For Those with an Interest in the Irish Silver Trade

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For Those with an Interest in the Irish Silver Trade

Postby dognose » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:04 pm

The passing of the Revenue (Ireland) Act of 1821 and the Revenue Act of 1822, prompted a House of Lords Commissoners’ Inquiry ‘for the purpose of inquiring into the collection and management of the public revenue arising in Ireland.’

The report of the inquiry that started in 1823 was finally published in 1828, it dealt with all aspects of the Stamp Duty including that raised on plate, newspapers, insurance policies etc. Our interest of course will be that of the noble metals of silver and gold.

In 1825 following the passing of the Duties on Plate Act, the revenue collection from Plate Duty passed from the hands of the Commissioners of Excise and came under the control of the Department of Stamps.

For those, like me, who have an interest in Irish silver, the report makes fascinating reading and answers many questions and provokes a lot more. It also provides a remarkable insight into the characters interviewed, William Clarke, Jacob West, Richard Williams, James Carruthers who were interviewed in September and October 1826 and Thomas Nuttall, the first to be interviewed in November 1823.

As part of their inquiry, the Commissioner of Stamps sent a certain ‘Mr Wintle’ to investigate the practices of the Dublin Assay Office. This would, I believe, have been the ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’ James Wintle. Wintle, the Georgian version of Frank Abagnale of ‘Catch me if you can’ fame appears to have gone through the assay office like a dose of salts and may well have been responsible for the flight of the Dublin silversmith and forger John Smith.

I will have to, due to time constraints, split this topic into several posts.

This first post contains the summary of the report to the House of Lords, this will be followed in later posts by the interviews.


Besides the duty to be paid for a license to sell Plate, your Lordships are aware that duties are payable on all Gold and Silver Plate manufactured in the United Kingdom. The rates of these duties in Ireland are as follow :

Gold Plate, per ounce - - - 1s.
Silver Plate, ditto - - - 1s.

The receipt of these duties was committed to the Excise Department until, by the Act of the 6th Geo. 4, c. 118, it was transferred to the Department of Stamps. 6 Geo. 4. c. 118. Formerly, as at present, these duties were actually levied by the Goldsmiths' Company ; but until the period above stated they were accounted for to the Commissioners of Excise, who, it would appear from the evidence of Mr. West, one of the principal manufacturers of Plate in Ireland, did not pay much attention to the collection of them. The effects of the more vigilant superintendence of the Provisional Stamp Board may be seen by referring to a Return in the Appendix of the number of Licenses paid for in the years ended 5th January 1825, 1826, and 1827. During a part of the first of these years, the Licenses were issued from the Excise Department, and the whole number returned as paid for in that year is 65; in each of the following years they amounted to more than 200. The duty on the manufactured Plate has also been better collected, and the standard which is represented by Mr. West to have been erroneous for the last fifty or sixty years, has, by the interference of the Provisional Board of Stamps, been made conformable to the Statute, and the same as the English standard.
This Duty is collected by the Goldsmiths' Company in Dublin, under regulations similar to those which are fully set forth in our Fourteenth Report; and for this service the Company are allowed five per cent., with the addition of a Salary of £70 a year for the Deputy Assay Master. Although under this arrangement the Deputy Assay Master may be considered in some degree the officer of Government, it appears to have been thought necessary to have an officer of the Stamp Department in attendance during the hours of business at the Assay Office ; and the evidence of Mr. West seems to throw a doubt upon the disinterestedness of the officers of the Company, who have the power, and whose duty it is to act for the prevention of Frauds upon the Crown and the Public. The shops of the dealers in Plate are seldom visited; the Hall-mark is represented to be defective, and the Assay Master professes himself unable to decide upon the genuineness of the Mark after it has been impressed.
The difference in the rates of duty in England and Ireland, and the exclusive allowance of a Drawback on Plate exported from the former country, afford inducements to frauds, which there is reason to believe have been practised. Mr. West states, that a good deal of Irish Plate is sent to England without being entered at the Custom-house or paying any duty, and that he has no doubt of Irish Plate having been sold in Liverpool without paying the additional duty. Another opening to- fraud is presented in the possibility of importing Plate from England which has paid the duty, obtaining the Drawback in Ireland, sending it to England again, and claiming a Drawback on its re-importation to Ireland. Such fraud is represented by Mr. West to have been practised, as he had been informed, to an " immense extent."
We have already, in our Fourteenth Report, recommended the discontinuance of the Drawback, and an equalization of the Rates of Duties on Plate in all parts of the United Kingdom. These measures are the more deserving of your Lordships' sanction, because they are calculated both to relieve the trade from restraints which, press unequally, and the Revenue from exposure to fraud.
We cannot avoid referring your Lordships to the testimony of Mr. West withr respect to the beneficial effects of the general abolition of the Union Duties. There are, nevertheless, still some obstructions alluded to by him particularly, arising out of the difference of duty on Glass and Plate, which affect the Plate Trade; and the removal of which your Lordships will no doubt be disposed on principle to accomplish.
A Memorial from the Working Silversmiths and Jewellers of Dublin will be found in the Appendix, setting forth the different operation of the law, which creates the necessity of taking out a License to manufacture Plate" in England and in Ireland, which may perhaps suggest some modification favourable to the artificers.
In a former part of this Report we have noticed the want of control on the part of the Stamp Department by the neglect of the Distributors (as in the instance of the county of Antrim) to exercise any vigilance with respect to the claims of the Crown arising upon Plate sold in the parts of Ireland distant from Dublin. The non-existence of any Assay Office out of Dublin, and the great facility of intercourse between England and the most wealthy parts of Ireland where the sale of Plate appears to be the most extensive, as at Belfast and Cork, afford inducement and opportunity to evade the law, and make it desirable that the attention of the Board of Stamps should be directed to the establishing some effective means for the collection of this branch of Duty.
We were informed upon inquiry, that the Plate Manufacturers at Cork formerly applied for an Assay Office to be established in that city, but the project was not adopted in consequence of the expense that would have attended it.
We are not prepared to state how far (if at all) it may be incumbent on the Goldsmiths' Company, in claiming the benefit of their charter, to grant facilities that might prevent the inconvenience to the trade of transmitting Plate from distant parts to Dublin for the purposes of the Assay; but it seems very desirable for the attainment of those purposes, so far as the Crown is concerned, that the business of the Assay Office and the collection of the King's Duties should be effected immediately by and under the responsibility of some public Department. We would therefore submit to your Lordships' consideration, the practicability of acting in Ireland upon the suggestions which we have offered in our Fourteenth Report for the better management of this business in England.
Under the existing system the expense incurred by the Crown is, we think, more than adequate to the service performed by the Goldsmiths' Company. We are of opinion that the appointment of persons directly or indirectly connected with the trade, to officiate on behalf of the Company, should be precluded; that the Board of Stamps should act in concert with the Company for the detection and prevention of illicit practices; and that, independent of such co-operation, the respective officers of the Stamp Department, namely, the Comptroller, the Distributors, and the Inspectors, should be from time to time actively employed by the Board in furtherance of those objects, and of the due collection of the Revenue.

The interviews that were conducted with various persons connected with the trade will follow in subsequent posts.


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Postby dognose » Tue Aug 18, 2009 5:36 am

As stated the first witness questioned was the then Dublin Assaymaster Thomas Nuttall. Nuttall who spent an extraordinary forty nine years as Assaymaster was appointed to the job in 1776 and continued in that role until his death in 1825. Prior to that position his was appointed Third Warden in 1773, Second Warden in 1774 and First Warden in 1775 resigning in 1776 to take up the position of Assaymaster. As a silversmith he is noted as working out of 2, Gordon’s Lane in 1766 and 30, Skinner Row from 1774 until 1776. He was a former apprentice of William Townsend, indentured in 1752 , noted as a Quarter Brother 1761 and Freeman in 1766. In his role as a silversmith he known to have taken only one apprentice, that of Daniel Crosby, indentured in 1764.
In the year 1776 following his appointment as Assaymaster, he would have been obliged, under the rules of the Company, to cease the craft of a silversmith.

At the time of this interview, Nuttall was about 87 or 88 years, even more amazing is the fact that he was continue in his position for another couple of years, having said that, he appears from his testimony still to possess a sharp mind.

Appendix, No. 102.
Saturday, 1st November 1823.
Mr. Thomas Nuttall called in and examined.

What is the office which you hold ?–I am assay master to the corporation of goldsmiths; I was elected in the year 1775, forty-eight years ago, and I have been in the office ever since.

What duties do you discharge ?–I try the work, and I receive the money, and I put the money into the bank, and I get twice or thrice in a quarter a check from the master of the corporation of goldsmiths to put in to the collector of excise; I have the two last receipts which I got with me; the account is made up by my clerk or assistant.

How long have you had an assistant ?–Ever since the year 1784. I first take the money there, and he brings the whole account of what has been assayed, and the money received to the office in the Custom House; this is the last receipt I got, (producing it,) it is for £632. 19s. 7d. Irish; that is for only part of the quarter, but I have a document that contains the whole payments for the quarter.

What duty is charged on plate in Ireland ?–An English shilling per ounce.

By what regulations are the silversmiths compelled to send the plate to your office?– There is a penalty if they do not do it, and it is liable to be seized.

Has that penalty ever been enforced ?–Indeed I do not know that ever it was, for in general they send it. I do not doubt that some of them may have sold without it, and of course paid no duty–I have heard of such things.

Do you believe they are frequent ?–Indeed I cannot say that they are.

Is any search or examination ever made for plate ?–There was.

When?–I myself have taken up plate when I have got an information.

How long ago ?–Indeed I believe it may be sixteen or seventeen years ago.

Is it your duty to weigh the plate ?–No; but it is my duty to see it weighed.

Is there a record kept of the quantity weighed?–There is; the accounts are as regular as those of any office in the kingdom, I believe; there is an account for the corporation, there is an account for any commissioners of the revenue who may choose to call for them, the books are kept separate.

Is there any account rendered to the excise of the quantity stamped ?–There is; it is given in every quarter day; I pay in the money, and that is given in every quarter day.

When is the money paid by the persons who bring the plate to be stamped ?–When it comes.

At the time when it is stamped ?–The money and plate is given in together.

How soon after the receipt of the duty do you pay it to the excise?–Sometimes twice, sometimes three times in the quarter; I used to pay it every week.

When was that altered ?–It was altered so far as this, that they told me, (I remember it was Mr. Norton,) " I had rather take it from you at the end of the quarter, than to be coming with your little matters every week." " Why, sir," says I, " that is as you please." Sometimes according as the money is collected I pay it in. I can show that I put the money every day into the bank. I am paid for the corporation. I am not accountable, but the corporation.

