Archive of the month, November 2009
Receipt from James C. Peters in 1857 for repairs to a candlestick, a wine strainer and a cheese scoop. Peters also added a new prong to a fork.
If you've ever attended a very formal dinner party, you may have noticed the use of sterling silver tableware. With its polished lustre and timeless elegance, the addition of silver has the power to turn any ordinary meal into an elaborate event. Although used more sparingly today, the precious metal was historically a key component in setting a proper table. These receipts found in the Archive Centre provide us with a snapshot of what the College's fellows were eating and drinking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The images represent a small number of the goldsmiths' and silversmiths' receipts for plate purchased by the College in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The receipts themselves are works of art with tiny detailed engravings and fanciful fonts. This selection demonstrates the lengths to which silver and goldsmiths went to reassure their clients that they were purchasing items of quality. The receipts are also useful in tracing the craftsmen the College used and whether these individuals were based locally in Cambridge or further afield.
Click on an image to enlarge it and start a slideshow:
Receipt from 1851 for £275, 9s, 6d for plate for the Provost's Lodge. This is equivalent to £16, 123.55 in 2009.
Crest of Elizabeth Godfrey - at the Hand Ring & Crown in Norris St., St James's, Haymarket (detail of previous receipt).
Archive reference number for these receipts: Coll 3.3
- Dining at the College in the Fifteenth Century (research paper)
- JANUS provides access to more than 1800 catalogues of archives held throughout Cambridge.
- The National Archives (TNA)
- University of Cambridge Library