article # 98



by Jack F. Wilson
(click on photos to enlarge image)

- PART 2

My collection presently has spoons dating from 1885 to 1997, with one hundred and thirty-five examples. Fifty-four silversmiths are represented in the collection, although not all of them actually made the spoons they have marked as theirs, particularly from 1936 onwards.
Spoon from the author's collection by Barker Brothers Ltd, Birmingfham 1952
Spoon from the author's collection by Barker Brothers Ltd, Birmingfham 1952, 25.30 cm
Examples of teaspoon-sized replicas with highly abbreviated ornamentation began to appear in or around 1910. There were vestigial remnants of some of the ornamentation on the original spoon found on these examples, but many were definitely made utilizing stamping machines and not cast. Earlier examples were made up of cast [and sometimes stamped] parts sweated together. Often the bowl engraving on the earlier examples was cast, but many of these castings were refined by hand chasing. Bowl shape varies as well. Some are rather narrow, others broad-ranging to almost round. I have a few examples of a spade-shaped bowl. Also around this time smaller versions to be used as salt and mustard spoons began to appear.

In 1910 the pendant and brooch forms made their appearance. Before the anticipated coronation of Edward VIII, and the eventual coronation of George VI in 1937, several examples of spoons were made for actual use, such as teaspoons, in addition to being keepsakes or commemoratives.

Barry Potter made this observation: "The spoon design has also been used in a variety of other silverware of which the following have been observed or reported:

i) A brooch of 1 7/8" length, hallmarked Chester, made by C.D Saunders & J.F.H. Shepherd.
ii) A necklace ornament of 1 1/2" length (in non-hallmarked silver of non-British origin).
iii) A pair of sugar tongs (reported).
iv) A knife and fork set (reported).
v) A pickle fork of 6 5/8" length, hallmarked London 1910, and made by Barnard & Sons.
vi) A Salt and Mustard Spoon Set, hallmarked Birmingham 1901, but with the backs of each handle being plain.
vii) A pair of 20th Century Salt and Mustard Spoons, incorporating the handle design only, the bowls being plain.
viii) A 2" high, ornamental chalice, hallmarked London 1910, made by Saunders & Shepherd, with the spoon being used for the handle. The side of the chalice has, in relief, the emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland.
ix) A Toast Rack, hallmarked London 1910, made by Saunders & Shepherd with pairs of 3" spoons [4 pairs], handles crossed, used as the upright dividers. The central divider has two 4 1/2" spoons, further embellished with the outline of a crown, as an extension to the handles.
x) A set of 6 Coffee Spoons with a pair of Sugar Tongs [Cased] of Dutch origin.
xi) A pair of pickle forks of 6 5/8" length, hallmarked London 1937 and made by Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co., Ltd.
xii) A set of 6 Coffee Spoons of 4 1/8" length with a pair of Sugar Tongs (Boxed), hallmarked London 1910, and made by Saunders & Shepherd, stamped with a Registration Number of 57028.

Spoons have also been used in conjunction with other objects to create presentation sets; one example of this is a cased set containing an enamelled 8" spoon (Birmingham 1933), maker Levi & Salaman] paired with a silver bowl (Chester 1910) making a presentation Christening Set.
Parchment printed exposition of the Anointing Spoon history
Parchment printed exposition of the Anointing Spoon history
Photo courtesy Saunders Sheperd & Co Ltd.
It is obvious that a great many of the smaller late spoon forms were made by stamping them out from one or two dies that were utilized by a single (or a small number of) producer(s), and then sold to other shops where their hallmarks and maker marks were added. The uniformity of detail cannot admit any other explanation. I have found only one example of the old quality made after the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II (1955, Saunders & Shepherd).

From the earliest dates these spoons could be had in silver gilt or in plain sterling silver. My 1885 example retains quite a bit of its original gilding, and many examples of later date gleam like solid gold.

When I wrote Mr. David Freeman-Valle, General Manager of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd. of London [formerly, Saunders & Shepherd], he made contact with several people in the firm and asked them about any history of spoon production. Unfortunately, the company’s records were destroyed in 1941 during the Blitz. However, the present chairman, Mr. Tony Shepherd, had these recollections:

"I can only state the fairly obvious, from memory, as you know our records were destroyed by bombing in 1941. I recall:
- Associated with each Coronation.
- Always sterling silver.
- Usually the spline and bowl were cast as one but for the larger spoons the splines and bowls were cast separately.
- The method of casting before 1941 was by "sand casting", whereby a form was created by pressing the master-model into wet sand, either in once piece or two pieces, later to be "sweated" (fused) together. As can be imagined, this method gave rise to many failures and faults unless the highest skills were employed, until centrifugal casting was developed after (World War II).
Hence, SS&Co’s success in this field.
- The bowl was always gilded inside, if it had been cast as opposed to pressed. Often the splines were gilded too.

