This information has been updated with many thanks to Miles Harrison, who has recently published a new book "Exeter and West Country silver 1700-1900".  This is an extremely comprehensive book and can be bought directly from Miles - simply click HERE

William Welch I (of Plymounth Dock) first sent work for assay in 1760 and was lasy mentioned on 28th February 1800.  William Welch II (of Exeter) was first mentioned on 20th March 1801, and his last entry was on 28th January 1828. There is a good deal of discussion over the William Welch maker's mark, particularly concerning whether or not there was a pellet between the two W's. I have therefore shown a wide range of maker's marks from sugar tongs of the period.

Plymouth Dock is in fact the previous name for Devonport and Devonport is an important Naval port and has been for several centuries. When we look at the Assay books for work that William Welch of Plymouth Dock submitted for Assay at the end of the Eighteenth century, we note that he sent in many "Boatswain's calls" for assay. This is logical and he was clearly a main supplier to the Naval trade of Plymouth Dock. His entry on 6th June 1781 is curious as he sent in 89 pairs of sugar tongs for assay. Prior to that, he had only sent in 2 pairs of tongs. We then do not see any further tongs sent for assay until 20 years later. On 20th March 1801 William Welch of Exeter sent in 8 pairs of tongs for assay. The important note is that the Assay office register specifically states that it was William Welch - Exeter. This is clearly a different William Welch to the one at Plymouth Dock.

In an attempt to un-tangle the Welch folks, we see the following:

William Welch of Plymouth Dock sent the following work to assay:

Item

Aug 8th 1780 to Aug 7th 1781

Aug 8th 1781 to Aug 7th 1782

Aug 8th 1782 to Aug 7th 1783

Aug 8th 1783 to Aug 7th 1784

Aug 8th 1784 to Dec 1st 1784

Boatswains Calls

106

88

49

Coat Buttons

46

21

Tongs

91

Pr Shoe Clasps

41

Punch Ladles

272

176

296

185

151

Waistcost Buttons

33

50

Parcel of Childrens Clasps

1

1

3

Note that the records between 1st December 1784 and 25th March 1794 are missing. However it is noticeable that there is nothing recorded to the name of Welch between 25th March 1794 and 1st June 1795, a period of well over a year. There are also other noticeable differences with the later work, namely the volume of punch ladles being made is significantly reduced.

Item

Aug 8th 1794 to Aug 7th 1795

Aug 8th 1795 to Aug 7th 1796

Aug 8th 1796 to Aug 7th 1797

Aug 8th 1797 to Aug 7th 1798

Aug 8th 1798 to Aug 7th 1799

Aug 8th 1799 to Aug 7th 1800

Feb 14th 1801

Boatswains Calls

36

65

38

66

22

Sleeve Buttons

398

203

224

428

Small Buttons

10

Coat Buttons

16

16

Pr shoe clasps

441

222

129

Bottle labels

2

Belt Plates

1

15

8

8

Box

1

Punch Ladles

41

39

Collars

2

Skewers

3

Cane Head

1

Breast Plate

15


Thomas Welch of Plymouth Dock was not a very prolific maker & sent only the following items in for assay between 16th July 1800 and 7th August 1801:

bullet 16th July 1800 - 166 sleeve buttons
bullet19th September 1800 - 27 boatswains calls
bullet27th December 1800 - 208 sleeve buttons
bullet1st July 1801 - 24 small buttons & 188 shoe clasps

Whereas William Welch of Exeter was a very busy man. He made a different variety of items to the Welch's of Plymouth Dock and he was clearly a spoon-maker. In just the short period between 20th March 1801 and 7th August 1801 (4. months) he sent the following in for assay:

bullet 138 Tongs
bullet34 Salt spoons
bullet237 Table spoons
bullet53 Desert spoons
bullet1,501 Tea spoons
bullet2 Marrow spoons
bullet6 Forks
bullet2 Gravy Spoons
bullet6 sauce ladles
bullet12 Ladles
bullet6 Clasps
bullet1 Tureen Ladle
bullet5 cups
bullet1 socket
bullet17 caddee spoons

From this, I conclude that most (if not all) sugar tongs seen with the "WW" maker's mark will have been made by William Welch of Exeter, not William Welch of Plymouth Dock. The curiosity is the 89 pairs of tongs sent for assay on 6th June 1782 by William Welch of Plymouth Dock - were these a special commission - perhaps for the captains of the King's ships?  There were also 2 pairs of tongs sent for assay on 17th Npvember 1781. If a pair of tongs turns up without the duty mark, then they are likely to be one of the 91!!

William Welch maker's marks

Click on any picture for more details

c1804

c1806   

1813/14