Do you give any security?–I give £1,000 to the corporation.

Do the corporation give any security for the payment of the duty ?–Not that I know of; I never heard whether they did or did not, but I generally leave the work ready for finishing between two and three o'clock; I either go myself to the bank, or send my assistant.

Is the account in your own name to which the money is paid at the bank?–No.

In whose name is it?–The Corporation of Goldsmiths. This is the pass book (producing it). I cannot draw for that money.

By whom are the drafts signed?–The master of the corporation and the wardens must sign the check for drawing out that money. I cannot draw for any of it in my own name; but they give me a check for that, and I get the money for that, and take it to the excise.

You pay the money in daily ?–Yes.

Do you pay it in in cash, or in bank notes?–In bank notes.

What allowance do the bank make the goldsmiths corporation for this balance ?–I do not think they make them any.

What reason have you to think that ?–Because I have never known it allowed.

Do not they allow a percentage on the balance ?–I have never heard that they allowed them a penny.

Have the Goldsmiths Company the power of drawing on their account generally ?– They cannot draw on that account but through me; they must draw in favour of me; that is the law of the corporation.

Does the money that is placed to this account stand generally to the account of the Goldsmiths account, or is it a separate account over which the goldsmiths have no control?–It is the property of the corporation", not of any individual; and the reason given for not being able to draw without my assistance, is, that they cannot draw it at their own discretion; it must be signed by three, and made payable to me.

Is that regulated by Act of Parliament ?–Indeed I cannot say that the Act of Parliament says that I shall receive the money, and pay it to the corporation of goldsmiths; and the corporation of goldsmiths for some time took the money from me, and they thought it too much trouble, and they employed me to take the whole upon myself, and to pay it, and to account with them, and they paid me for it.

What fees do the persons pay at the office, who send plate there to be examined ?–The English duty, an English shilling on the ounce, and I collect upon every ounce a penny extraordinary.

What becomes of this penny ?–The corporation has half of it, and the assay master has the other half.

What salary have you over and above these halfpenny fees?–I have, exclusive of that, £100 a year and no more.

What portion of alloy is allowed by the law to be mixed with pure silver in the plate assayed in Ireland ?–In virgin silver an eighteen pennyweight of copper mixed with the pound troy.

Are you aware that some of the silversmiths in Dublin believe that the standard is eleven ounces of pure silver and one ounce of alloy, and that probably they prepare their plate according to that standard ?–The eleven ounces two upon the eighteen makes the two ounces by the rules of the Mint. If the money that is minted comes within two pennyweights of the standard, it is passed; if it is two pennyweights and a half, it is broken, and must be melted over again. Now the corporation of goldsmiths in London took the advantage of that, and they have been always regulated by that, and we have been regulated by the corporation
there. Another thing is, that always in working the silver it will be better by the time that it is completed than it is when it is first melted; in melting it loses part of the alloy, for copper is the more perishable matter, and will lose something every time it is annealed, as we call it; that is, made red in the manufacture of it; some of the copper comes off in a black surface on it, and by putting that into pickle to quench it, that goes off, and it is still growing better every time. I never break any silver that comes within the two pennyweight, and it is the same in London.

Where are the stamps made with which the plate is marked when the proper assay has taken place ?–The stamps are made by Mr. Mossop; he is the best mechanic we have here for making them. I believe they were made for forty years by one man, a Mr. Standish, that is a seal engraver.

How long do they wear ?–Sometimes a year, sometimes more.

Is there any difficulty in forging them ?–Indeed a clever fellow might forge them, but they generally have a private mark on them.

Have you ever seen any plate marked with forged stamps ?–Indeed I have.

Is not such a process extremely common ?–Indeed I cannot say; I will say nothing but what I know. I know that a little after I came into office, which I believe was about forty- six years ago, I know I was not sworn in at the time a man was detected, and he saved his life by my not being sworn before the commissioners.

Have any detections been made since that time?–No; I have taken up plate that had an old mark in the bottom of it, that was taken out of an old piece of plate.

Is that a common description of fraud ?–It was till it was altered ; and the way in which it was worded in the Act was " removing from one piece to another;" but there is a matter that if the Act were made again I would wish put in.

What is that ?–That it should be penal to add to any piece after it has come to the office.

Has that process been frequent ?–There have been things of that sort.

Is there any other improvement you can suggest ?–Indeed I do not recollect any other, except that if there was an inspector appointed, with a salary that would put him above temptation of any trifling matter, it would pay very well. There are a great many towns in Ireland which sell a great deal of plate, and never send it to my office. I get a good deal from Cork, but not from any other place. I got only twice or thrice from Kilkenny, mere trifling things, and I think once or twice from Limerick ; but there is not anything of a town in Ireland that does not sell goldsmiths work.

Thomas Nuttall.

Conclusions to follow.


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Postby dognose » Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:01 am

For a man of his advanced years, Thomas Nuttall handled his examination with comparative ease. His evidence, however, does reveal great shortcomings as one of the guardians of the craft. He was aware of the frauds and flouting of the law throughout Ireland, but appears to had done very little to redress the situation, but the real blame, surely, must lay squarely at the feet of the Wardens of the Dublin Goldsmiths Company.
Their employment of a man approaching his nineties in this most important position must surely be called into doubt. Also at this time the company were employing two Beadles, who were, as a primary part of their job, there to seize suspect plate and to accompany the Sheriff when arrests were made. They were also, as from 1812, the markers at the assay office, so would have been well acquainted with the marking system.

Nuttall’s claim that he had been the Assaymaster since 1775, rather than 1776, as quoted by most sources, can probably be explained by his statement when he makes reference to the man who was detected, but escaped the death sentence, due to Nuttall not having been sworn in, the swearing in, I suspect, occurred in 1776, but he may have been trying the assay in 1775. Nuttall would seem to be the natural choice for the position of Assaymaster, as I sure he would have been aware of the skills used by his old master, William Townsend, who was the Assaymaster from 1770 until his death in 1775. The short appointment of Richard Forster, the Assaymaster between Townsend and Nuttall, is something I’ve found nothing about as yet.

The reference to ‘Mr Mossop’, the maker of the official stamps, is most likely that of William Mossop, a former Warden and Master of the Dublin Company, who we shall learn later, was to be declared insane.

Nuttall also stated that he gives £1000 security to the Company, a considerable amount in comparison to his counterpart at Newcastle at that time, who was only required to give £100 security.

Thomas Nuttall remarked that the position of assistant Assaymaster was introduced in 1784. There was probably a general expansion in the staffing of the assay office during that year. The Act requiring the registration of all silversmiths was brought into force in 1784 together with the proposed setting up of the New Geneva Assay Office and the introduction of the new gold standards in Ireland must have caused a considerable increase in the workload of the Dublin Assay Office.


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Postby dognose » Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:13 pm

The next to be interviewed, nearly three years later, was Thomas Nuttall's successor as Assaymaster, William Clarke.

William Clarke was granted his Freedom in 1798, became 3rd Warden in 1802, 2nd Warden in 1803, 1st Warden in 1804 and Master in 1805. He was appointed Assaymaster in 1825 following the retirement of Nuttall. His career as the Assaymaster, however, would turn out to be but a short one, he died in 1828.

Appendix, No. 94.
1st September 1826.
Mr. William Clarke called in and examined.

You are assay master at Goldsmiths' Hall ?–I am.

How long have you held that situation ?–Since November last.

Were you in the assay office before?–I was.

In what capacity ?–Deputy assay master.

What were the improvements that you introduced in the assay office a short time back when Mr. Wintle came from England ?–Nothing more that I know of than a new furnace and new scales.

You had imperfect scales before?–Yes, they were not so correct.

Did he make no other improvements ?–No.

Not in the charcoal you used ?–We used to burn charcoal.

Did he not make an improvement in the form of the cupples ?–Yes, we got bone ash, from England, and the assay lead also.

You have introduced a more perfect standard, have you not?–Yes. "

Is your standard now correct with the English standard ?–I think it is.

You have lately detected a fraud, have you not, in the trade?–Yes, we are about it; we have not exactly come to it yet, but I think we will; I assayed one spoon and sugar tongs sent to me from the Stamp Office; number one, a spoon, and number two, a pair of sugar tongs; the spoon was one ounce worse, and the sugar tongs were eleven pennyweignts
worse than our standard.

You are taking measures to detect the authors of the fraud ?–Yes.

Who brought those articles to you ?–They were sent to me from the Stamp Office.

What mark did they bear?–The Dublin Hall mark.

Was it a correct mark, or a forgery ?–I think it is a forgery; it is impossible it could pass our hall so bad as that, no matter who was at the head of the office at the time.

Can you tell who manufactured that plate?–We can.

Who was it ?–Smith.

Where does he live?–I think he lives in Eustace-street.

What is his Christian name ?–John.

Can you undertake to say that the marks appearing upon those articles are-forged marks ? –I cannot; if I was to judge as far as my examination of the marks went, I would say that they were forged.

Upon whose opinion would you rely as to the authenticity of those marks ?–On the cutter, the engraver.

On no one else ?–No.

Who is he ?–Massop was the engraver, who cut one of those, and he is insane.

Who is the other?–Parkes, I think.

Is he living ?–Yes; he has but lately come into the employment as die sinker.

Do you attend yourself personally to every assay ?–Yes.

How often does that take place?–Every day except Monday; this day there was so little came in we did not light a fire to-day.

The assay office is always open, except on a Monday ?–Yes, always. Has it frequently occurred to you to receive plate which you have not been able to mark ? –Very often.

Do you mark the individual who brings such plate ?–Yes, we make an observation in our book against them.

How many manufacturers of plate are there in Dublin ?–There are, perhaps, about six or seven and twenty.

You mark the names of those who send you imperfect plate ?–Yes, I make a mark of those who send us work barely standard beam, that we must pass. I make an observation, though I do not tell them that I do so ; and those that bring us articles that we are obliged to break as below the standard I mark.

You return the plate when broken ?–Yes.

Do you levy any penalty ?–No, we return them the plate and the duty.

So that there is no penalty ?–No, except a penny an ounce to pay the corporation; that is the touch penny.

To whom does the penny an ounce go?–An halfpenny to the assay master and an halfpenny to the corporation.

Would it not prevent the bringing imperfect plate to your office if the duty were taken upon it ?–There are some of them do not know whether it is perfect or imperfect when they send it.

