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Knife and fork
Knife and fork can be found here:

http://www.ooklnet.com/web/read_more/253332/Knife+and+fork

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Museums Sheffield
Leader House
Surrey Street
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
S1 2LH
United Kingdom

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Knife and fork

When were these objects made?
This knife and fork date to around 1690. The blade is a scimitar shape, which became very popular in the 1700s. The fork has two tines. The hafts are made from ivory and are beautifully decorated with inlaid silver flowers and scrolls, coloured with red and green enamel. The shape of the hafts is moving away from tapered shapes, towards the style known as pistol grip that became common in the 1700s.

What was the relationship between Sheffield and London cutlers at this time?
Rivalry between Sheffield and London existed from an early stage in the cutlery industry, fuelled by forgery and competition for custom. In the 1640s, the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of London complained to the courts that makers in Sheffield and Birmingham were stamping blades with a dagger mark. This was only supposed to be struck on knives made in the capital. As a recognised symbol of quality, it seems some makers were trying to benefit from using this mark illegally.

A publication by R Campbell (1747) 'The London Tradesman', offers an interesting alternative insight into the relationship between London and Sheffield around fifty years after this knife and fork were made:

"The Goods of this kind made in Town [i.e. London] come to a very great Price, yet do not excel in Goodness the same kind done at Sheffield and Birmingham at a much lower Price…but these Country Goods, though not so taking to the Eye prove sometimes as good in the Metal as those more expensive, and from these Places most of the Shops are furnished, and frequently Cutlers, who have a great Demand for Goods, have them made in the Country, put their own Marks upon them, and sell them for London made".

This suggests that some overburdened London cutlers were buying in blades from Sheffield or Birmingham and stamping them with their own mark, misleading customers into thinking they had been made in the capital.

How did this situation change?
London dominated the luxury end of the cutlery industry for many years. Sheffield knives were initially sought after for their low price, rather than high quality. The demand for knives increased considerably in the 1700s and Sheffield makers were able to respond to this by building large numbers of water mills to power their machinery. The adoption of shear steel, which gives an excellent cutting edge, improved Sheffield's reputation as a producer of high quality knives.

Sheffield cutlers began to use expensive materials, such as gold, silver and ivory, which meant they could challenge London's position. After the 1740s, it was Sheffield makers whose work was most highly regarded.

Who might have made these objects?
The blade of this knife, which dates to around the time of this competitive era, is struck with the mark 'HOW'. A number of makers were using this mark at around the time this blade was made. The London cutler Ephraim How was active at this time, having become a freeman in 1682. However, we would expect to see the London dagger mark if it was made by him. He also used several other marks, including an artichoke, horseshoe and a heart and crown, which were also usually struck alongside his name.

Roger Cook and John Gray, both Sheffield cutlers, registered the mark 'HOW' in 1701 and 1703 respectively. A number of other Sheffield cutlers also used 'HOW' in conjunction with another symbol. William Fox, for example, used the motif of a chamberstick (a type of candlestick) above 'HOW' from 1706 onwards. It is possible that Sheffield cutlers used these marks to associate themselves with the work of Ephraim How, or to try and pass their work off as having been made by him. However, it is hard to know whether the work of Ephraim How would have been so widely known and highly regarded as to encourage counterfeiters on a national scale.

However, records of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of London tell us that a number of London cutlers were trying to pass goods off as being made by How by using a similar mark, 'NOW', alongside a spade and crown (which appeared very similar to the heart and crown). An advert warning consumers to be aware of this practice was placed by How in the London Gazette in 1703.

However, it also appears that Ephraim How was not always above the law himself. Another Company record describes a complaint made against How on the 27th of March 1686 for his illegal use of different marks, including the heart and crown, which was not registered to him.

Another tale of a cutler's mark…
A record from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, illustrates a useful function of the marking system. John Hollerday was put on trial on the 30th November 1796 for the theft of a dozen dessert knives and forks from the premises of the cutler Richard Minns, of 24 Drury Lane. Hollerday worked as a grinder for Minns and had stolen the knives and given them to a female associate. This young lady had attempted to sell the pieces to another cutler, Thomas Turner.

Turner recognised Minns' mark on the blade and asked her where she had got the blades from. She replied that "a young man made her a present of them". Turner kept the blades and alerted Minns to the theft. The following Monday as he returned to Minns' workshop, Hollerday was arrested.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, 17 June 2003), November 1796, trial of John Hollerday (T17961130-1).

Find out more…
Read more tales from the Old Bailey at www.oldbaileyonline.org

These objects form part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.

Information from the marks registry courtesy of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.


Did you know?
What was the relationship between Sheffield and London cutlers at this time?
Rivalry between Sheffield and London existed from an early stage in the cutlery industry, fuelled by forgery and competition for custom. In the 1640s, the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of London complained to the courts that makers in Sheffield and Birmingham were stamping blades with a dagger mark. This was only supposed to be struck on knives made in the capital. As a recognised symbol of quality, it seems some makers were trying to benefit from using this mark illegally.
When were these objects made?<br/>This knife and fork date to around 1690. The blade is a scimitar shape, which became very popular in the 1700s. The fork has two tines. The hafts are made from ivory and are beautifully decorated with inlaid silver flowers and scrolls, coloured with red and green enamel. The shape of the hafts is moving away from tapered shapes, towards the style known as pistol grip that became common in the 1700s.
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