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.
and Leather Tankards 1660-80
Moyse's Hall Museum
Bury St. Edmunds
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 -
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
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
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
what be they?'
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.
'The laudable use of forks,
Brought into custom here, as they are in Italy,
To the sparing of napkins'
Royalty | Aristocratic
Royalty | Aristocratic
Drink Still Lifes | Meals
| Tableware | Recipes
Duke of Marlborough's
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Copyright © N. Kipar 1999. All rights reserved.
Text Copyright © Peter Brears and English Heritage 1985. With
Copyright © N. Kipar 2003.