One of the most prominent places for gold-work in the sixteenth century appears to have been Norwich, and among the Goldsmiths of that town particular mention is made of Peter Peterson, whose productions enjoyed great renown in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Corporation of the town still possess many pieces of gold, manufactured about this period, of which perhaps the most interesting is a bowl of silver gilt, supported by a very short foot, bearing in full the signature of Peterson ; two other cups of the same description ; a mace for the chamberlain, which was presented to the city by Elizabeth ; a very fine ewer and basin, manufactured in London in 1595, and many other objects of a later date.
The mace, which is principally composed of pieces of crystal, inlayed in elaborate settings of rich chasing and precious stones, is surmounted by the regal crown, with the globe and cross. It is also ornamented with shields of the arms of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, the whole being supported by bosses of lions and dragons.
The ewer is also remarkable for its workmanship. It is entirely executed in repousse, representing in groups all the demi-gods of the ocean, tritons, nymphs, little cupids riding on dolphins ; on the top are the winds symbolized by cherubs with inflated cheeks, and at the back by marine monsters. The handle is a half length of a woman, supported by a dragon.
The basin is of the same nature, the principal embellishment being the triumph of Neptune and Amphmite, with their usual attendants. Pretty little cupids playing with marine monsters complete this truly Pagan decoration, among which, by a singular misappropriateness, some one has inserted a medallion, representing Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Another ewer of the same date, and which has great similarity with the above, belongs to the Corporation of Bristol ; and a third, also made in England about the middle of the sixteenth century, is now the property of the Duke of Rutland, and is, if possible, more elaborate in design and execution.
The College of Corpus Christi in Oxford, has several pieces of gold plate, which were given to it by its founder, Bishop Fox, at the beginning of the sixteenth century. These would be well worthy the inspection of our modern artists. There are also some curious pieces of workmanship at the college of the same name at Cambridge. The Mercer's Company, among other valuables, possess a singular piece of gold work ; it is a chariot with four wheels in silver gilt, on which are grouped several persons, supporting a small barrel to contain wine, the whole surrounded with enamelled arabesques, and made to move by some ingenious mechanism. Indeed, it may be added that most of the City Companies possess, among other productions, interesting specimens of English workmanship of distant times. And so do also some of our provincial towns ; among others we might specially cite, Bristol, York, Doncaster, &c. Numerous examples of the curious reliques of our native excellency are to be found among the members of our aristocracy, perhaps few excelling in value or importance the collections of Her Majesty, Baron Lionel de Rothschild, Mr. Hope, those of Lord Spencer, formally the celebrated Duke of Marlborough, and which were given to him by Queen Anne. Many others might be cited, but chiefly we must not forget the numerous opportunities now offered for the advantage of our manufacturers, by the establishment of the National Collection at South Kensington. There they can see beauties to be imitated, and errors to be avoided, for in truth it must be admitted, that howsoever much these earlier specimens of Art excelled in richness of materials, and gorgeousness of workmanship, they could not approach the taste and style of their contemporary workmen of the times of Louis XIV. and XV. It was, perhaps, only through the influence of such men as Flaxman and others of his class, that English workmanship has attained that superiority of character which it now possesses.
Source: The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith - 5th September 1877