From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria
- Unrestored tea spoon from the wreck of the LOCH ARD. The spoon design has a flattened fiddle-back handle, with a thin stem or shank, flared collar, and elongated bowl. The spoons metallic composition is a thin layer of brass alloy which has partially corroded back to a nickel-silver base metal. Traces of original electroplate remaining with verdigris. Five makers marks obscured.
- L 13.5cm X W 3cm X D 2cm
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- This tea spoon is from the wreck of the LOCH ARD, a Loch Line ship of 1,693 tons which sailed from Gravesend, London, on 2 March 1878 with 17 passengers and a crew of 36 under Captain George Gibbs. “The intention was to discharge cargo in Melbourne, before returning to London via the Horn with wool and wheat”. Instead, on 1 June 1878, after 90 days at sea, she struck the sandstone cliffs of Mutton Bird Island on the south west coast of Victoria, and sank with the loss of 52 lives and all her cargo.
The manifest of the LOCH ARD listed an array of manufactured goods and bulk metals being exported to the Colony of Victoria, with a declared value of £53,700. (202 bills of lading show an actual invoice value of £68, 456, with insurance underwriting to £30,000 of all cargo). Included in the manifest is the item of “Tin hardware & cutlery £7,530”.
This teaspoon is one of 482 similar items of electro-plated cutlery from the LOCH ARD site, comprising spoons and forks of various sizes but all sharing the same general shape or design and metallic composition. 49 of these pieces display a legible makers’ mark — the initials “W” and “P” placed within a raised diamond outline, which is in turn contained within a sunken crown shape — identifying the manufacturer as William Page & Co of Birmingham.
An electroplater’s makers’ marks, unlike sterling silver hallmarks, are not consistent identifiers of quality or date and place of manufacture. A similar line of five impressions was usually made to impress the consumer with an implication of industry standards, but what each one actually signified was not regulated and so they varied according to the whim of the individual foundry.
In this case, the maker’s marks are often obscured by sedimentary accretion or removed by corrosion after a century of submersion in the ocean. However sufficient detail has survived to indicate that these samples of electro-plated cutlery probably originated from the same consignment in the LOCH ARD’s cargo. The following descriptions of maker’s marks are drawn from 255 tea spoons, 125 dessert spoons, and 99 table forks. These marks are clearly visible in 66 instances, while the same sequence of general outlines, or depression shapes, is discernible in another 166 examples.
1. A recessed Crown containing a raised Diamond outline and the initials “W” and “P” (the recognised trademark of William Page & Co)
2. An impressed Ellipse containing a raised, pivoted, Triangle in its lower part and bearing a Resurrection Cross on its upper section (a possible dissenting church symbol reflecting religious affiliation); OR a rounded Square impression containing a raised, ‘lazy’, letter “B” (possibly mimicking sterling silver hallmark signifying city of manufacture i.e. Birmingham)
3. An impressed rounded Square filled with a raised Maltese Cross (the base metal composite of nickel silver was also known as ‘German silver’ after its Berlin inventors in 1823)
4. A recessed Circle containing a Crab or Scarab Beetle image; OR a recessed Circle containing a rotated ‘fleur de lys’ or ‘fasces’ design
5. A depressed Diamond shape enclosing a large raised letter “R” and a small raised letter “D” (mimicking the U.K. Patent Office stamp which abbreviated the term ‘registered’ to “RD”, but also included date and class of patent)
Suggested trade names for William Page & Co’s particular blend of brass plating are ‘roman silver’ or ‘silverite’. This copper alloy polishes to a lustrous gold when new, discolouring to a murky grey with greenish hue when neglected.
- circa 1878
- William Page & Co. (electroplater)
- The LOCH ARD shipwreck is of State significance – Victorian Heritage Register S 417.
- 3 Mar 2017 at 10:09AM