Do you conceive that possible ?–Yes, indeed I do; I do not think they would run the risk if they knew it.

It might prevent the fraud, might it not ?–If we allow it to pass there is a fraud, but we should not allow it to pass; if they act fraudulently they must use fraudulent punches of their own; none of those articles could ever go through the examination of the corporation.

You say you have great difficulty in. detecting a forgery, and that you would not of your own personal knowledge say it was a forgery ?–No, I cannot take upon myself to say it was.

Then what protection can your assay marks give to the revenue if they are so easily forged ?–When they are put on articles of plate they are polished and they are hammered over, and that damages them-in a measure.

That would apply to all?–Yes, we have no greater protection in this country than they have in England; the die sinker who sinks the die is the only man who can come forward and say that they are not his dies ; then the not sending the article to the hall and having it assayed is a strong proof that they have not paid the duty; they never could have passed through the office in the state in which they are.

Have those been tried by the old or the present standard ?–By the present standard.

At what date do those profess to have been tried ?–One about three years ago, and the other last year.

How much inferior if compared with the old standard would those articles be?–One nineteen pennyweights, and the other would be eight.

They are still very much below the old standard ?–Yes; the one nineteen pennyweights is too much.

Do you conceive that the inferiority of the old standard was a source of profit to the trade ?–Yes, it clearly was.

Is there any person connected with the trade who is concerned in the assay office ?–No.

You were in the trade formerly yourself?–I was.

You left it on coming into the assay office probably ?–I have left it ever since the year 1815.

When did you enter the assay office ?–I entered the assay office last year. I was deputy eight months, and became assay master last November.

Is there any officer there who has been of longer standing ?–Yes.

What situation does he fill ?–Weigher and drawer.

Is he competent to speak to the old practice ?–He is; the assay master whom I superseded is living.

Why was the assay master superseded ?–He was fifty-two years in the office. I believe he is ninety years of age; he is allowed £150 a year out of what I get.

That is by an agreement with the company ?–Yes, it is.

Are there any perquisites in your situation besides the salary ?–No, except private assays.

What do you mean by private assays ?–Persons sending articles to be assayed to know the value.

What is the expense of that ?–To a freeman 2d., to a non-freeman 4d, and the gold assay Is,

You never heard of any thing being offered to a person in the assay office to facilitate the application of the marks ?–No.

What is the present legal standard in Ireland ?–We weigh with what they call the twelve ounce, and count 11. 2., that is giving eighteen pennyweights of copper to twelve ounces of pure silver, that reduces it to 11. 2., which is the English standard.

Have you any reason to suppose that much plate is sold in Dublin which has not passed the hall ?–I understand latterly there has been ; I very much suspect it.

What grounds have you for supposing that ?–Nothing more than seeing those spoons come in.

What do you mean by latterly ?–Within these few days past.

If it had not been for what you received from the Commissioners of Stamps, should you have entertained the same suspicion?–Indeed I should not.

This has completely opened the eyes of the assay office ?–Quite so.

Do you take any steps with regard to ascertaining whether such and such plate manufacturers or dealers in plate really have brought their work to your hall ?–As far as we could.

Did you ever examine their shops ?–No.

You do not consider yourself bound to do that ?–I have not power to do it; the master of our corporation has a power vested in him by the charter.

Who is the master ?–Mr. Hines ; he is what is called in England the chief warden ; there are three wardens besides.

Do you act under his personal direction ?–No; I am merely sworn into the office to attend there and assay, and receive the money, and pay it in to the commissioners once in five days.

Is there no control over you by any of the officers of the company ?–None by the company ; a gentleman attends there from the Stamp Office, and remains there the whole time every morning.

The whole time that the assay is going on ?–Yes ; he has one key of the chest, the deputy assay master has another key, and I lock them up in the iron safe.

Is the officer from the Stamp Office in attendance the whole of the day ?–Yes; he is in attendance from twelve o'clock till half-past one.

Is it within those hours only that an assay can be had ?–Yes; the office opens at twelve and closes at three, but there is so little work it may be done in a short time.

You receive the duties personally ?–Yes.

At what periods do you pay them over to the Stamp Office ?–On a Saturday.

Do you pay the whole sum?–Yes.

To the receiver general ?–Yes, to a fraction.

What sum do you receive for paying that ?–I am paid by the corporation ; the corporation receive five per cent.

Under what authority is that paid ?–Under Act of Parliament.

You make a deduction of that five per cent. ?–Yes; that is the mode they have for paying their officers, and lighting fires, and the house-rent, and so on.

Do you allow articles of plate to be brought to you in an unfinished state ?–No.

Such as parts of a tea-pot ?–No; all the articles to be put to it must be brought.

If it is brought in detached pieces you will not take it at all ?–No.

What deduction do you make from the weight for what is called unfinished plate ?–A sixth.

Uniformly ?–Yes, that is what is allowed.

In what state is it generally brought to you ?–They bring it in a tolerably finished state, in as forward a state as they can.

Do you observe a great difference in the state in which it is brought by different manufacturers ?–Yes; some of them are very poor ; the generality of them are very poor; and they get the silver at a late hour, perhaps for spoons or forks, and they have to work late at night to get them ready for the hall in the morning, and those they send in rather an imperfet state.

You consider every article of plate invariably as subject to that deduction of one-sixth of the weight?– Yes.

Do you pay any drawbacks ? – No.

Have you reason to believe it is the practice among the silversmiths here to sell mourning rings unstamped ? – I do not know that there is any such thing made ; I do not know that we have seen a mourning ring since I came to the office – one or two, but not more.

They are stamped in England, are they not ? – Yes.

It is not the practice to make them here ? – No ; whatever they use chiefly they get from London, I believe.

William Clarke

Conclusions to follow.


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Postby dognose » Fri Aug 21, 2009 1:29 pm

William Clarke appears a little resentful regarding the improvements that James Wintle has instigated at the Dublin Assay Office, and reluctant to give him credit for it. This may be because he had entered into the position of Assaymaster just a short time before and believed that he was capable of bringing about the improvements without the interference of the man from London.

Clarke’s revelation of the name of the forger, John Smith, is of much interest. Smith, possibly the same John Smith that registered with the Company in 1784, is noted as working out of 11, Eustace Street, Dublin, as a ‘Silversmith & Gold Beater’. He was known to have used a punch marked ‘S & W’, the ‘W’ is, as yet, unidentified. He was last heard of around this period, and may well have taken flight following the exposure. 11, Eustace Street, was formerly the place of business of the partnership of William Hamy (Hammay, Hanney, in some sources) and Edward Hopper, ‘Jewellers & Sheffield Plate Warehouse’ until 1819.

For ‘Massop’, read ‘Mossop’.

William Clarke’s reference that Thomas Nuttall was still alive, is of note, he must surely be correct, for, as part of his allowance was paid to Nuttall as a pension, I’m sure he would have been very interested in the health of the former occupier of his position.

‘Mr Hinds’ is Isaac Hinds, appointed 3rd Warden in 1822, 2nd Warden in 1823, 3rd Warden in 1824 and Master in 1825.


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Postby dognose » Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:25 pm

The next to be interviewed was the goldsmith and jeweller, Alderman Jacob West. West was granted his Freedom in 1801 and was elected Alderman in 1821. Until 1815 he was in partnership with John Clarke at 9, Capel Street. The firm of Jacob West (Alderman) & Son was registered with the Company in 1827.

Appendix, No. 95.
Friday, 1st September 1826.

Jacob West Esq., and Alderman of Dublin, called in and examined.

You are carrying on the business of a silversmith in this city ?–I am.

Have you done so for a considerable time?–For many years.

Have the goodness to inform the Commissioners what are the different rates of duty payable on the manufacture of gold and silver plate in Ireland at present?–On silver it is Is., and 1d. touch, that goes to support the expenses of the hall; that is 1s. 1d. British.

For the gold plate, how much ?–I do not know exactly what the gold plate is; there is very little manufactured here.

Is there any?–Yes ; all the plain rings I make are hall-marked, and occasionally some snuff-boxes; but the amount of duty paid on gold is very trifling.

What allowance is made for the supposed diminution of weight in finishing ?–One sixth on silver.

Since when was that ?–I think it is above ten years; but there always had been an allowance at the option of the assay master.

Is there much silver plate exported from Dublin ?–A good deal goes to England, but there is no record of it, because it is carried over without paying any duty.

Is there any export of silver plate to foreign countries from Ireland ?–There is occasionally, but we cannot get the drawback here, and there is Is. an ounce lost; they can get the drawback in England, they can get the whole Is. 6d. back; but in Ireland there is no drawback allowed, so that there is Is. an ounce against us here; if we enter it for England we pay the Is. 6d. and get back the 1s. we pay here.

Do you actually get back the 1s. and afterwards pay the 1s. 6d., or do you pay the additional 6d. in England ?–I do not think it has been in operation; I do not think any one has entered goods from this place to England with a view of getting the drawback and paying the duty; but if I enter plate from England, where it pays the Is. 6d. I shall pay no duty, but get a certificate, upon which I get back the 6d.

You are not in the habit of exporting to England ?–No, but I know it is done to a considerable extent in spoons.

Without being entered at the Custom House ?–Yes.

Do you import from England to a considerable extent ?–I do.

If plate made in Ireland were exported from Ireland, would you by law receive a drawback of the 1s.?–No; there is no provision for exportation to foreign countries; I have searched for that when persons have wished to purchase plate, and they have been obliged to buy it in England in consequence.

Have you exported much duty-paid plate to foreign countries?–I have never exported any, the shilling an ounce prevents it; the Goldsmiths' corporation did apply to the Commissioners of Stamp Duties who have the management now of Goldsmiths' Hall; they said they had no power, nor could they recommend it, but advised the corporation to memorial the Lords of the Treasury to put us on the same footing that England is with regard to exporting plate to foreign countries; they did so six months ago, but no reply has been returned to the corporation that I know of.

Would there be a considerable export to foreign countries if the drawback were allowed ? –I do not think there would to any great extent: but still it would be an act of even-handed justice to allow it, because gentlemen going out, officers and others going abroad that are here, I know, have applied to shops in town, saying that they would purchase plate if they could get the drawback, being aware that it is to be obtained on exportation from England; and when they found they could not get a drawback here, they purchased it in England.

What is the mode of paying the duties on the manufacture of plate at present observed in Dublin ?–The order is that the plate should be at the hall at ten o'clock in the morning; it is there weighed, and the duty that is to be paid on it handed over to one of the officers of the hall; then it goes through the process of examination, and if it is found to be sterling it is hall-marked and returned; and if it is ordered to be broken for not being sterling, they stop a penny an ounce for the trouble.

