That’s probably why a couple of gay antique dealers have taken over the country (Cameron & Clegg, sorry, old joke but am still finding it funny). Desiring a decent tankard to go with my monkish robes for bonfire, on Friday I undertook the nightmarish task of trawling antique shops in Lewes. It was a mistake to wear a large rucksack into those establishments. Every time I turned a corner, my heart skipped a beat.
I can’t bear those places. They’re not antique shops. They’re junk shops. Junk shops with some antiques in them. Antiques on the shelves and the bourgeois equivalent of human derelicts wandering around them, giggling at petty materialism and discussing where to go for lunch. If I ever do accidentally break anything in one of these places, I hope it is already being clutched by some unbearably smug middle class hands.
Phew! Glad to have got that off my chest. Feel much better now. I have to accept that these places are also vast centres of recycling so they can’t be that bad. Another advantage is that they keep a certain brand of humanity off the streets. Better stop there. Back to the tankard prop…
I was literally walking out in dismal failure when I spotted this beauty. It’s a quart mug. I think perhaps a tankard requires a lid, so that if it doesn’t have one, it’s a mug. It’s a tough heavy object anyway. I just stubbed my heel on it in the darkened room I type this post in. (I’m a blogger, you don’t want me to be ‘working’ in a well lit room do you?) The man at the front desk informed me that it was Victoriana. I presumed that this meant that this meant that it had been constructed during the reign of Alexandrina Victoria (Royal Titles are not recognised on this blog). That period lasted between 20th June 1837 and 22 January 1901. In fact, it meant that he didn’t know what he was talking about, except when it came to calculating how much money would pass from my overdraft into his.
Having returned to Brighton, I’ve been trawling through the wonderfully informative PDFs at the appropriately named PewterBank. Can’t understand why the webmaster there has chosen to make that all one word. Ifthatwasagoodideawe’djustgetridofthespacebuttononkeyboardsaltogether. To the untrained eye this sort of detail would be hard work and very time consuming. Prior to the internet, it would have been practically impossible without training and contacts. In the age of the internet, it turns into a task which can be mastered with common sense and time. Luckily for me, I’ve had many years of barristerial training and practice. Consequently, the 363 pages of previously unfamilar material contained in those PDFs took me about 45 minutes to digest. Who says a legal training wasn’t worth every last single bloody penny, all the heartache, the social opprobrium and the constant combination of having too much knowledge and being more enlightened than all my real friends?
Although very faint, it seems clear that of the four identifying marks on my new/old pewter tankard, one of them is this one:
The literature says that these crowned WR marks indicate that the receptacle in question had been approved or declared as a fair measure between 1700 and 1824. Clearly the end of that period is some time before the start of the one indicated by the charlaton running the shop in Lewes. I’m tempted to out the shop but since all the shop keepers were in and out of each others shops the whole time I was trawling (no doubt keeping an eye on my suspicious rucksack), they are probably all in this scam together. It’s a rubbish scam anyway, misdating articles by making them too young. If anything it is us, the punters who are scamming the now properly named antique shops in Lewes, since armed with the internet and a genuine interest in the wares, we probably know more about the stuff than the staff who innocently believe they are merely flogging junk. Better stop there again.
The mark itself doesn’t contain the words below it. I presume that this means that the mark above the words was placed on objects made by a John Foster in 1734. I don’t care for old objects in themselves and although I am amused to have purchased something which is apparently 103 years older than I was promised, I am also a bit annoyed.
My motivation for buying a quart mug was to be able to walk into a pub in Lewes on 5th November, ask for two pints of Harvey’s and then put the one jar down. My need to know the date of the tankard revolves around the issues of whether there is any lead in the thing and, if so, how much and whether it is actually safe to drink from it. Otherwise, I’ve either just bought a very old and heavy theatrical prop or made a small profit via ebay.
I’m concerned that it may be the wrong kind of blue grey colour, indicating that it would contain lead. Definitely it is of a period when one would expect lead to be present in the alloy. I’m not keen on relying on eHow for information on this topic. Yahoo’s crowd declares a definite no. Elsewhere I am advised to lacquer it with nail varnish, avoid putting fruit juice or wine in it, only drink from it in moderation and, finally and most dramatically, get it gold plated!
Perhaps it is okay, if I only drink out of it occasionally. After all, I once lived in Bowsprit Point on the Isle of Dogs. Actually I lived there twice but the first time was before the whole place was done up. Aside from the piss-drinking hippy live-in landlord (Where are you now, I wonder, Paul Aldridge?), infestations of cockroaches and flies, broken windows, electrical fires, smack addicts occupying the stairwell and asbestos ridden heating ducts, there were also lead pipes. My landlord definitely showed the main symptoms of lead poisoning, right down to the noticeably strong blue colour of his veins. I lived there for a year and drank the water right down. Perhaps a couple more pints won’t do so much harm?
What do you think? I’m particularly keen to hear from the Archeologist who often comments here. Although not medically qualified, I would be more than prepared to take whatever he says on this subject in complete trust and confidence. Over to you, Bob.
The detail of the markings is easier to see with the naked eye than with my phone camera but nevertheless, here are some photographs of the detailed markings. You’ll see that I’ve applied some sci-fi filters to try to enhance the detail in different ways. Click on the images to enlarge them.