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The Studley Bowl

  • Object:

    Covered bowl

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, engraved and chased; silver gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Harvey Hadden

  • Museum number:

    M.1:1, 2-1914

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery, case 3 []

This is one of the earliest and finest pieces of English medieval domestic silver in existence. Its exact use is uncertain, but it is likely to have been made for eating porridge, or soup, or perhaps for drinking. Medieval diners drank from cups or shallow bowls, often with lids. These were often made of precious metal or costly glass to demonstrate the wealth of the host and to honour the guests. Some included semi-precious stones. Large cups with lids were used for communal ritual drinking at feasts. These were occasionally inscribed with mottoes or a prayer, echoing the grace that was said at the end of a meal. The Studley Bowl, which may have belonged to a child, is decorated with the letters of the alphabet.

Physical description

Covered bowl,standing on a heavy foot-ring, the body and cover decorated with chased and engraved ornament. This consists of the alphabet in black letter, preceded by a cross, and followed by various literal symbols and contractions such as used in contemporary manuscripts, all springing from a leafy wreath.The letters j and w are missing. On the knob of the cover is engraved the letter 'a', the foot consists of a band of pierced circular decoration standing on a rim of twisted wire and a cast and stamped foot.

Place of Origin

England (probably, made)


ca. 1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver, engraved and chased; silver gilt


Height: 14.5 cm, Width: 14.3 cm bowl, Weight: 25.5 oz bowl & cover

Object history note

V&A Exhibition RF.2003/51
Lady Ripon (d. 1907) said to have been inherited; given to St. Lawrence's Church, Aldfield cum Studley, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, for use as an alms dish; sold by the church in 1913; bought by C.J. Jackson; bought by Harvey Hadden as a gift for the V&A in 1914, see nominal file RF: ' Studley, Vicar of '

Historical significance: This is one of the earliest and finest pieces of English medieval domestic silver in existence, and amongst the earliest in the V&A.

Historical context note

The bowl was probably intended for porridge or similar foods. Cover and bowl are engraved with an identical inscription in two rows, separated by leafy wreaths. The inscription begins with a cross, followed by the alphabet in Gothic script and symbols that are part of abbreviations that conclude alphabets in primers for children. The child would cross him or herself before starting the primer. This act is symbolized in the cross.The bowl is beautiful and unique in form. It may have been made for a rich child to eat from.

Descriptive line

The Studley Bowl, a covered bowl decorated with the alphabet, silver, partially gilded, once owned by St Lawrence's church, Aldfield cum Studley, North Yorkshire, England, about 1400

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

Alexander, Jonathan, and Paul Binski (eds.), Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200-1400, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1987.
Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, Marks, R.and Williamson, P. (eds) London: Victoria & Albert Museum 2003, no.183, p.315
Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury, London: V&A Publications, 1998, p. 224
Marks, R & Williamson, P. (Eds.), Gothic. Art for England 1400-1547, London, V&A, 2003

Labels and date

The Studley Bowl
About 1400

This is one of the earliest and finest pieces of English domestic silver in existence. Its use is uncertain, but it may have been for eating porridge, or for drinking. The alphabet in Gothic script that covers its surface suggests that it was made for a child.

Silver, partially gilded
Once owned by St Lawrence's church, Aldfield cum Studley, near Ripon, North Yorkshire
V&A: M.1-1914
Cat. 183 []
Silver-gilt, engraved with a black-letter alphabet and conventional contractions.
For a time the property of Studley Royal Church, near Ripon
English; late 14th century
Given by Mr. Harvey Hadden []

Production Note

England, perhaps London


Silver; Gold


Engraving; Chasing; Gilding

Subjects depicted



Metalwork; Food vessels & Tableware; Containers


Metalwork Collection

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