Does that frequently happen ?–Latterly it has frequently happened, because they changed the standard; we had an erroneous method of calculating our standard here for many years past, for fifty or sixty years; and since the Commissioners of Stamps have had the management of it, they have insisted that we should conform to the Act of Parliament, which of course we were willing to do. Above a year, I believe two years, ago, one day when I was before the Commissioners, I mentioned that I thought we were wrong in not having the same standard as they have in England.

Have you now the same standard ?–Yes.

How long is it since that improvement was adopted?–In January last, or rather before it.

Was that immediately after the duties were placed under the Commissioners of Stamps ? –It was; they have been most attentive to it.

Was it owing to the neglect of the Commissioners of Excise, that the former standard was permitted ?–Entirely so; they paid little or no attention to the collection of the duty.

In what state do you usually send your plate to be assayed ?–As nearly finished as possible, except the polishing, for it must be scraped; they must scrape it in different parts with sharp tools; then every impression that is made on the silver will require to be taken out, and with a polishing hammer to flatten it in most cases.

Do you uniformly receive the allowance of one-sixth, whatever the state of the finishing the plate may be ?–Yes; we are exactly under the same regulation as at the hall in England, for we had an officer from the hall in England to put us on the same footing; except the 6d. an ounce less that we pay here, I do not know that there is any difference.

The one-sixth of course greatly exceeds the actual loss ?–No; in some articles I dare say very nearly a sixth comes off, for they have often different flaws; the manufacturers make a little by it no doubt, and it goes into their pockets; the shopkeepers neither here nor in London are manufacturers; there are heads of shops that have men under them, and if I want a quantity of plate I send for one of those manufacturers; one man makes spoons, and another tea-pots, and so on ; and I give him the order and the silver, and he takes it to the hall, puts his name upon it, and is accountable for all being right; a shopkeeper and a manufacturer are not compatible at all together.

Messrs. Rundell and Bridge are shopkeepers and manufacturers too, are they not ?–They have tried it, but they do it to a very little extent; whatever we manufacture we are bound to, whether it is badly executed or not, but where we are not bound to the manufacture we may refuse it if it does not suit. I have manufactured more plate under my own name than any other in Dublin, but it is not found advantageous to conduct the manufacturing and keeping a shop too.

Is your own name put upon it ?–The maker puts his own name; he sends in to the Goldsmiths' Hall such a mark punch as he puts upon the plate ; they will not take it in unless there is a mark upon it according to that mark punch; he must always be accountable for it in case there is a suspicion of a fraudulent imitation of the mark.

Are any persons who have the management of the assay office in the trade?–No; by law they cannot be in the trade; according to our charter they cannot follow any branch of the goldsmith's business.

In point of fact they are not ?–No, certainly not.

How do they become acquainted with the business ?–They must originally have been manufacturers of either gold or silver.

They must abandon their profession in order to be elected as officers of the Goldsmiths' Company ?–Yes.

Are you a member of the Goldsmiths' Hall ?–Yes.

Can you be an officer of the Goldsmiths' Hall ?–Every member of the Goldsmiths' Company can be master and warden ; in the Goldsmiths' Hall there are but three persons who have been formerly silversmiths, the assay master, deputy assay master, and touch warden; the deputy assay master is allowed £70 a year by Government; we appoint him, and the Government confirm it and pay him £70 a year, and he is their officer ; but the Commissioners of Stamps wishing to know how every thing goes forward, and to see that the punches are properly taken care of, send an officer of theirs every day to the hall, and he has a key, together with the assay master, of the iron chest in which the punches are kept; he remains there till all the work is finished, and sees the chest locked up again, and sees that every thing is right, that he may report to the Commissioners of Stamps.

The assay office is a part of the Goldsmiths'Hall?–There is a charter giving to the Goldsmiths' Company a power of electing officers and managing the collection of the King's duties; we have regulations which are printed, which would show at once the entire management or regulation of the hall, and we gave the Commissioners a copy of our charter; in fact every information that they could require; they came on different days and remained with us during our sittings as a corporation.

What are the members or officers of the Goldsmiths' Hall who are precluded being in the trade?–Those belonging to the assay office having the punches, or having any thing to do with the assaying or touching gold or silver, must give up all their business as goldsmiths or silversmiths.

Is the business of the assay office sufficient to give them a maintenance?–It keeps them very poorly; the assay master indeed has about £300 a year, but the late assay master is still alive, and I believe he gets £150 of the late Irish currency out of what the present assay master has, for we have no funds out of which to superannuate him, the deputy assay master has £70 a year; the corporation make it a £100 new currency ; and the same to the weigher and drawer.

The assay office will consist of retired tradesmen, probably ?–Exactly so.

Have you reason to think that the Public are imposed upon by the sale of plate by any part of the trade, either with forged or transposed marks ?–There is an impression that there are persons who make up spoons, and other work too, which have a fraudulent hall-mark.

Have you reason to believe that the Assay Office or Goldsmiths Hall take any pains to discover such a fraud ?–I do not know that it is possible for them to ascertain it in any way; their time is entirely engaged about their own duties and business there.

Has it never happened that any of the assay officers visit the trade to inspect their work ?–Never, without positive information. I have had different meetings with Mr. Cooper, who is the commissioner, who has taken so much pains on the business. We have often consulted how the business could be best managed so as to ascertain as to suspected houses if any thing was considered as going on wrong, but the law is not clearly defined.

What has been the result of your conversations with Mr. Cooper upon that subject; have you come to any conclusion ?–We could not come to any conclusion for want of bringing any ostensible person forward who could go to the workshops, and have authority sufficient to get the work ; the Act of Parliament throws it into the hand of the master of the corporation.

Is there any improvement of the law you would suggest for that purpose ?–I think the Commissioners of Stamps ought to have power to take one of the officers of the police, and to go to those shops, and take a proper person with them who could ascertain and examine the work, and have power to go through the house, and examine the house generally.

Does not the charter give the Goldsmiths Company power to examine the stock ?–The master may have power, and they have power, for they have often exercised it. About two years ago they went through the trade, having got positive information, and took up a good deal of work which was fraudulently hall marked.

Did they proceed against the proprietors ?–They forfeited the work; they would have proceeded against the man,–we traced it to one particular workman–but he fled. The present master has no interest, for he is not in the business; he has been a watchmaker; he is acquainted with most of the persons in the trade, and would not like to go into shops in that unpleasant capacity. The wardens are more or less interested perhaps in concealing; perhaps some of the articles may be traced into their own shops ; they may be shopkeepers.

Is it customary to expose plate for sale before it is marked ?–No ; I have not known that to be done since the Act passed by Mr. Forster.

There is only one assay office in all Ireland ?–Only one ; that is quite sufficient.

Is there any manufacture of plate in any other part of Ireland ?–A great deal comes from Cork ; no other place.

Is not it extremely inconvenient for them to send up their plate to be marked ?–They made an application ten or twelve years ago for an office at Cork; they were directed to point out what they would pay the officers, and it was found that the whole duty which it was probable would be paid there would not pay the officers, and unless they are well paid there is too much temptation to intrust a power of having an assay office.

What sum was considered to be the minimum of what would be sufficient to support an assay office?–I think £400 a year to pay house-rent and taxes, and the other expenses attending it; £400 is the very lowest.

Is Cork the only place where there is any manufacture of plate to any extent besides Dublin ?–No plate is manufactured in Ireland, except in Dublin and Cork.

Have you reason to suppose there are any evasions of the duty so far as the manufacture of Cork is concerned ?–I have no reason to believe there is.

Is there any export of plate from Cork ?–Nothing but what officers or persons going abroad may purchase for their own table ; not in the ordinary way of export.

Are there many venders of plate in Cork?–I dare say there are four. I think there are but two manufacturers in Cork.

You do not consider the trade carried on to any great extent in Ireland ?–It is not.

Can you form an estimate of the quantity of plate manufactured in Ireland ?–No; I have often had it before me, but I cannot recollect the quantity; at present there is very little ; it is all to be found at the Stamp Office, and at Goldsmiths Hall.

That would show all on which duty was paid ?–Yes; and that is all which is manufactured, unless that there are petty spoon makers who manufacture and send them over to Liverpool. I told Mr. Cooper of this, and he said he would send over to Liverpool, and make purchases of some Irish hall-marked spoons there to ascertain it; but it is impossible almost to tell, for the stamp is not put on so well as it ought to be; in the finishing it is so defaced that it would be difficult to ascertain whether it was a real hall-mark, or a forgery on spoons and small articles; and indeed I think the hall-mark upon all our plate is deficient in that respect, that it is not legible.

Is that a fault in the dies ?–Yes.

Are they renewed annually?–Yes, they are; it is the fault of the dies, and I think a good deal the fault of the manufacture. I speak from the comparison with England.

What is the defect of the manufacture of plate ?–Touching it at all if it can be avoided after it is done; in the bottoms of tea-pots and so on it need never be done, for it does not affect the eye, but I think they do not finish them exact, or they attempt to finish them afterwards, and polish them where the hall marks have been put upon much more than they do in England.

Have you reason to suppose that the manufacturers are in the habit of carrying to the assay office parts of intended articles, getting them stamped, and then finishing the articles with other parts; suppose a pair of spectacles, for instance, consisting of three or four pieces, may they not get one piece stamped, and then sell the whole under the protection of that one stamp ?–No; I do not think such a thing could happen here; in the first instance, there is very little made in Ireland ; it is got in a great measure from England ; and the officers of the assay office are very particular to see the entire of it, and to stamp the whole; if they send a tea-pot without a handle and button, they would ask where they were, and if they said it was wood, they must bring the wood and show it.

Is the greatest part of the plate manufactured in Ireland exported or used in the country ? –Used in the country.

Is the manufacture of plate increasing or decreasing ?–Just according to the times; the last spring there was a great deal manufactured and brought to the hall , it usually falls off in summer, but there has been less this summer sent to the hall, than any summer I recollect.

An officer from Goldsmiths Hall in England came to Ireland a short time ago; Mr. Wintle ? –Yes; he exerted himself very much to put us all to rights.

What are the improvements he introduced ?–In the first instance, we wanted new scales and weights, which he recommended, and we got; we made alterations in regard to the fuel which was used; we get our charcoal now from Bristol, which we use in place of turf; turf was supposed to have some metallic properties in it, which did not enable us to assay correctly.

