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Food and Drink
English Tableware

The photos on this website were taken by B. Levick in several British museums in June 1999, and the photographer has generously given me, N. Kipar, the exclusive copyright. Therefore you may not use these images elsewhere without my expressed written permission. Thank you for your understanding.

 

Goblet Tankard Tankards
Goblet 1658
Castle Museum

Colchester
Pewter and Leather Tankards 1660-80
Moyse's Hall Museum

Bury St. Edmunds
Tankard 1660s
V&A Museum

London

Pottery

Pottery Pottery
Bellarmine Jugs   Apothecary Jars
Pottery Pottery
Cutlery
Cutlery
Cutlery
Cutlery
Cutlery Cutlery Cutlery

 
Please note that I generously received permission from English Heritage, the publisher of the book by Peter Bears from which the following excerpts are taken, to publish the text excerpts below on this non-commercial website. This means the permission is exclusively for display here, and for personal use regarding the text, and you may not use the text elsewhere. Food & Cooking in 17th Century Britain,
by Peter Brears.
Published in 1995 by English Heritage.
Copyright © Peter Brears and English Heritage, 1985 - 1999
ISBN 1-85074-537-4

When preparing the table, it was first covered with a fine line cloth, probable woven with a damask design. Over this, the table was laid with all the required plates, salts, casters and saucers. These were made of silver or silver-gilt in the larger houses, for they provided a convenient and ostentatious means of storing one's wealth in a period when modern banking systems were still in their infancy. Much early plate was melted down in the Civil War, but from the Restoration there was a great revival in the use of silver tableware, which now appeared in a whole range of new and robustly elegant designs.

In 1670, for example, Prince Rupert purchased five dozen silver plates from Alderman Blackwell, each plate weighing 17 ó ounces at 5s 8d per ounce, the whole set costing almost 300 pounds. This gives some indication of the high costs involved in furnishing a table with good- quality silverware. 
Since solid silver was extremely expensive many households used pewter as a substitute. Composed of tin, with a small percentage of lead and copper, this metal cost only 1s to 1s 2d a pound, and therefore could be used in much greater quantities by a far wider section of the community. When brightly polished, it closely resembled silver, but it was much softer. Even a moderately hard cut with a knife would score its surface quite deeply, so that it was in need of constant maintenance, the marks received at table either burnished over, or polished out using fine abrasive sand.
This troublesome operation could be avoided by using delftware of a light biscuit-coloured pottery covered in a smooth and glossy opaque white glaze.
In many households, wooden tableware was still in use, the square wooden trencher, with a large hollow for meat and a small hollow for salt, now being replaced by circular wooden plates or platters. Large communal drinking bowls still survived too, but from the end of Elizabeth's reign glassware had become much more common, appearing in the form of wine glasses, tumblers, and an excellent range of sweetmeat, jelly and syllabub glasses.

The most significant change in tableware was the introduction of the fork. Forks had been used for eating sweetmeats on royal and noble tables since the fourteenth century, but they only emerged as a major item of cutlery from the early seventeenth century, when they were popularised by Thomas Coryant. He published an account of their use in Italy in 1611, while in 1616 Ben Johnson asked 

'Forks! what be they?'
'The laudable use of forks,
Brought into custom here, as they are in Italy,
To the sparing of napkins'
Half a century was to pass before they were generally accepted however, but by the 1660s sets of knives and forks were being made, the knife now adopting a rounded end, in contrast to its earlier pointed form which had been necessary when it had to spear meat from the dishes. 

France
French History | French Royalty | Aristocratic Etiquette
Louis XIV's Day

England
English History | English Royalty | Aristocratic Etiquette

Food & Drink Still Lifes | Meals | Tableware | Recipes | Ingredients
Duke of Marlborough's Blenheim Palace

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Baroque Horses
France


Photographs Copyright © N. Kipar 1999. All rights reserved.
Text Copyright © Peter Brears and English Heritage 1985. With permission.

Graphics Copyright © N. Kipar 2003.