Exeter is one of the provincial Assay offices. It was started in 1701 when the Act of Parliament allowed the opening of five new provincial Assay Offices, along with Chester, York, Norwich and Bristol. The Exeter Assay Office closed in 1883.

Makers from many other West Country towns and cities used the Exeter Assay Office. We know that silver was sent to Exeter for assaying from the following towns:

Barnstaple, Bodmin, Bridgwater, Bristol, Dartmouth, Dunster, Falmouth, Fowey, Launceston, Liskeard, Modbury, Newton Abbot, Penryn, Plymouth, Taunton, Tiverton, Topsham, Totnes, Truro.

Makers from West Country towns may well also have sent their wares to London for assaying.

There are a reasonable number of sugar tongs to be found hallmarked in Exeter. There are also a number of specialist West Country silver collectors. Exeter made sugar tongs have a distinct tendency to be of poorer quality that their London counter-parts, although there are some notable exceptions, such as Thomas Eustace.

The Exeter Assay year ran from 7th August each year, although there are one or two exceptions that were a day earlier than this, but only 1 day's difference.

New for 2014 - Miles Harrison has published his long awaited reference book. This book covers West Country silver from 1700-1900. There is a great deal of new material in this book and a thoroughly comprehensive list of maker's marks and hallmarks. With Miles' kind permission I will be updating this web-site with new information gleaned from the book.

Click here to purchase a copy - it will be well worth it!

 

The following table shows the numbers of sugar tongs assayed during the years shown.

Maker 1780/81 1781/82 1782/83 1783/84 7 Aug to 1 Dec 1784

Thomas Eustace

136

135

150

128

41

Trowbridge & Ashford

26

12

 

 

Trowbridge & Co

28

10

 

Francis Trobridge   26 2

Ashford & Co

12 4

 

William Pearce

46

73

44

51

William Bond

5

 

 

8

Joseph Hicks

12

88

291

393

221

Richard Sams

8

 

 

 

William Welch

91

 

 

John Tincombe

24

66

 

Total

245

451

565

606

264

Note:

Trowbridge & Ashford", "Trowbridge & Co", "Ashford & Co" & "Ashford & Trowbridge" are all used - were they the same?

Maker

Mar 25th to Aug 7th 1794

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

Francis Trobridge 21 294     4

Joseph Hicks

95

257

180

174

167

William Dunsford

31

 

2

3

 

Richard Ferris

133

554

609

668

575

John Manley

32

12

 

 

 

Richard Jenkins 104 135 355 500 303

Henry & John Sweet

 

 

2  
Francis Parsons         8
Francis Parsons & Stephen Crees         88

Parsons & Co

 

 

2 27

Total

416

1252

1146 1347 1172

Note:

The Assay book has the following entry at the beginning of July 1797:  From the 5th July 1797 an additional duty is to be charged of 8/- per ounce on all gold and 6d per ounce on all silver plate. The account will be kept in future at 1/- per ounce on silver and 16/- per ounce on gold with the allowance of one sixth.

Maker

Aug 8th 1798 to Aug 7th 1799

Aug 8th 1799 to Aug 7th 1800

Aug 8th 1800 to Aug 7th 1801

Aug 8th 1801 to Aug 7th 1802

Aug 8th 1802 to Aug 7th 1803

Joseph Hicks

94

207 187 200 233

William Dunsford

1

    8  

Richard Ferris

481

413 439 411 413
Richard Jenkins 71 81 79 57 73
Henry & John Sweet   14 10    
Francis Parsons   75 206 89 66
Francis Parsons & Stephen Crees 62 18      

Parsons & Co

207

134     17
Francis Parsons & John Bennett         8
Thomas Baker   1      

William Welch of Exeter

 

  144 304 349

Total

916

943 1065 1069 1159

Notes:

Having sent in just 2 pairs of tongs for Assay in May 1797, Henry & John Sweet had made no more tongs until suddenly they sent in 14 pairs of tongs for assay on 30th May 1800, over 3 years later.

Thomas Baker sent in one pair of tongs for Assay on 9th May 1800, although he had previously sent other work in, there were no previous records of tongs & Thomas Baker was not a very prolific maker.

Note the 8 pairs of tongs sent for Assay by Francis Parsons & John Bennett. These were sent on on 4th December 1802. It is presumed that the tongs logged as "Parsons & Co. during 1802/03 were also made by Parsons & Bennett.

