ashmolean

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Caster

Silver

Origin: London or Exeter

Date: c.1714 - 1720

18.5 cm height; 314 g weight

Marks/Maker: London, Britannia standard, 1703-4, maker's mark of Pentecost Symons of Plymouth

Heraldry: Probably arms of Harris of Radford in Devon

Presented by Miss Susan Minet, 1949; WA1949.181

T. Schroder (2009), no. 123

This is a clear example of 'duty dodging'. 'Duty dodgers' form a special category of English eighteenth-century plate that arose out of the Hallmarking Act of 1719. The act is best known for its restoration of sterling standard, substituted in 1697 by the higher New (or 'Britannia') standard, but was probably better known at the time to the goldsmith for its imposition of a duty of 6d. per ounce on all wrought plate which 'shall or ought to be touched, assayed or marked... to be paid by the makers or workers thereof'. Goldsmiths were quick to devise means of giving their wares the appearance of being properly marked in order to avoid paying the duty. One method involved cutting genuine hallmarks out of some small or redundant object and setting these marks into the new piece - as in the case of this caster. The relatively early date of this example is suggested by the decoration of the cover, which was common during the first decades of the eighteenth century.

Information derived from T. Schroder, British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean (2009)

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