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 last 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.

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 1782 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 sugar tongs sent for assay by William Welch of Plymouth Dock, although there ,may have been some recorded in the missing registers.

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.

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 November 1781. If a pair of tongs turns up without the duty mark, then they are likely to be one of the 91!!

Click on a picture for more details

Click here to see tongs by William Welch of Exeter