Could not you get Irish charcoal ?–We could, and had got it; but we found it better to get it from Bristol; and the bone-ash which they had used here was of a porous quality, not good; and the shape of the cupples on which the article is placed was not such as they found from experience the best in London; and he got over a quantity of that also; and another was with regard to the lead; our lead was merely the common lead we purchase any where, that always contains a certain portion of silver. I have got both lead and bone-ash over from London, the same which the assay office in London use, which contains no particle of silver; and he brought over the regulations of the assay office in London, and we have conformed exactly to the management and regulations of the London Assay Office.

Did Mr. Wintle detect any frauds ?–I do not think that he brought home any; he had suspicions, but I do not think he made any actual discovery of fraud that could be brought home; but for some time after we commenced on the new standard according to law the assay master was not exactly acquainted with it; for want of the bone-ash, and for want of lead and other articles, our silver that would be reported as standard here, and hall-marked here, would be reported in London two or three pennyweights worse than in London; and Mr. Wintle, under the directions of Mr. Cooper, did make repeated trials; he purchased articles hall-marked in Dublin, sent them to London, and found they would not have been hall-marked in London; then, when we got the new scales, and bone-ash and lead, I think we are now brought exactly to the standard.

Has the experiment been made by sending any articles to London ?–It has.

Do the Goldsmiths Company here send their diet to the Mint in London ?–No; that regulation has not been followed up ; I believe the assay master, who is acting under the direction of Mr. Cooper and the commissioner, has for some time past kept the diets, and gives the manufacturer the weight of them, by which they can establish a pix.

Is it your belief that no plate is imported from Liverpool or any other English port into Ireland, on which the duty has not been fully paid ?–I do not think there is an ounce comes into this country, but the full duty is paid upon it in England; it would be from respectable manufacturers only that plate could be imported.

There is a great deal of plate manufactured in Liverpool ?–They have a hall at Chester; but very little is manufactured at Chester; it is manufactured at Liverpool. They have halls also at Sheffield, Birmingham, and London; they have a hall also at Bristol, but very little comes from thence.

Do you find it more advantageous to buy English manufactured plate than Irish ?–In many articles I do, where there are dies used; the die of a waiter, perhaps, would cost me £20, and that die will answer to the manufacturer in London to make many from; whereas if it was here there might not be as many sold as that the amount of profit would pay for the die.

Do you think an alteration of the rate of duty would materially affect the sale of plate in Ireland ?–If taxes are to be taken off, it would be, in my opinion, better to take off the sixpence in England, and to leave both countries alike. But if the sixpence is put on here it could not make any great difference; it would produce very little. I think they would get as much duty in the hall in London, by having it a shilling an ounce, as one-and-sixpence; there would be less temptation to commit fraud; and I am sure much more fraud is committed in England than here.

What is the particular sort of fraud in London which you suspect?–I am sure there is a vast quantity of plate made in England that goes to the Jews shops, and is sold as secondhand, that never has been to the hall; and there are articles with bottoms which have been stamped, which are put in.

Can you point out by what means that could be prevented ?–Only by the officers visiting the shops; but then they will say that they purchased it second-hand. Gentlemen tell me that they get such and such articles at six shillings an ounce; if they do get them at that price, I am satisfied they have never been stamped; they are sold as second-hand, and they say that they have lent money upon them.

Do the stamp duties attach to the same articles in Ireland as in England?--Yes.

The exemptions also are the same?--Just the same. If the excess of duty on glass were taken off, it would be a good thing. I believe the goods going from this to Liverpool may be opened and searched ; that certainly does away the advantage we expected from the coasting trade. I got over some plated goods from England, those were articles I could not sell here and I returned them, and part of them were articles on which the duty had been paid as plated ware, for I had them before the duties were taken off; but three months ago they seized the cask because it had some glass cruets in it, to ascertain whether they were liable to duty, whether it was glass going over to England which had not paid the duty. I dare say it was two months before they were released. Packages are opened that are landed in Liverpool, and examined by officers, and there is no such thing takes place here nor at Holyhead ; it prevents the carrying fully into execution the system of the coasting trade.

Does Irish manufactured glass pay the duty in England ? – Yes ; there is a duty both in England and in Ireland ; they do not now search for spirits, for that is entered on paying a duty ; if the difference of duty on plate and glass was done away, it would be a great benefit; if it was a shilling in both countries, and Ireland had a demand for the drawback on export, it would be better ; the want of these things prevents the completion of the Act of Union.

Have you found any benefit in your trade from the recent abolition of the union duties? – A considerable benefit ; the best proof is, that there has not been a manufacturer since the duty was taken off without employment, any more than there was previously to it; there the thing to be apprehended was the persons being out of employment, but no man has been out of employment who thought proper to work.

You refer to your own business ? – Yes ; the jewellers and silversmiths have all had full employment. The intercourse now is rendered so complete that we can get immediately from England any thing we may require; we get things over in four days now; we get over parts of the manufacture which are well done in England.

Are those detached parts stamped before they are sent from England ? – No ; when I get over parts from England I had other parts here, and it is all stamped together.

There is no declaration that it is Irish manufacture? – No ; it is no matter to the government which it is.

Is it not an infringement of the law to export from England articles which have not paid the duty? – No; the article is not finished ; it must be stamped here; there is no more difference than if a piece of plate was manufactured in Sheffield and sent to Birmingham to be finished.

Do you conceive that under the law what you term unfinished plate can be exported from England without being first subjected to the duty? – I do; as much as it might be carried from one part of London to another ; ultimately it must pay the duty ; there can be no injury to the revenue, for if it paid the duty of Is. 6d. in London, we should get back the 6d. extra; the object in all cases is to protect the revenue.

You mean that if it is ultimately to be sold in Ireland, it is immaterial whether it pays the English duty, and the drawback is allowed, or whether it is stamped in the first instance here ? – Certainly the Crown does not lose by it : it is the same to the revenue. If there were protecting duties, or if we had two exchequers, and the two were put to two accounts, that would be another thing ; but there being one revenue, it comes to the same thing.

It comes to the same thing, unless it were to be sent back to England ? – There is the opening to fraud. I could send for goods from England, get the drawback on those goods, and then send them back again, and that is one reason why I think the duties in the two countries ought to be alike. I could import an article that I bought at Liverpool, obtain the drawback, send it back by Holyhead, where it would not be opened, then bring it over again from Liverpool, and get the 6d. an ounce upon it again, entering it each time for the drawback. The Jews have done that, I have been informed, to an immense extent; it was found that there were more plain rings reported to have had drawback got upon them in England than were actually stamped at the hall ; but then they got the whole duty upon them.

What would be the drawback on Irish plate exported to any foreign port? – There is no drawback on Irish stamped plate, and that prevents our having an export trade.

Supposing Irish plate were exported from England, could a drawback be claimed for that? -–That will have paid the additional duty on going into England.

Would Irish plate be seizable in England, unless it had paid the additional duty ? – I think it would be if it was sent over to be sold in England. If a person went to a silversmith's shop, and found spoons having the Irish hall mark, I think the shopkeeper might be called upon to show that they had paid the additional 6d. in England.

You have not known an instance of a seizure under such circumstances ? – No, I have not.

You have no doubt that Irish plate is sold in Liverpool ? – I have no doubt of it.

You believe it is sold without paying the additional duty ? – Yes ; articles of that kind may be carried over in a carpet bag, or in any way without observation, and that is another reason why I think that when it is looked into it will be found that it will be better to have the duty the same here as in England, and not to require entry any more than any other article, because that is a part of the old system still kept up, and which in case of the assimilation would be unnecessary.

Are not the plate manufacturers in Cork subject to a considerable inconvenience in sending their plate up to Dublin to be stamped? – Merely the expense of the carriage.

Must they not have an agent in Dublin to receive it ? – No ; it goes directly to Goldsmith's Hall, directed to the assay master; he opens it, and regulates every thing for them, and the package is made up and returned again without any expense or trouble.

That is a regulation for the benefit of the distant manufacturers ?–Yes ; and they never sustained any loss; it is merely the expense of a few shillings for the carriage.

You have no branch of your establishment in any part of the country except Dublin ?– No.

There is a great deal of gold and silver coming into this country, is there not ?–There has been a good deal coming in from America in dollars; there is a great dulness at present.

What is the price of silver at present ?–I am now giving for the old Irish sterling, 4s. 7d. an ounce British, I am giving 4s. 4d. for Spanish dollars, and 4s. 8d. for English sterling.

What has occasioned the influx of silver in this country ?–I think there is a good deal has come in from Newfoundland; a good many Americans come here for linen, and dollars are occasionally brought in for other matters.

The Bank of Ireland object to taking in a large quantity of silver, do they not ?–They do; and I do think it would serve the trade of this country if there was a place where any foreigner bringing coin here could get an established rate for it, and not be at the mercy of the trade. In England there is only about a farthing an ounce difference between the bank price and the brokers prices. If they go to the refiners they get within a farthing an ounce in silver, and I believe, not more than three-pence an ounce in gold, of what they could get at the bank ; they can always count upon the fair value: here they are at the mercy of the trade: if the trade is brisk, and silver is wanted, they do not care about a penny or two-pence an ounce; but if they do not want it for the purposes of trade, they give so much less, because they must then send it to London, and there is the expense of the carriage of it. I sent a hundred ounces of bank tokens over to London last week: a great many people had some of them; the 6s. tokens; it is unpleasant that they have not any place where they can part with them at the fair rate: I sent over to see whether I could get a proper price for them, and I found I could not give them more than 4s. 4d. an ounce for them; that was a great loss.

That price puts the bank tokens on the same footing as the Spanish dollars ?–Yes; they were made from Spanish dollars -, if any thing, the dollars would be more valuable to have, for we could sell them to persons going out to America, whereas the others must be melted. The Bank of Ireland is not in the same situation relatively to the public as the Bank of England ?–The directors, I believe, conceive that by their charter they cannot do any act which would be considered a trading act; that they are concluded by their charter, and they do not purchase. If a glut came in here, our capital would be all gone; there is no means of realizing the value, so as to go on buying, unless I send over to London. Unless I replenished my means, I could not continue to purchase; but in England the refiners whenever they are over-stocked, have nothing to do but to send to the bank any overplus, then they keep the remainder to sell to foreigners who may be returning to different parts of the world ; what goes into the Bank of England they can get back again at a small advance. A gold and silversmith, if he has an order, may get an hundred ounces, or any quantity upwards, of gold from the bank, so that that keeps the value of bullion as close as necessary to the standard of coin.

