Thomas Chawner and William Chawner were the sons of John Chawner, a yeoman farmer from Muse Lane, near Sudbury in Derbyshire:
The Chawner house in Muse Lane
Both men went to London and were trained in the London metal trades. William was apprenticed to the pewterer Francis Pigott in 1750, and his older brother Thomas to the goldsmith Ebenezer Coker, in 1754. Both were made Freemen in the early 1760s and they registered maker’s marks both in partnership and alone. They seem to have acted almost exclusively as spoonmakers.
From the 1760’s until 1883, the quality and range of flatware produced by the Chawner family and their descendants is a testament to their skill and business acumen. George Adams was brought in as manager in 1840 and remained until the business was sold in 1883. Its pattern books were then taken over by Messrs Holland, Aldwinkle and Slater.
An excellent example of their manufacture is this Hanoverian tablespoon, made in 1778 and correctly marked:
SN 2586 — Hanoverian tablespoon correctly marked
However, presumably to avoid the expenses of hallmarking, items are found with only a maker’s mark, like these saltspoons:
SN 8040 — Pair of saltspoons each carrying only a maker's mark
The Chawners were not alone in omitting to have their wares hallmarked, so ‘maker’s mark only’ pieces are not uncommon.
However, we currently have two tablespoons with more unusual hallmarking irregularities. The first, a Hanoverian tablespoon, features Thomas and William Chawner’s use of spurious marks that look like hallmarks on first examination. Makers working alone often struck their maker’s mark twice in the same spot to achieve this effect but the shape of the Chawners’ mark did not easily lend itself to such a practice. The marks illustrated below represent one method to simulate hallmarks used by the Chawners:
SN 3463 — Hanoverian spoon by the Chawners with pseudo marks
The second spoon, a feather-edge tablespoon, was made by Thomas Chawner in 1774 and carries the correct hallmarks for that date. However it is also struck with a full set of pseudo hallmarks resembling pewterer’s marks of the period:
SN 3575 — a Chawner tablespoon with an additional set of pewterer's marks
These extra marks have not so far been found on pewter but they very closely resemble marks used by Robert Bush of Bristol (d. 1800), a pewterer active from the mid eighteenth century onwards, who was a prominent supplier to the American colonies. A later piece of pewter has been found struck with similar marks but with a leopard’s head erased in place of the lion passant (see below).
Pieces made of pewter with these marks are unlikely to have been made for sale in England, since the lion passant and, to a lesser extent, the leopard’s head erased are marks legally guaranteeing the purity of silver in an object, a law jealously enforced by the Goldsmiths’ Company. However, given the large export trade associated with Robert Bush, it seems reasonable to suggest that this spoon was destined for the American market and overstamped by Bush.
Marks found on pewter originating from Robert Bush
These spoons show a range of hallmarking options used by the Chawners, some legal, others less so. Given the quantity and range of flatware they produced, there are almost certainly others yet to be found.
P.O Box 227, London N6 4EW, England.