Samuel Pepys was born in Salisbury Court just off Fleet Street, on this day – 23 February 1633.
On New Year’s Eve 1666 he wrote in his famous diary we “One thing I reckon remarkable in my owne condition is, that I am come to abound in good plate, so as at all entertainments to be served wholly with silver plates, having two dozen and a half”. Most people used plate made of pewter.
Very little 17th century silver, of any type, has survived because it was regarded as an investment and was constantly modernised or melted down.
The rim is engraved with the coat of arms of the Pepys family, and the bottom of the plate has London hallmarks together with the date letter for 1681/2 and the maker’s mark ‘MK in a lozenge’ showing that it was made in the workshop of Mary King. Mary was one of only 63 women identified as being engaged in the London silversmithing trades between 1200 and 1800. She was the wife of plate worker Thomas King who dwelt and carried on his business from a house in Foster Lane close to Goldsmith’s Hall.
It is possible that the plate was acquired from the goldsmith Richard Hoare, and the engraving executed by Benjamin Rhodes who was one of his sub-contractors.
As well as the coat of arms on the plate it is also possible to see scratches on the surface, possibly made my Samuel Pepys knife and fork.
You can now see this trencher plate in The Museum of London. It is one of just three surviving items of silver known to have belonged to Pepys. The other two are in the USA.