Do you conceive that the variation is greater here than in London ?–Yes, it is; for it must be so much lower, when there is an overplus in the market, as the expense of sending it over amounts to. If the Bank of England had a branch here for the purchase and sale of bullion, supposing it to be the case that the Bank of Ireland are prevented purchasing, it might be found very useful.

What advantage would the Bank of England derive from that ?–I do not speak of the advantage to the Bank of England, though of course they must derive a profit from their purchases in London, but I speak of it as being of advantage to Dublin.

Have you any idea what amount of bullion or coin there would be for sale in that way in Dublin in a year ?–I cannot state that; but I am sure that if it was certainly known that there was a place of the kind here, a great deal of that which now goes to Liverpool would come to Dublin.

Why should Dublin be preferred to Liverpool ?–I do not say that it would be preferred; but in Liverpool they go within a farthing an ounce, for the transmission of it is so much less from Liverpool to London. I have sent over various coins to London for the purpose of seeing what I could get for them, in order to establish a rate that I could give to any foreigners with very little more difference than the carriage to London.

Do you send bullion to London directly by water, or through Holyhead ?–I send it by the Holyhead mail; but I intend to ascertain whether I cannot have it sent much cheaper by the new packet from Kingstown to Liverpool. I should hope there will be established rates for it.

There is no inconvenience arising to your trade from the mode of collecting the duty ?– Not the smallest.

I beg to remark, that connected with the last question, I might have observed, that there appears to be a hardship on the trade, by requiring both the shopkeepers, and the workmen, who manufacture for them, to take out a licence.

Jacob West.

Conclusions to follow.


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Postby dognose » Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:15 am

There is much information in Jacob West's testimony, but it needs little explanation as he demonstrates such a thorough knowledge of the trade in Ireland, he appears to answer all the questions put to him with ease.

He was far more open, regarding the visit of James Wintle, than William Clarke, and welcomes the improvements instigated by Wintle and openly admits the previous shortcomings of the assay at Dublin.

His information regarding the illegal export of spoons through Liverpool is interesting, and it is, perhaps, a little surprising that we do not see more gold items entering the English market at this time, bearing in mind the great difference in the Duty charged between the two countries.

His knowledge of the assay offices in England, however, was not so good, making no mention of the offices in Exeter, Newcastle and York, but in the belief that the assay office in Bristol was still in existance.

There is one point in Jacob West's evidence that I do find somewhat odd, it is the reference that there was full employment within the trade in Ireland. Well, full employment there may have been, but that does not mean that the working silversmith was enjoying riches, far from it, most Irish spoonmakers were very poor, working from their homes, they were dependent on the retail silversmiths who held great sway over them. It was the retail silversmith who supplied the raw material and advanced the money to pay the Duty, for many working silversmiths could not fund the execution of their work. It was the working silversmith who submitted his work for the assay and any failure would have fell on his shoulders. At this time the Plate Licence was extended to the working silversmith, it previously had only been a requirement for the retail silversmith in Ireland and this extension was a crushing blow to many. Jacob West does make a point of mentioning the suffering that was being caused by this added burden in his final remark.


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Postby dognose » Mon Sep 07, 2009 4:38 am

The next to have the light shone in their eyes was Richard Williams.

Richard Williams is perhaps to be identified with the long standing Williams family of Dublin Silversmiths, and may be the son of Richard Williams (Free 1752-Died 1798) and possibly the brother of Robert Williams the Master of the Company in 1803.

The 'Mr Law' in question, would have been Matthew Law, who became head of the well known firm of Dublin silversmiths, William Law & Son, following the death of his father in 1820.

Appendix, No. 96. Examinations.

1 September 1826.
Mr. Richard Williams called in and examined.

You are in the employment of Mr. Law ?–Yes.

Mr. Law is in the business of a silversmith ?–Yes.

Does he manufacture his own articles ?–Not in the house ; he has workmen employed.

On his own account ?–They work for other shops as well as for his; but he generally keeps them pretty well employed himself.

He does not work on his own account ?–No.

He is not a manufacturer of plate ?–No; when the workmen come he gives out the silver, and he pays the duty, and they put their names with his name upon it.

He pays the duty?–Yes.

How does he get the work from the manufacturers when it is to go to the hall ?–It goes in an unfinished state to the hall.

Who sends it there?–The workman; the man who keeps the journeymen employed.

Does Mr. Law furnish them with money to pay the duty ?–Yes.

Do you ever accompany the workmen to the hall ?–No.

Are the marks of the hall very clear and sharp ?–Latterly they have been more so than the former ones we had.

Can you easily detect a forgery ?–I could not; never having seen one I could not detect it; the only person who would be able to detect a forgery is the person who cuts the dies.

Would not the assay master himself ?–I cannot immediately say; he would be better able to answer for himself as to that.

Have you any reason to believe that there is much evasion of that duty; that there is any forged plate on sale in Dublin?–I cannot say now; but I was given to understand there was some, some time ago.

What would have remedied that ?–I think strict investigation is the only thing.

What do you conceive is the reason there is none on sale now ?–From a stricter examination : there was a person sent over to this side of the water, of the name of Wintle, who went about as soon as the corporation got information of any thing of the kind, and the man who was supposed to have forged ran away at that time.

Did Mr. Wintle introduce any improvements in the mode of assaying ?–I cannot say ; I am not acquainted with the assay office.

Does Mr. Law import any of his articles from England?–Not any silver.

Does he export any to England ?–Yes, he does.

To what port chiefly ?–Chiefly to Liverpool; sometimes we send by the Head. Mr. Law has sent some things to London, to Mr. Peel, and to Mr. Dawson ; they went by the Head.

Those were not in the way of trade, but ordered over from him ?–Yes.

You do not export to Liverpool for sale: in Liverpool ? No, we do not.

Do you consider your articles here equal to those of Liverpool and London ?–Certainly, according to the prices paid them.

What difference is there in the price ?–Rich plate will come something on the same ratio in both countries; a very rich plate article we can manufacture, I think, cheaper, and pretty nearly, if not equally, as well as in London.

You must have dies to work from, must you not ?–No; that is by chasing.

Does it answer to you to work by dies ?–That would create a great deal of expense ; we have dies for a great many articles ; those things which are in general use, such as forks and spoons, the King's pattern, and other patterns which are in general use, and edges of dishes and tea-pots, and those things in the general run of work.

Does Mr. Law import from England any parts of articles to be completed here ?–Never.

The whole of his articles that he sells are of Irish manufacture ?–Yes; sometimes when he goes to London he may see a pattern which he would wish to have, and he purchases a cup or a tea set, or something of that kind, but nothing further than that.

Is it usual in Dublin to expose plate for sale before it has got the assay mark ?–Never.

In what state is it sent to the assay ?–When it is pumiced; and after it is assayed it goes to the polisher.

Nothing remains to be done but the polishing before it is sold ?–No, except the taking off the scraper marks, which have been made at the office.

Are you always allowed a sixth on the plate ?–Yes.

Does not that amount to more than the actual loss?–I cannot say ; the polishing takes off a great deal of the weight sometimes ; a man cannot send it in that perfect state to the assay office.

Mr. Law pays the shilling an ounce?–The man generally comes to us for the money.

Does he receive an abatement of one-sixth ?–The workman has it; if there is any advantage, that goes to the workman ; Mr. Law pays the full duty on the work when it comes in finished to him, of the Is. Id. British.

The duty is Is. Id. British ?–Yes; it was 1s. 2d. Irish; Id. out of that goes to the hall to support the expenses of the establishment.

Has Mr. Law a licence for dealing in plate ?–Yes, he has.

You have mentioned that Id. an ounce goes to the hall, is that penny paid in English currency ?–Yes.

What duty is paid on silver gilt plate ?–The gilding is a thing done after it goes through the hall.

There is no additional duty paid upon that ?–No.

You have not heard Mr. Law complain of frauds or evasions committed by any inferior dealers of late ?–I heard that the last hall they had some investigation, just previous to Mr. Law's going abroad.

What situation does Mr. Law hold in the hall ?–He is one of the corporation.

What is the requisite in order to belong to the hall ?–That he must be a freeman of the city of Dublin; and if he was born in the corporation, he can take out his freedom in that corporation; but it would be by special grace that any person not born a member of the corporation can get into the company on paying certain fees; he must be proposed, and perhaps they may reject him.

Must he necessarily be in the trade ?–No; there are many gentlemen whose fathers were silversmiths ; there are a great number of them attornies.

Has the sale of plate much increased in Dublin ?–Not within the last three or four months.

In all the articles exposed for sale in your shop, is each piece of silver marked separately, or the article alone marked ?–Every piece of plate attached to any large article has the hall mark.

In how many pieces is a tea-pot ?–That is considered only three; the body and spout is all one; the handle and button, if they are silver, are marked, and the body is marked.

What is the lid ?–The lid is always fastened to the tea-pot by a joint . You do not consider that a separate part?–No; if it drops on without a joint, then it is marked; the little knot that fastens the button underneath is marked.

In the case of the lid not having a mark, how do you know it has been at the Goldsmiths' Hall ?–If it is attached to the tea-pot by a joint.

How are you convinced that it has been at the Goldsmiths' Hall ?–We must only take for granted that it has.

Could not the lid be attached to the tea-pot after its being marked?–Yes, but a tea-pot will not be taken in at the hall unless it is perfect, and all its parts are taken in with it.

Have you known any instances of articles being rejected for not being perfect?–Yes, in the old assay master's time. He has sent back a tea-pot because the handle was not sent, and he would not be contented unless he saw that it was a wooden handle.

A pair of spectacles for instance ?–That is not in our business ; that lies with the opticians.

Does Mr. Law ever export plate to foreign countries ?–Last spring he sent things out to America, and the gentleman to whom he sent them wished to have the drawback; Mr. Law could not get it for him.

What duty did he pay ?–The Is. 2d.

Was it a considerable shipment?–We had not a great order for silver work; we send a great deal of plated work.

What would have been the amount of the drawback if it could have been received ?–I am not able to say.

Does it ever happen that plate is sent to England to be exported from thence?–Not to my knowledge; we were told that if we sent to England, we could get the drawback thence; that plate was sent to Liverpool to take a ship to Halifax, but we did not apply for the drawback, not supposing we could get it there.

If you make plate for a gentleman in London, and are ordered to send it to him, where do you pay the additional duty ?–We pay no additional duty except what we pay at the hall.

Is there no additional duty payable in England ?–No; we pack it up in a box, and send it directed to the gentleman who ordered it.

Just the same as if it was any other article of household furniture?–Yes.

