A private collection of antique silver assembled by a gentleman in the 19th and early 20th centuries came to auction at Dreweatts in Donnington Priory on March 8. In storage for many years and only relatively recently rediscovered by the family, 90 lots of Georgian and earlier silver were up for sale including 40 London and regional spoons.
Among the highlights were two textbook Henry VIII apostle spoons with gilt figural terminals and figshaped bowls – perhaps the most recognisable of all antique spoon types.
The earliest, estimated at £8000-12,000 but sold at £22,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium), was a Londonmade spoon dated 1514 with the unascribed maker’s mark of a gate.
The terminal depicting the figure of Christ with a dove nimbus is known as the Master – the final spoon in a complete run of 13 apostle spoons.
Apostle spoons, which first emerged in Europe in the 15th century, were sold in Tudor and Stuart England both in large sets (of which very few survive intact) or as single spoons that were particularly popular as well-to-do christening gifts.
Already in the Henrician period some London silversmiths had become specialist spoon-makers.
William Simpson, who used the mark of a fringed letter S, is perhaps the best documented. Another well-preserved spoon with a St Simon terminal (his attribute is a long saw) carrying Simpson’s mark and the date letter for 1531 (plus the later pricked initials GW over 1647) sold at £20,000 against the same estimate.
These were good prices for Henry VIII spoons, although not unprecedented. At Bonhams in 2008, a Henry VIII apostle spoon with a terminal of St Matthias by William Simpson, 1515, went for £28,000 as part of the second instalment of the Quernmore collection.