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Tureen with lid, liner and tray
  • Tureen with lid, liner and tray
    Thomas Laws and Company
  • Enlarge image

Tureen with lid, liner and tray

  • Place of origin:

    Sheffield (designed and made)

  • Date:

    1777 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Thomas Laws and Company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sheffield plate, pewter liner

  • Museum number:

    M.12:1 to 4-1986

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Sheffield plate originated with the discovery in 1743 by a working cutler of Sheffield, Thomas Boulsover (1704-88), that bars of silver and copper, in unequal proportions, fused by heating under pressure, could be rolled into sheets of laminated metal and worked like silver. The industry this material created, flourished for approximately one hundred years until superseded by electroplating in the 1840s.

Physical description

Tureen and stand, Sheffield plate with a pewter liner. The body of the tureen is oval with curved sides. The lower, concave half of the body has continuous gadrooning with the upper edge surmounted by a narrow, `pinked' border contained by an invected edge. The upper half of the body is a plain, concave shoulder with an everted rim to which a rope border is attached. There are two loop handles at either end of the body. The upper half of each handle is fluted and the outer edge has a single, fluted channel running along the centre. A double moulding is in the centre of the handle while each end terminates in a fluted patera. The body rests on four S shaped dolphin feet. The upper outward section is naturalistically treated. Each is edged with a continuous fluted strip to simulate fins and is rather clumsily executed. The upper terminal of each foot is a divided tail, ribbed and fluted which is overlaid on to the plain, concave shoulder of the body. Each foot rests on a circular boss. The underside of each foot has a visible seam along the centre which indicates that the feet are embossed sheet, rolled and filled with lead (for structural strength). The maker's signature and date, Thomas Law / Fecit 1777 is engraved on the underside of one foot near the junction with the body. The lid is oval and rises to a dome in the centre which is surmounted by a looped, dolphin handle. It has a small flange on the underside, a narrow rim and a gadrooned border. The hammer marks are very evident underneath the lid. Elsewhere all surfaces have been smoothly polished. The stand is a shallow, oval dish with a broad rim which has a rolled, rope border. Around the edge of the rim is a continuous series of embossed acanthus leaves with the tips pointing inwards towards the centre. Lightly scratched on the underside of the rim is the maker's signature and date, Thomas Law and Company 1777. The liner, of pewter, a later addition, is an oval straight sided bowl with a slightly dished base. At either end is a small internal lip so that it can be easily removed. On one of these lips is a badly rubbed pewterer's mark. The only decipherable element is the German word Zinn(pewter) which confirms that the liner is a later addition. The provenance of this piece suggests that it was supplied by a Swiss pewterer since it once belonged to the Von Lerber family of Berne.

Place of Origin

Sheffield (designed and made)


1777 (made)


Thomas Laws and Company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Sheffield plate, pewter liner

Marks and inscriptions

Thomas Law / Fecit 1777
Engraved on the underside of one foot

Thomas Law and Company 1777
Engraved on the underside of the rim of the stand.


Height: 25 cm, Length: 44 cm, Width: 27 cm Tureen and cover, Height: 4 cm, Length: 58 cm, Width: 45.5 cm Stand, Height: 9.5 cm, Length: 24 cm, Width: 20 cm Liner

Object history note

Unusually for Sheffield plate of this period, the maker's name and date of manufacture is identified on the body and the stand. Between 1773 and 1784, it was illegal for Sheffield plate manufacturers to mark their goods at all. This had come about as a result of the successful petitioning of Parliament by the silversmiths of Sheffield and Birmingham for the establishment of Assay Offices in the two towns. Although they got their local assay offices, in the face of fierce opposition from the London Goldsmiths' Company, this was at the expense of the silver platers for a clause was inserted in the legislation prohibiting the striking of any letter or letters on articles made of metal, plated or covered with silver, or upon any metal vessel or other thing made to look like silver. The penalty for any contravention of this legislation was a fine of a £100. In 1784, a modification was obtained by the Sheffield platers to this legislation which allowed them to strike their goods with the surname of partnership name with the maker, together with any mark or figure not being an assay office device for sterling silver or in imitation thereof. (See Bradbury, p.426). The fact that the signatures on this tureen and stand are engraved may suggest that the maker, Thomas Law, felt he was acting within the letter of the law by not striking the legend but nonetheless he reduced the risk of discovery by placing his names on an obscure part of the foot and only, very lightly, scratching his name and date on the underside of the stand so that it remains barely legible. In addition, this ambitious piece was very likely to have been a private commission which therefore did not appear on the open market, thus reducing the risk of official discovery.

The only details we have of this object's provenance before entering the London trade in 1985 is that it was in the possession of the von Lerber family of Berne, Switzerland, who lent it to the Historisches Museum, Berne, in 1933 where it remained until it was consigned for sale in 1985.

Historical context note

Thomas Law, like many of the early Sheffield platers, originally trained as a cutler. He was born in 1717, entered as an apprentice in the Cutlers' Company's books in 1730, took his freedom in 1738 and became Master Cutler in 1753. He died in 1775. His successors in business registered a mark, the squat vase, on September 8th, 1784, at the Sheffield Assay Office. A few years after the death of John Law, the son of Thomas Law, the long connection of the family with Sheffield industries closed in 1819 although the name was retained up until 1828 in the firm of Law, Atkin & Oxley, successors to the late John Law & Sons. (See Bradbury, p.34).

Descriptive line

Tureen and stand, Sheffield plate with a pewter liner, Sheffield, 1777, made by Thomas Law & Co.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Frederick Bradbury, History of Old Sheffield Plate, London, Macmillan and Co., 1912.


Sheffield plate; Pewter


Stamping; Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Dolphin; Patera; Acanthus; Fluting; Gadrooning


Eating; Food vessels & Tableware; Metalwork; Sheffield Plate

Production Type



Metalwork Collection

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