"...in beinge over confidente to make upp such a quantity of spones without makinge any assayes of the goodnes of his silver..." | Stuart (1603-1649), Early Jacobean Cast Silver 'Slip Top' Spoon, 1607/8 [k], .925 Fine [Lion Passant], by James Cluatt [CI or 'Crescent enclosing I'], London [Lion's Head], hallmarked in bowl and at reverse base and terminus of stem, 100mm x 5.7mm. x 4.25mm. [stem]; 63.5mm. x 51.0mm. [bowl]; 42.64g [1 oz; 9dwt; 4, 3/10 grns] (Jackson's, English Goldsmith's and their Makers Marks, 1905, pp. 81; T a Kent, 1981, 'London Silver Spoonmakers' 1500-1697, The Silver Society), pp. 19, no. 3; Indianapolis Museum of Art, ref. 2010.108), pitted and polished surfaces to bowl and stem from moderate usage, faint toning to reverse of bowl, otherwise very fine and unimpinged by contemporary or later familial personalisation, rare and attributable to one of London's 'First Fifteen Specialist Spoonmakers' who was not unfamiliar to his own hallmark scandal!.
The Robert P Ball Collection of English Silverware
James Cluatt is recognised by Timothy Kent as one of London's fifteen Great London Spoonmakers of the 1580-1697 period. Born of a husbandman at Temple Coombe, Somerset, he was apprenticed to one of the most pre-eminent Master spoonmakers of the epoch - William Cawdell. Cawdell, lauded for his 'Tichbury Celebrities' dozen-spoons (1592) and the Mabon Set (1592) was however not without his scandal. On 2 August 1599, halfway through Cluatt's apprenticeship, Wardens examined the Common Assayer for "omission and neglect of their duties...by sufferinge muche stuff to pass the touche without proper assay." [sic]. As part of their investigation, they seized "a great quantity of spones lately made and uttered by Wm Cawdwell the number whereof with there severall owners do hereafter follow... John Gallys (23 parcel gilt spoons); Mr. Gosson (12 slips and 7 parcel gilt); Mr. Wheeler (17 parcel gilt); Francis Mudd (5 slips, 3 parcel gilt); Mr. Banester (30 parcel gilt); Mr. Bereblock (12 slips, 16 parcel gilt); Robert Lympenny (6 slips, 11 parcel gilt); Nicholas Prynny (22 parcel gilt); Mr Warden Newman (22 parcel gilt); Thomas Smyth (3 dozen and 10 parcel gilt); Richard Millard (6 parcel gilt); John Richards (6 parcel gilt); Anthony Perman (25 parcel gilt); Mr Butcher (12 slips); Mr Trundell (7 parcel gilt); Mr Feilde (5 parcel gilt); and James Prince (5 parcel gilt). [sic]. All 297 spoons were taken to the Assayers Hall where all were found "not only to be under standarde but also to be wrought deceitfully, the heads and spones to be made of severall kindes of silver. [sic].
On 6 August, Cawdwell was summonsed before the Wardens to answer to the submission that he had submitted and had approved many substandard spoons, which had been passed due to the complicity of the Assayers in "winkeinge at the abuses of the said Cawdwell.". Cawdwell defended himself by making: "very meane excuses imputynge the same to the oversight of his servants and seemed by rather weepinge teares to be sorry for his offence than much to justifie himselfe..." [sic]. As a consequence of this great scandal, the Assayers were dismissed and discharged and the Wardens were left with the sole discretion of how to punish Cawdwell. His three charges were: "firste in beinge over confidente to make upp such a quantity of spones without makinge any assayes of the goodnes of his silver, secondly in presuminge to sent the same spones to the hall to receave the touche beyng decytfully made, and thirdly in dispersing and in sellinge them to diverse goldsmythes knowinge them to be bad." [sic]. He was summarily fined £10 and dismissed from assay and touch. However, only weeks later Cawdwell would be returned, having called 'uppon humble suite to Mr Wardens to be good unto him promising hereafter not to offende in his workemanshipp any more..." [sic]. A stipulation of his reoffending was a limitation about the number of items he could submit for assay. Cawdwell tried to circumvent this by utilising his apprentice's marks such as John Jermyn for which he was caught out in March 1600. Incredibly he was dismissed again from assay after his 'sixte faulte' in Jul 1603 [sic], but remarkably was insted uplifted to the livery!
With Cluatt's freedom in 1604, it is interesting to see how he paid personal homage to his scandalous master, whose W in crescent hallmark was replicated by the apprentice with his own mark used upon release from indenture and witnessed clearly on this spoon. Apples do not fall far from the tree, and Cluatt himself would be in trouble with the Assay Hall on 30 October 1607, the very year this Spoon was assayed, whereupon 24 of his spoons were found to be 2 pennyweights below the prescribed standard. Later entries describe 'bigger spoones' and 'lesses spoones' so it is evident that he was a craftsman of diverse manufacture. Similar deficiencies were called upon in August 1612 where the bodies of the spoons were found to be notably finer than the terminals, a pattern which would be called into question until 1620. He was predeceased by his servant Troyelus Edwards in 1626, but is believed to have died the following year.
Estimate: £600 - £900