This pattern of flatware is so named because it's manufacture spanned most of the 18th Century, coinciding with the reigns of George I, II and III (part) of the House of Hanover dynasty. It’s earliest form from circa 1710 has a long rat-tail to the reverse of the bowl, and a central ridge to the front of the stem. As the century progresses the length of the rat-tail reduces and develops into a drop or heel, and the central ridge is reduced to a pip. The hallmarks on Hanoverian spoons are bottom struck i.e. on the stem towards the bowl end, and because of the rounding of the stems the marks are often difficult to read. Variations to the shape of bowl, ridge on the stem and the reverse of the bowl, such as double drops, extended drops etc., can help date poorly marked spoons. Decoration to the reverse of the bowls produced the picture-backs.
This pattern was reproduced towards the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century in two distinct forms; Rat-tail and Hanoverian. Rat-tail has a pronounced ridge to the front stem and a long rat-tail to the reverse of spoon bowls (and occasionally the reverse of forks) and takes it's inspiration from the early 18th century examples. Meanwhile Hanoverian pattern has more similarities with the late 18th century originals, i.e. a pip to the front of the stem and no rat-tail. Highly sought after 3-pronged forks are most commonly found in this pattern.
Completely different in appearance to all the other patterns of the period, Onslow pattern is quite an anomaly. The cast scroll terminal was applied to the stem by a scarf joint, however this terminal makes handling awkward, and so examples therefore tend to be generally limited to serving pieces, which would presumably have been used in conjunction with Hanoverian pattern eating implements. Several variants occur.
Decoration during the rococo period, also had its’ influence on spoons, and at this time the picture-back made its’ appearance. Originally as a simple detached-shell, but developing into complex scrolls and shells, and then into scenes which may be purely decorative (basket of flowers), celebratory (e.g. a galleon representing naval victories), political (e.g. a caged bird and the words "I Love Liberty" relating to the case of John Wilkes) or subversive (e.g. a broken bag pipe having a Jacobite significance).
Similar in style to the Hanoverian pattern, but instead of the upturned terminal, the stem end is turned downwards (although on forks it continues to be upturned for easier handling). Old English pattern is plain in style with a rounded terminal and a single drop to the reverse of the bowl. Originally developed in the 1750’s when the upturned ends of larger serving implements (e.g. soup ladles) in Hanoverian pattern where awkward to handle, so they were turned down instead, and so the new style began.
This was the most commonly produced pattern during the last 30 years of the 18th Century, before being superseded by Fiddle pattern, in the early 19th Century. However it’s production continued throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries and is the most commonly found pattern. Early examples, until circa 1780, were bottom struck (i.e. on the stem towards the bowl end), and after this date were generally top struck.
Variations on the Old English pattern theme can be found with decorative edges to the stems, the most commonly found examples being Old English Thread and Bead patterns. Please click here for a selection of Old English Pattern items for sale.
This elegant decoration is generally to be found on Old English pattern items, which was the favoured pattern of the period that bright-cut engraving was in fashion. Bright-cut engraving became popular from about 1770, with most pieces dating from about 1780 to 1805. The technique involves facets being cut out of the surface of the silver to leave a shiny appearance, as opposed to lines being drawn.
Several standard variants are named, such as Bright-cut Edge and Feather Edge. Mostly however they are decorated according to the wishes of the client or vagaries of the manufacturer. In Ireland bright-cutting was popular on a pointed version of the Old English pattern (Celtic Point), and were named according to the motif above the cartouche, e.g. a star, bow or plume.
Dominant throughout the nineteenth century, Fiddle pattern is the most commonly found pattern from the 1800’s. Originating in France, it first occurred in England from the 1760’s without the shoulders on the stem near the bowl, particularly favoured in Scotland where it is known as Oar pattern. The most common Fiddle pattern variants are Fiddle & Thread and Fiddle, Thread & Shell. The production of plain Fiddle pattern ceased around the time of World War 1. Please click here for a selection of Fiddle Pattern items for sale.
There are a multitude of patterns available that can all be lumped together under the general heading of King’s shape. They all possess the same shaped outline with shoulders, but differ in the decorative motifs that adorn them. The three principal patterns are King’s, Queen’s, and Hourglass. Queen’s is the most decorative and Hourglass the simplest of the three. They first appear in the first decade of the 19th Century, and have been popular ever since. A variant peculiar to Scotland are single struck examples, i.e. the pattern is only shown on the front, the reverse side being plain. Minor variations on the standard form are often found, such as the device in the centre of the stem, the form of the heel, and whether the shell decorations are concave or convex.
Other patterns under the King’s general heading include Albert, Bacchanalian, Coburg, King's Husk, Victoria and variations on the vine theme. Single items in some of the sought after patterns can fetch high prices, especially the patterns designed for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell and Paul Storr.
Mid-late 19th century
From the mid-19th Century, mass production and the eclectic tastes of Victorian Britain resulted in the development of many new patterns, which did not follow the evolutionary steps of the 18th Century. Companies such as Elkington & Co, James Dixon & Sons, John Round, Walker & Hall and Mappin & Webb designed their own pattern books. The Sheffield manufacturers produced the less expensive machine-made silver flatware, whilst in general the London spoon-makers continued, with companies such as Chawner & Co (now run by George Adams) and Francis Higgins, to make the better quality hand-made items. Many of the names of the late Victorian patterns are no longer in general usage, but a few remain highly collectable and popular today.
Lily pattern has a beautiful flowing naturalism, Albany is a variant of Onslow pattern, Rich Bead oozes opulence and Tudor displays Gothic influences.
The Sheffield manufacturers began to dominate the field during the 20th Century, bringing with them a plethora of new patterns for example Sandringham and Dubarry (used on board the Titanic and supplied by Elkington & Co.). Companies such as Walker & Hall, Mappin & Webb and Viners produced huge quantities of flatware in silver, EPNS and stainless steel. The general quality often became less important, although the London firms, such as Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co. Ltd., C J Vander and Wakely & Wheeler, continued the high standards of the London spoon-makers. Towards the end of the Century smaller companies produced their own new patterns breaking away from the classic patterns being churned out by the major manufacturers, for example Gerald Benney and Stuart Devlin.
Today the Sheffield producers continue to make the "Classic" patterns, and the London companies tend still to make the better quality items. Many of the so-called manufacturers do not actually manufacture their own goods, this is left to a few specialist companies, whilst the rest are merely wholesalers whose skill lies in marketing. A few spoon-makers in the old tradition continue to work either for a handful of London based companies or on their own account. The major competition in the manufacturing of silver flatware these days comes from antique and second-hand goods that can usually be bought less expensively than new. There has recently been a resurgence in interest towards commissioned hand-made canteens, but the prices involved restricts the market to the very rich. As the handful of silversmiths capable of producing hand-wrought flatware becomes ever smaller, slowly the art of spoon-making is dying. Please click here for a selection of hand-made spoons designed and made in our own silversmithing workshop.