Mr. Freeman-Valle also provided some excellent photographs from the firm’s museum and from the personal collection of Mr. John Coupland, Managing Director of SS&Co. Some of these photographs appear in this article.
Cased set of spoons made to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VIII
Cased set of spoons made to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VIII,
which did not take place due to his abdication .
Photo courtesy Saunders Sheperd & Co Ltd.
Mr. James Deakin, of Deakin & Francis, Limited (formerly James Deakin & Sons, Birmingham and Sheffield) responded to my request for information thusly: "We undoubtedly made anointing spoons but really do not have any records of them. This example (see Addendum) from our museum was made for Edward VIII when he was marrying Mrs. Simpson, but he abdicated before it happened!"

Craig Robathan, Proprietor of C. Robathan &Sons Ltd, a Birmingham firm founded in 1908, passed on some information. "My company made a tea spoon of 4 1/8” (10.50 cm) long, a salt spoon of 2 3/8” (6.0 cm) long and a mustard spoon of 2 5/8” (6.70 cm) long. We started making the Anointing Spoons in 1952 in time for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953." The latest spoon from this firm in my collection dates to 1997.

So many of the silversmiths were in business for such a short time, and their records are just non-existent, being lost or destroyed. Many of the firms only issued one spoon, because they were in production for only one year, their owners moving in and out of business as shop masters, partners and journeymen. But the great firms, Saunders & Shepherd, Wakeley & Wheeler (taken over by Barry Witmond, who did his apprenticeship there), The Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company [acquired by Garrard], produced top quality replicas over the years with high consistency. It is to be hoped that, should Queen Elizabeth II live another five years, these firms will continue their tradition and offer replicas to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. And if she turns out to live as long as The Queen Mother did, we might look forward to spoons commemorating the longest reign in British history. At any rate, collectors would be gratified to be treated to fine quality replicas in the future and not have to be satisfied with the stamped, souvenir-type spoons so common today.
Back of bowl with Saunders & Co maker's mark detail of  Saunders & Co maker's mark
Back of bowl with Saunders & Co maker's mark
Photo courtesy Saunders Sheperd & Co Ltd.
Detail of Saunders & Co maker's mark
Photo courtesy Saunders Sheperd & Co Ltd.
Collecting these spoons presents its own problems. Most shop owners and other vendors do not know what they have. They know they have a British spoon, maybe even the assay city and the year mark. Rarely do they know the maker. They don’t know what kind of spoon it is, nor really how to price it, since no catalogues or guides exist. eBay usually has several examples for auction at any given time. The lack of knowledge found in established shops is equally present on eBay. Uniformity of valuing is similarly lacking. A spoon worth seventy-five to one hundred dollars may languish for weeks on end with a four-hundred and fifty dollar starting price, while a quite valuable and rare spoon may be offered with no reserve and a starting price of ninety-nine cents. It is very much of a flea market atmosphere. Having said this, I must assert that eBay has been a wonderful venue for collecting these spoons, and the sellers have been uniformly kind and helpful.

The collecting of these Anointing Spoon replicas has brought me considerable joy in the hunt and the acquisition; kindled my enthusiasm for detective work in trying to puzzle out the identities of silversmiths; and many hours of relaxation studying the intricacies of design and execution of these spoons. It has also given me a glimpse into the continuity of tradition in the life of the British people and the heritage of their great workshops of guildsmen.

Acknowledgements: Thanks go to my friend, mentor, and fellow collector, Barry Potter of Hayes, Middlesex, England, who provided invaluable and hard-sought material for this article. As a body of information, it is not found anywhere else, and I could not have found all of his sources on my own. His generosity in sharing this information is deeply gratifying. Mr. David Freeman-Valle, General Manager of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd., was most generous in his time and efforts in tracking down members of the firm who might have the information I requested and in providing and making some of the photographs. Mr. Tony Shepherd, Chairman of SS&Co, provided invaluable memories of spoon production. Mr. John Coupland, Managing Director of SS&Co, generously shared part of his private collection to be photographed. SS&Co provided photographs of spoons from their museum. Mr. James Deakin of Deakin & Francis, Ltd provided an anecdote and some photographs. I exchanged several emails with Craig Robathan, Proprietor of C. Robathan & Sons Ltd, Birmingham. He very kindly looked into their reco (If you have a request of them, please provide a photograph or drawing of the maker’s mark). Thanks are due to those representatives of firms and organizations who responded to my requests for information with sincere regrets. So much valuable information has been destroyed or lost.

Jack F. Wilson - 2008 -
JACK FOWLER WILSON is a retired Episcopal priest living in the southeastern United States in Alabama. His enthusiasm for collecting these spoons comes from an appreciation of fine craftsmanship and British ancestry on both sides of his family.
His father’s parents emigrated from England, and his mother’s family came to these shores from Scotland and Wales.

Owing to his heavy health problems Jack F. Wilson is resolved to sell his wide collection of silver anointing spoons.
People interested to his unique collection may contact Rev. Wilson at