Maker

Aug 8th 1803 to Aug 7th 1804

Aug 8th 1804 to Aug 7th 1805

Aug 8th 1805 to Aug 7th 1806

Aug 8th 1806 to Aug 7th 1807

Aug 8th 1807 to Aug 7th 1808

Joseph Hicks

186 227 125 149 187

Richard Ferris

379 486 345 409 187
Richard Jenkins 20 48 12
Francis Parsons 43 111 4 4

Parsons & Co

225 196 214

William Welch of Exeter

233 410 496 414 507

Edward Byne

2 4
Francis Parsons & Joseph Goss 68 34 11
Francis Parsons & B Goss 28 35
William Parsons of Plymouth 4

Total

861 1352 1245 1211 1134

Notes:

There is a noticeable reduction in volume in 1803/04 - presumably due to the increase in duty, even though the increase only applied for 2. months of the assay year. The Assay year 1804/05 appeared to have fully recovered, the largest quantity of tongs assayed ever.

A new maker, Edward Byne sent his first pair of tongs for assay on 23rd February 1805.

A new maker, William Parsons of Plymouth, sent his first work for assay on 10th March 1806. He did not send large amounts of work for assay but did send in 4 pairs of tongs between 10th March and 7th August 1806.

An entry was made for Francis Parsons & B Goss on 8th January 1807 & I have assumed that all "Parsons & Goss" or "Parsons & Co." entries after that refer to B Goss as Parsons' partner.

Maker

Aug 8th 1808 to Aug 7th 1809

Aug 8th 1809 to Aug 7th 1810

Aug 8th 1810 to Aug 7th 1811

Aug 8th 1811 to Aug 7th 1812

Aug 8th 1812 to Aug 7th 1813

Joseph Hicks

201 224 142 249 191

Richard Ferris

225 210 135 181
Francis Parsons 223 222 99 3
Parsons & Co. 89 180 75
Parsons & Goss 73 49 63

William Welch of Exeter

554 607 546 333 412

John Legg

4 53 127 103 81
George Turner 29 100 159 207
George Ferris 82 234

Total

1207 1345 1311 1339 1263

Notes:

From the start of the Assay year 1808/09, Francis Parsons was once again sending work under his own name only, without a partner.

George Turner's first tongs were assayed on 19th December 1809.

The partnership "Parsons & Goss" re-appears on 4th December 1810. There is no initial given for Goss but it is assumed to be Joseph Goss, perhaps with the maker's mark the other way around "JG FP". The register also records work to "Parsons & Co." but this is believed to be simply a shortened form of Parsons & Goss.

George Ferris's first tongs were sent for assay on 20th March 1812. Richard Ferris continued to send work in but his last tongs for assay were on 22nd April 1812, thereafter it is only George Ferris.

Maker

Aug 8th 1813 to Aug 7th 1814

Aug 8th 1814 to Aug 7th 1815

Aug 8th 1815 to Aug 7th 1816

Aug 8th 1816 to Aug 7th 1817

Joseph Hicks

267 332 426 314

Richard Ferris

Francis Parsons 28 10
Parsons & Co. 145
Parsons & Goss 21

William Welch of Exeter

382 312 143 162

John Legg

32
George Turner 299 390 355 308
George Ferris 370 299 311 185
Simon Harris of Plymouth Dock 61 105 77
Edward Byne 1 2
Joseph Goss 5
Joshua Trist 16
Emmanuel Levy 98 212
William Hope of Plymouth Dock 1 19

Total

1577 1472 1439 1200

Notes:

Simon Harris of Plymouth Dock sent his first pair of tongs for assay on 20th September 1813. He had been sending other work for assay since 20th December 1811.; There was no further work from him after 23rd January 1816.; During his short period of working of just over 4 years he was a prolific maker, with a huge variety of work being assayed.

Edward Byne sent in one single pair of tongs for assay on 5th September 1814 after having sent in a variety of other work over a considerable period prior to this. He then sent in 2 more pairs of tongs on 7th March 1816.

From 27th August 1814 Francis Parsons appears on his own again.

Joseph Goss appears on his own sending his first tongs for assay on 24th December 1814. He only sent in a few items for assay before disappearing from the records.

Joshua Trist sent his first tongs for assay on 31st October 1815.

Emmanuel Levy sent his first tongs for assay on 23rd March 1816. He had previously sent in other work for assay over a considerable period.

William Hope of Plymouth Dock sent his first work for assay on 10th April 1816 (mounts for snuff box) and his first tongs on 8th May 1816.

EB - Edward Byne

FP - Francis Parsons

FP BG - Francis Parsons & B Goss

FP JG - Francis Parsons & Joseph Goss

FP SC - Francis Parsons & Stephen Crees

FT - Francis Trowbridge junior

GF - George Ferris

GT - George Turner

HS IS - Henry & John Sweet

IH - Jason Holt

IM - John Manley III - Newton Abbot

JG FP - Joseph Goss & Francis Parsons

JH - Joseph Hicks

JL - John Legg

JS - John Stone

JW - Josiah Williams

RF - Richard Ferris

RJ - Richard Jenkins

SH - Simon Harris

TE - Thomas Eustace

WH - William Hope - Plymouth

WP - William Pearce - Plymouth

WW - William Welch - Plymouth Dock

WW - William Woodman - Bristol