Having thought some more about this spoon, I am inclined to think it is an early example. The bowl, even allowing for wear, is very rounded, the stem does not flare out until it reaches the terminal and the rat tail is reeded. All indications of an early type of Trefid.
The Trefid arrived from France to this country with the Court of Charles II in 1660. In normal circumstances fashion may take some provinces some ten years to catch up, but I wonder in this case, bearing in mind Exeter’s south coast location, and its proximity to the busy and important port of Plymouth, and its trade with France, that it may have been up to speed with London straight away.
The new style also brought about a change in the way spoons were marked. Formerly the Leopard’s Head mark would have been found in the bowl near to the point were the stem meets the bowl, but now such marking would be impossible without damaging the rat tail so at this time the marks were now grouped together on the back of the stem.
As for the maker I cannot find a good fit for a known spoonmaker with the initials RM, except for Robert Mathew and Robert Martyn, both of Barnstable. Maybe the new fashion and the new style of marking brought new maker's marks with it, and I wonder if I was too hasty in dismissing the possibility of Robert Mathew. I had previously only noted his mark with his name in full on a Seal Top spoon.
But are they too early to be the maker of this spoon? Robert Mathew was prosecuted in 1632 for working as a goldsmith without serving an apprenticeship and Robert Martyn was fined by the visiting London Wardens of Goldsmiths Hall for selling below standard silver spoons in 1633*, so depending on their age at the time it may be possible that they were still working when this spoon was made.
If Woolley & Wallis’s attribution is correct then we know that Robert Mathew had been in the habit of striking his mark three times, but this was not uncommon at the time on spoons that had not been assayed.
Does anyone else have any names they can throw into the hat?
*This fine of ten shillings was dropped by the Wardens in return that Martyn agreed to to become their guide for the rest of the tour!