacque's bride. This scenario also requires that this Anne Margas had a brother, Samuel, who gave her away although any record of him has yet to be found. This in turn means that there were at least three branches of the family in London by the end of the 17th century.

It would seem that the Jacques Margas of the 1691 wedding was Samuel senior's cousin (see family tree) who was born in 1658 and whose parents were Guillaume Margas and Marie Agasse (note 7). Quite obviously the Anne Margas who presented her temoignage on 25th December 1686 and was presumably his bride could not have come from this branch of this extended family although a third branch has now been identified.
As recorded above the Jean Margas who was the original goldsmith in the family had a brother Jacques who became a merchant and married Ester Vastel. Of their seven children their son Nicolas, born 1630, became an upholsterer and haberdasher. He married his second wife, Suzanne Gueroult in 1662 (note 7) and they had three surviving children. Suzanne (born 1664), Philippe (born 1665) and Jean (born 1668). Philippe became a merchant and came to London where he is recorded as a signatory to the lease on St. Martin Orgars church in 1699.(note 3) He married Thynon Lombard and they are known to have had five surviving children: Honore (born 1695), Elizabeth (born 1697), Charles (born 1698), Salomon (born 1701) and Philippe (born 1703).
He became an important merchant in the18th century, retailing china and other wares the variety of which can be seen in the following reference:
"Walpole refers to Philip Margas of Bucklersbury as an importer of china. He is listed in Osborn's A Compleat Guide (1744) and in later directories until c.1767. Margas was the son of Philip Margas, senior. They were in business together, along with Philip snr's other son, Charles, but the partnership was dissolved on 15 March 1733. Charles continued to act as a broker, selling, among other things, Worcester porcelain brought to London. Philip's death was noted in the public Advertiser." (note 8) His widow Catherine continued the business until her death in March 1769, She appears at the address no.32 Bucklersbury in Baldwin's New Complete Guide for 1768, Kent 1768, Kent 1769 and Payne 1769. She was buried on 2 April 1769 at St Stephen's parish. Walbrook, and her will was proved 6 May 1769. The sale of her stock was sold at Langford's, Covent Garden, g-11 May, including "useful and ornamental china, muslins, Callicoes, and India Pictures". lacquered Ware... with great Variety of curious India Goods in carved Ivory and Mother of pearl, Tortoishell, Rice, Bronze. Copper, &c. There are bills in the British Museum dated 1 Jan 1755 (Heal 68.196), stating the purchase of tea, mangos, pink paper and Hungary water and other items; and 1 March 1758, recording the purchase of tea, in the main (Heal 68.195). Heal noted that in the "Robinson collection" he saw a bill dated 1753 that recorded the "japaning, silvering, cutting, making a New Back, altering a frame of glass for a case for packing £1-1-0" (note 8), Philip Margas' Billhead refers to him as "China Importer and Grocer." (note 8).
However Philippe was still alive in 1691 so that had Anne been his daughter she would not have needed her brother Samuel to give her away. The obvious implication is that there was yet another branch of the family from which Anne and Samuel came.

There are church records of other members of the Margas family who are at present unaccounted for: A Jean Margas acted as a witness at the baptism of Suzanne Bachellez on 15th July 1705 (note 3) and he may have been Philippe's brother, born in 1668. However there is no record of the background of Marie Elizabeth Margas who acted as a witness at the baptism of Elizabeth Mede on 23rd June 1700 or of Antoinette Margas who acted in the same capacity at the baptism of Jeanne Le Conte on 21st November 1708. (note 9)
These additional members of the Margas family show that there must have been at least a fourth branch which was settled in London by the beginning of the 18th century but to date no information has been found to indicate how, in Rouen, this branch relates to those recorded here.
Grimwade brings to light another mystery concerning this family: Under his entry for Jacob Margas on page 590 of his "London Goldsmiths 1697 - 1837 Their Marks and Lives" he queries the background of an Elizabeth Margas whose name appears on the bounty list for 1706.
There were three members of the family with the name Elizabeth who appear in the early 18th century records two of whom had husbands and must thus be discounted. The most likely candidate for the Elizabeth Margas who needed bounty support is the sister of the Jacques Margas of the 1691 marriage. She was born in 1667 and apart from the record of her baptism at Quivilly, the primary Huguenot church in Rouen which was consecrated on 25th November 1601, (note 11) there is no further record of her unless of course she was the Elizabeth Margas whose name appears on the bounty list.

Although this most recent research still leaves unanswered questions it has hopefully gone some way towards "disentangling of identities of the Margas family".

Glossary of terms:
1) Temoignage: A document signed by a pastor and two church elders testifying to the holders' Protestantism and given to a Protestant who had professed Catholicism in France for practical reasons.
2) Reconnaissance: A church ceremony welcoming back into the Protestant faith a person who had professed Catholicism in France in order to be allowed to keep their possessions.


1  French Calvinist Protestants
2  Denis Vatinel - Dictionnaire des famillles protestantes de Normandie - Chantier No 0420 p
3  Ibid
4  Ibid
5  Denis Vatinel Op Cit p3
6  Denis Vatinel Op Cit p4
7  Denis Vatinel Op Cit p3
8  Ibid
9  Huguenot Society Quarto Series (hereafter HSQS) 22 p33
10 Denis Vatinel Op Cit p4
11 Ibid
12 Arthur Grimwade. London Goldsmiths 1697 - 1837. Their Marks And Lives p758
13 Grimwade OP Cit pp 268/9
14 Alice Bleuzen. The French origins of the Harache, Margas and Pantin Families. p22
15 Grimwade Op Cit p591
16 Grimwade Ibid
17 Grimwade OP Cit p759
18 HSQS 27 p14
19 HSQS 21 p188
20 Denis Vatinel Op Cit p4
21 Denis Vatinel Op Cit p2
22 HSQS 16 p110
23 I am indebted to Vivien Costello of the Huguenot Society for this information
24 Fitzwilliam Museum Collections Eplorer - Object p.1300 G,R (ld:1S5830)
25 Vivien Costello Ibid
26 HSQS 16 p264 k
27 HSQS 16 p195
28 HSQS 13 p131 n
29 Denis Vatinel Op Cit p5

David Mckinley
- 2019 -

David McKinley devotes much of his time to researching the history of silversmithing in England with particular reference to hallmarking at the London office. He writes for both The Silver Spoon Club of Great Britain and The Silver Society.

David McKinley is the author of the book THE FIRST HUGUENOT SILVERSMITHS OF LONDON
Information about the content of this book and the discounted price applied to members of ASCAS is available in September 2011 Newsletter