Home > History Notes, Regency Notes > Hester Bateman – Georgian silversmith…

Hester Bateman – Georgian silversmith…

November 20th, 2010

One of the things I often say to myself is, “You don’t know something until you know it.” Perhaps I need a constant reminder of the obvious because I tend to assume things. For instance; I assumed that Georgian silversmiths were all men. Today I’ve learned that they weren’t. This shouldn’t surprise me (having researched numerous women artists from all ages), but it does. My knew piece of knowledge (like most of my interesting knowledge) was accidentally acquired. I walked into town to get a few things and stopped off at the charity shop (again) and found four issues of a magazines from 1967, ‘The Antique Dealer and Collector’s Guide’. I flipped through them all and found they each had pictures or articles about some Regency or Georgian item/artist that I had to have. At home at my desk I pulled the first one off the pile and was flipping through to find “the good stuff” when I came to an ad titled Silver by Hester Bateman. I assumed Hester was a dealer. Having admired the tea pot, I read the paragraph under this photo…

…and was shocked to discover Hester wasn’t some wild haired antique dealer flogging old pots, she was the maker! This is what the paragraph says, “Hester Bateman, probably the most famous woman silversmith, first entered her mark in 1761 on the death of her husband. She continued to run a most successful business until 1790 when she retired. Her work is characterised by simple shapes, delicate piercing and engraving. Her particular contribution to the style of the period is the bead decoration which she used on so many of her pieces.”

You can see the bead work in this close up of my photo of the photo in the magazine.

If you’re unfamiliar with 18th century paraphernalia, the item at the bottom is for trimming candle wicks (I assume while burning – see! I’m assuming again). I had to know more so I looked her up. Put her name into Google images and there are lots of modern photographs of her work, some of it for sale. I could afford the silver sugar tongs at £85 (that’s about $125 USD). It’s tempting, but I think as I’m trying to stay away from sugar buying antique sugar tongs (that would beg to be used) might not be the wisest thing to spend my money on. Sorry antique dealer…maybe next century!

Wikipedia had more information on Hester (assuming it’s correct). Hester was born in 1708 in London. She married John Bateman when she was 24 and over the years had five children (two daughters and three sons). John was a chainmaker and a wire puller (can’t remember exactly how they phrased it) so she must have learned over the years the basics of fine metal working from her husband and probably assisted in the workshop. That was very common all the way back to medieval times for women married to craftsmen. (I’ve seen medieval paintings of women helping in a family business of making of armor.) In 1760 her husband died of consumption (tuberculosis). In his will he left his wife all his tools. I find this really touching. He had three grown (or nearly grown) sons at this point, but he leaves his most precious belongings to his wife. She took over the family business and in 1761 registered her own mark (the silver makers mark which is stamped on every piece of silver they make). Her mark is the stylized HB above. She was making silver ’till she was 82 when she retired. She died four years later. A woman working in Georgian England as a silver maker…’till she’s 82? I’m impressed!

You’ll be hearing more from these Collector’s Guides. In the meantime, now I know…there were women working as silversmiths in Georgian England!

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  1. April 12th, 2011 at 01:57 | #1

    Thanks for the history lesson. I loved learning that women helped earn the household income. Mrs. Bateman left some very beautiful pieces of silver and designed as an artist in her own right. This is a hurray for women even today.Yeah!!!!

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