Do you do much in that way?–Indeed we do.

There is an evident saving by the English purchaser of the sixpence an ounce?–I should think there must.

Is there much plate of English manufacture imported into this country for the use of English gentlemen?–That I cannot state; that rests with the gentlemen themselves; some will say, I will have no plate but English plate.

Is there much brought in by individuals, in your opinion ?–Indeed I do not doubt but there has been; that only rests in prejudice, I should think, some people thinking they could not get them so good here.

Is the manufacture of plate improving here in point of execution ?–Yes, vastly.

Is your shop ever visited by any person from the assay office?–I cannot immediately say that it has been of late.

Formerly, you have known it visited ?–Sometimes I have; but perhaps it may have been visited at a time of day when I was not there.

How long is it since the practice of visiting shops ceased?–It was in a great measure on account of that inquiry being made about the forgery of the hall-marks.

Do you think any person from the assay office has been of late in the habit of visiting the traders in Dublin ?–I cannot say that I ever knew it to be inspected ; I think when Mr. Wintle was here, there was some person called to visit us, but I do not know that I saw him myself.

You are not in any other way controlled by the assay office than as you send them your plate to be assayed ?–Nothing further; our house is open to the inspection of any person from the assay office, if he pleases to come and examine.

No officer from the excise has ever been ?–No further than to see that we had our licence.

Is there a considerable manufacture of plate in Cork?–I cannot say; I know there is a manufacture there, but I do not know to what extent.

Has Mr. Law any branches of his establishment in any other part of Ireland ?–No.

Does he supply any shops out of Dublin ?–No, I cannot say that he does.

Richard Williams

Conclusions to follow.


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Postby dognose » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:14 am

Richard Williams's testimony, like that of Jacob West's, reveals some more interesting information. I think it can now be understood as to why a larger, than might be imagined, amount of Irish silver spoons are to be found today. The difference in the Duty between England and Ireland would have made the undercover import of Irish flatware into England an attractive proposition with a third of the Duty to be saved. If the main artery into England was, as it appears to be, through the port of Liverpool, then this perhaps is the reason why we see little flatware marked at the Chester Assay Office during these times.

It is also clear from Richard Williams's statement that the firm of William Law & Son are now retailers only. The large retailers held great sway over the often impoverished spoonmakers and as can be seen they fronted up the raw material and the Duty, only paying for the fashioning of the pieces. As can be seen from our Irish Retailers Project the 'workmen' that Williams refered too is likely to be that of Thomas Townsend and Thomas Farnel at this period of time.


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Postby dognose » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:46 am

The following month the Board interviewed the Belfast retail silversmith James Carruthers who had registered with the Dublin Company in 1821 as a watchmaker.

James Carruthers is noted as a Watchmaker & Jeweller of 8, Castle Street, Belfast, in the Belfast & Lisburn Directory of 1819.

Appendix, No. 97.
28th October 1826.

Mr. James Carruthers called in and examined.

You are a silversmith in the town of Belfast ?–I am.

Do you make any plate ?–No.

Are there any in the trade here who make plate ?–No; we make small articles under the weight allowed by Government to exclude the hall mark; two or three pennyweights; but there are no large plate articles made here.

From whence does it come ?–From Dublin.

You do not import any?–No, I think not; the hall duty in England is much higher than it is here.

Whom do you deal with in Dublin ?–Mr. Le Bas and Mr. Commin.

Are they manufacturers ?–Yes.

Is there any plate exported from this place ?–No, not that I know of.

Has it come to your knowledge that any plate is sold by inferior dealers in Belfast without a proper hall-mark?–No; I have heard it reported that there was silver made in Dublin by a person of the name of Smith of that description.

Did you hear it was sent to Belfast?–I do not know; I did once deal with Smith.

Where did you get your information ?–It was mentioned in the paper the other day ; there were some gentlemen here a short time ago from the Goldsmiths' Hall to inspect the plate.

Did the Excise Office use to visit your place when the duty was under the collection of the excise ?–No, never.

Do you take out a license?–Yes.

That is from the Stamp Office, is it not ?–Yes.

What do you pay?–£6-1s., I think.

Has any officer from the Stamp Office ever visited your shop ?–They sometimes call to ask whether we have licenses to sell plate; they never call to examine the stock.

In what state do you get your plate from Dublin ?–Completely finished.

You never finish any here ?–No.

No. 97.

Mr. J. Carruthers, 28 October 1826.

Conclusions to follow.


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Postby dognose » Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:04 pm

There is not much information to be gleaned from James Carruthers testimony. If he is correct, the larger Belfast silversmiths of the period, Robert & John Gray, Henry Gardner, and Robert Neil were all buying in at this time and were not manufacturing silversmiths.

Carruthers notes his suppliers as Mr Le Bas and Mr Commin, this would have been James Le Bas and William Cummins (Cumying), both who worked out of Great Ship Street, Dublin.


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Postby dognose » Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:41 am

Besides the inquires made of the silversmiths and assay office staff, officers from the Comissioner of Stamps office were also interviewed. Although much of their evidence concerned the Stamp Duty on newspapers etc., there are some details of the silver trade that are worth filtering out.

The first extract comes from the evidence given by Jonathan Sisson Cooper, the Senior Commissioner to the Board of Stamps in Dublin and number two to William Campbell the Chairman of the Provisional Board of Stamps in Dublin. Cooper had held this position since early 1824, previous to that he had been in the receiver-general's Office of the Customs and Excise.
Cooper was interviewed on Friday 25th August 1826 and the extract from his evidence that is of interest to us is as follows:

Is the plate duty received by the Stamp Office now?–It is. The plate duty under the Board of Excise was only paid in quarterly; it occurred to us that great inconvenience might arise from that, and we suggested to the Goldsmiths' Company that as all our distributors paid in weekly, we requested they would do the same; they concurred in the propriety of the measure, and it is all paid in weekly to the receiver-general.

You have only one Assay Office in Ireland ?–Only one; that is in Dublin. All the goods are sent up from Cork and Belfast to be assayed in Dublin.

Have you any reason to suspect that there is a good deal of fraud committed in the plate duty?–There is an apprehension abroad that there is. That there is some I have no doubt, but I apprehend to a very trifling extent. I am working this moment at a private information, which I think will lead me perhaps to the whole of the extent. I believe it is confined to only one character. I rather apprehend that will turn out to be the case. There were lately two or three dozen of forks sold here at public auction; they had no mark of duty but the word "sterling" impressed upon them. We sent for them immediately that we heard of it; the auctioneer declared it had escaped his observation; that the person who purchased them had returned them to him, and that he, on observing the marks, had them melted down, so that we could get no clue. He was a regularly licensed auctioneer, and we could not doubt that he was telling us the truth.

What is the name of the auctioneer ?–I do not at the moment recollect it, but he is an auctioneer in Dame Street.

Where is the Assay Office ?–It is in Kennedy's Lane.

In what parts of Ireland besides Dublin is there a manufacture of plate ?–In Cork and Belfast.

Do you think there is any considerable quantity of plate imported which has not paid duty ?–We suspected there was, but one case where we inquired turned out. to be otherwise; there were some articles imported into Belfast, and it was conceived that the stamps were not correct, but they turned out to be so.

You think there is no unstamped plate sold ?–No; I do not think there is any quantity.

Are you aware whether there is much importation of plate from England ?–I am sure there is not, because the duty here is lower.

There is a drawback ?–I believe not on plate sent to Ireland: it would be better they should lower the duty in England, and have no drawback. The manufacturers here wished us to apply to the Treasury for a drawback on Irish plate going abroad, but understanding Examinations, there was a general arrangement of the duties proposed, and that they are to be equalized, we declined to make any representation.

The duty on plate in Ireland is less than in England?–Yes; it is only 1s. here, it is 1s. 6d. in England. I believe it is only on going to foreign countries that the drawback is allowed, and not between England and Ireland. We have effected a great alteration and improvement in the mode of assaying here: on the duty being placed under our Board, we found a man eighty years of age, who had been fifty years assay-master, and who was exceedingly incompetent; the Assay Office was open only every second day; we got him removed, and an efficient man in his place; got the furnace new modelled, and established a daily attendance at the office, and the business is now going on very fairly.

Is the assay officer an officer of the Stamp Office ?–No; the whole is under the Corporation of Goldsmiths. But when we got into contact with the Goldsmiths Company, we pressed upon them the necessity of conforming to the English plan; we made them change two officers, and incur further expense, which they were very loth to do. There was one and a half difference between the English and the Irish assay; the Irish was one and a half worse, owing to the imperfect manner of making the assay, and the imperfect materials employed: they employed turf in their furnace instead of charcoal, and whiting in their cupples instead of bone-ash; the shape of their furnace was wrong, it did not give it all the advantage of the heat it should have done; the scales in use were not at all fit for the object, and we insisted upon their getting a pair from London. Mr. Campbell, our chairman, got them a set of scales and weights, which I conceive are as good as those used at the Assay Office in London. Our assay master has now a pride in his office, and has sent some of his bits to the Mint for trial.

Is he not bound by Act of Parliament to do that ?–No, I believe not; in England they do it, but I am not aware that they are bound to do it. The bits he sent to the Mint for trial he tells me have turned out very fair.

Is the Assay Office open every day ?–Every day but Monday; they find that the workmen are not sufficiently recovered from their indulgence on Sunday to work on a Monday.

Is there any charge made by the Goldsmiths Company ?–Yes; they are allowed seventy pounds a year for their deputy assay master, and twopence in the shilling for collecting the King's duty.

Are you aware whether there are any statutable regulations applying to the Goldsmiths Company with respect to the collection of the plate duties ?–There are; but we have looked more to the English precedents for our guidance. There are certainly provisions in the Excise laws for the collection of the duties on plate, but the particulars of them I do not recollect.


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Postby dognose » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:52 pm

The next member of the Stamp Office staff who was called in and examined was D'arcy Mahon. Mahon was one of the Commissioners of the Provisional Board of Stamps, he was appointed in February 1824, prior to that postion he spent over twenty years as the Inspector-General of the Stamp Duties of Ireland.

He was interviewed on Monday, 28th August 1826.

Again, much of Mahon's evidence does not concern us here, but the extract that is of interest to us is as follows:

The collection of the duty on gold and silver plate has lately been transferred to your Board, under the Act of 6 Geo. 4. ?–Yes, it has.

