The Mambury Set of Apostle Spoons

5th April 2019

A rare documentary set of silver spoons that were made in the year that William Shakespeare’s daughter got married are set to fetch upwards of £40,000 at auction in Salisbury.

In 1607 James I had been on the throne for four years, a tsunami that swept along the Bristol Channel killed 2,000 people, and Jamestown was established in Virginia as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Against that setting, these ten Apostle spoons were made in London by silversmith Daniel Cary – one of the city’s most renowned and prolific spoon makers, and a churchwarden at St Peter’s in Westcheap.

Such spoons were traditionally topped with a figure representing one of the twelve disciples present at the Last Supper with a thirteenth “Master” spoon to represent Jesus, and were made from the early 15th century. Very few complete sets are recorded, and this set of ten spoons (omitting the Master, St James the Greater and St James the Less, and with St Paul replacing St Matthew) is a rare chance for collectors to acquire such an important assemblage.

Titled ‘The Mambury Set’, an inscription on the shagreen box made to house them is dated 1930, and reveals the set was once complete with the St Paul spoon forming a 14th addition. However, the set in its current state is documented in How’s English and Scottish Silver Spoons from 1952, suggesting that the four absent spoons were lost in the intervening years. The name of the set indicates it may have once been in a collection in the Torridge area of North Devon, where the Mambury estate has been in existence since the 12th century. How records the set as being in the Cookson Collection – a seemingly extensive collection of early English silver spoons that was assembled in the 1940s and ‘50s, and presumably post-dates the naming of the set.

Woolley and Wallis’s Silver specialist, Rupert Slingsby, is keen to stress the importance of such a rare set of spoons. “There is still a strong market for early English spoons, and single Apostle spoons will command upwards of £1,500 each at auction. It’s extremely rare to find more than a few spoons from the same set together on the open market, and the presence of ten with provenance going back to the 1930s, plus their exceptional condition, is certainly going to get collectors excited.”

The pre-sale estimate on the set is £40,000 – 60,000 but with three of the other five sets recorded in How’s 1952 book now in public collections in the UK and New York, collectors will not have many chances to acquire another.

The sale on 16th April also includes a number of other apostle spoons from the 16th and early 17th centuries. View the full sale here.

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