What steps have you taken to insure the due collection of that duty ?–We got a man over from England, a very intelligent man, and he went about to the persons who were subject to the duty for gold and silver plate; and we have got all but four working persons who plead poverty, and say that persons of their description are not called upon to take out licenses in London; and I got Mr. Cooper to take a memorandum of it, and he said he would write to Mr. Pressley, to ascertain whether persons of the description I allude to were licensed in London or not.

What is the number of licenses at present out?–About 100, I think, in Dublin, and upwards of 100 in the country.

Are there any licensed dealers out of Dublin ?–There are several; altogether, in Dublin and country, 226, as well as I recollect.

How is the duty on plate accounted for to you ?–It is accounted for by the guild of goldsmiths and silversmiths; we have not a sufficient control over it, but we are getting them on as well as we can, and I think we are improving it.

How often do they pay the duty ?–They pay it now weekly; they used to pay only once a quarter.

Do they receive it under any statutable regulation ?–Under their charter. We cannot interfere with the receipt of the duty; they receive the duty, and afterwards pay it to our receiver-general.

Are you clear that their charter gives them the power of receiving the stamp duty ?–I am not certain whether their title under charter is not strengthened by Act of Parliament. They receive the duty under an Excise Act of the 47 Geo. 3, c. 15, s. 5 & 6, I believe it is; I know it originates in their patent or charter.

Do you know what is allowed to the Goldsmiths' Company for receiving the duty ?– Mr. Cooper attends more to that branch of duty. I have all the cancels to attend to, which occupy me two entire days in the week: and Mr. Cooper has devoted himself a good deal to the plate license duty.

Are you aware how the duty which is incurred in the country is received ?–They are obliged to send their plate up to Dublin to be assayed and charged.

There is only one assay office in all Ireland ?–Only one


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Postby dognose » Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:50 am

Another member of the Commissioner's staff that was interviewed was Anthony O'Conner. He was appointed distributor of stamps for the county of Antrim in 1806.

Anthony O'Conner's office was situated in Arthur Street, Belfast and he brought with him, when he was questioned on the second day of giving his evidence, the 27th October 1826, an account of the Plate Licence returns for the county of Antrim.

How many persons are there in Belfast who have taken out plate licenses ?–Twenty-one in Belfast, and one at Ballymena.

How far is Ballymena from Belfast ?–It is about forty miles.

Are there none in any other parts of Antrim ?–No.

The plate duty has only lately been put under your direction ?–Only lately.

What instructions did you receive on that occasion?–They sent me the licenses with instructions to sell them when called for.

What do you do with respect to the collection of the duty on plate ?–There is no plate duty paid here; I do not think there is any plate duty paid in Belfast.

Do you think there is plate made in Belfast ?–Indeed I do think there is but I thought a person taking out a license had a power to make plate.

Is it a license to make plate, or a license to sell plate ?–Both, I believe.

How would he get it stamped when he had made it ?–I do not know indeed.

You have no Assay Office here ?–No, I believe not.

Have you reason to suspect any frauds in the plate duty?–No, indeed, I cannot say that I have.

You know nothing about it either the one way or the other ?–No, I do not, it is only since the 5th of January last that it was put into my hands.

Were you ever instructed to attend to that subject?–No, not further than to give out those licenses when called for.


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Postby dognose » Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:52 am

The presence of Anthony O'Conner before the Board of Inquiry is a truly important one to us, not for what he stated, but for what he brought with him.

An official inquiry such as this meant that O'Conner's account of the Plate Licence returns for the county of Antrim, because he presented it to the Board to support his evidence that he was doing the job that he was appointed and paid to do, was officially recorded in detail by a clerk as part of the evidence for the Parliamentary Inquiry and today provides a wonderful record of the silver trade in Belfast in the year 1826.

The account was recorded as follows:

Appendix, No. 34.

Antrim.–A RETURN of the several Persons who have taken out Plate Licenses from the Distributors of Stamps for the County of Antrim, from the 5th day of January 1826, being the period at which they came under the Management of the Commissioners of Stamps.

1. John Moore---Belfast

2. James Carruthers---Belfast

3. Robert and John Gray---Belfast

4. Patrick Keenan---Belfast

5. Robert Neil---Belfast

6. George and Hugh Hyndman---Belfast

7. Edward Gribben---Belfast

8. Hugh Kennedy---Belfast

9. Henry L. Gardner---Belfast

10. Robert Shaw---Belfast

11. John Riddel---Belfast

12. David Mitchell--Belfast

13. John Bryan---Belfast

14. William Hutton---Belfast

15. Robert Patterson---Belfast

16. William White---Belfast

17. Richard Baxter---Belfast

18. Edward Porter---Belfast

19. John Stewart---Belfast

20. John Wallace---Belfast

21. James Ward---Belfast

22. James Gordon---Ballymoney

Dated this 27th day of October 1826....A. O'Conner.

Bearing in mind the new found enthusiasm of the Commission of Stamps and their eagerness to prove that they were doing a better job of enforcing the law than the former authority of the Excise department in the issue of Plate Licences, then I believe the above list will be the most accurate record of those, or at least who were the employers of those in the silver trade in Antrim at this period of time.


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Re: For Those with an Interest in Irish Silver

Postby dognose » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:57 pm

The physical evidence of the changeover in authority for the collection of duty on gold and silver from the Commissioners of Excise to the Commissioners of Stamps can be seen in the date letter used at the Dublin Assay Office for the period 1825-1826. The Act of Parliament (6 George IV Chapter 118) that transfered the authority also changed the allowance of variation used at the assay from 2 1/2 dwt per Ib Troy to 1 1/2 dwt. per Ib Troy, thus bringing the Dublin Assay Office into line with the same allowance used at the London Assay Office.


The date letter upper case 'E', in use since January 1825, was discontinued in use on the 19th September 1825 and replaced by the date letter lower case 'e' as from the 20th September 1825 and was in use until the 28th May 1826 when the date letter system was returned to its former cycle with the use of an upper case 'F'.


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Re: For Those with an Interest in Irish Silver

Postby dognose » Mon Oct 29, 2012 9:23 am

The Introduction of the Mark of Hibernia

As this topic deals with taxation on Irish silver, I thought it worth adding some details regarding the mark of Hibernia.

The mark of Hibernia was introduced following the passing of the Act 3 George II, Chapter 3. The Act, the purpose of which was to raise revenue to finance land drainage, canal construction and river maintenance for the long term improvement of trade in Ireland, was passed in 1729 and came into effect on the 25th March 1730 and imposed a Duty of 6d per oz on all gold and silverwares.

Although the Act came into effect on the 25th March, the first striking of the Hibernia mark was not until 21st April 1730, nearly one month later. We know this as in the Dublin Goldsmiths' Company Work Book, an entry for that date states: 'This day ye duty came on'. What caused the delay is unknown, Perhaps the Company thought the punch was going to be supplied by the Revenue Commissioners and they were awaiting delivery of it, but this was not to be the case, and they supplied the Hibernia punch, proof of which will be stated later. Another possible reason for the delay may have been that perhaps there was no silver to assay between those dates, the Dublin 'smiths were well aware of the oncoming Duty and made every effort to beat the deadline, the revenue received for hallmarking for the first three months of the year 1730 amounted to £121-11s-1d, but following the passing of the Act, the next nine months produced only £106-15s-8d.

Below are the details of the Act:



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Re: For Those with an Interest in Irish Silver

Postby dognose » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:44 am

Following the abolition of Duty on gold and silver in 1890, the Dublin Goldsmiths' Company published the following notice in 1892:

The Wardens of the Goldsmiths' Company remind the trade that notwithstanding the duty on gold and silver is abolished, hall-marking is still compulsory, under a penalty of £10.

Prices to be made for assaying and marking gold and silver wares on and after the 1st January, 1892 :


For each Wedding-ring under 6 dwts. ......0s.-1d.
For each Fancy Ring...........................0s.-2d.
For each Medal or Badge .....................0s.-4d.
For each pair of Sleeve-links.................0s.-4d
For each Bracelet .............................0s.-6d
For each Chain.................................1s.-0d.
For each Watch-case..........................0s.-8d
Plate per oz.....................................0s.-6d
One shilling is charged in all cases for assaying above the marking.


Plate per oz. ..............................................0s.-1d.
Wares (not plate) weighing under 3 dwts. each.......0s.- 0½d.
Under 30 articles extra for assaying....................0s.-4d.
Wares under 6 dwts. each ...............................0s.-1d.
Under 12 articles extra for assaying ....................0s.-4d.
Badges over 6 dwts........................................0s.-2d.
Watch-cases, each ........................................0s.-6d.
Lowest charge for silver ................................. 0s.-6d.

The above office is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, from 10 o'clock. Work must be sent before 11 o'clock; letters and work from the country, to ensure prompt attention, should be addressed to S. W. Le Bass, Assay Master, 5, Fleet Street, Dublin.


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Re: For Those with an Interest in Irish Silver

Postby dognose » Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:49 am


The Dublin correspondent of the Times writes under date August 23 : –"A deputation of working gold and silver smiths of Dublin waited yesterday upon the Goldsmiths' Corporation at the Custom House, for the purpose of representing the alleged illegality of the practice of putting the hall-mark on articles of English and foreign manufacture. Mr. Lowen, the secretary, observed that the working gold and silver smiths desired to point out the injury which the practice complained of was calculated to do to their trade, and asked that if it were legal the Corporation should assist them in endeavouring to have the Hall-Mark Bill which was brought in last Session extended to Ireland. Mr. Johnson, the Master of the Guild, stated that the Corporation had obtained counsel's opinion, which was adverse to that of the deputation upon the question of legality. Mr. Bouchier Eaton, to whom the Goldsmiths' Company had referred the matter, said that he advised them to obtain the opinion of counsel as the Acts of Parliament bearing on the question were very numerous and extended back nearly 100 years. Mr. Fitzgerald, whom they had consulted, had given it as his opinion that notwithstanding the words " manufactured by them," in the 17th and 18th Vic, cap. 66, sec 2, dealers in Dublin could have articles of gold and silver which, they purchased in England legally assayed and marked in Dublin, the object of the assay being to certify as to the quality of the material and not the place of manufacture. Counsel's opinion was strongly confirmed by the interpretation put upon the law in England by Mr. Walter Prideaux, clerk of the Goldsmiths' Company in London. Mr. Eaton added that since he had come into the room he had received a communication from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to the effect that they would adopt a course which would have the effect of preventing English manufactured goods being assayed in Ireland. The Goldsmith's Company were desirous of protecting their interests as far as they could. He did not think that any member of the Goldsmiths' Corporation of Ireland had goods manufactured in England and brought here to be assayed. Mr. West was not a member of the Corporation. The Master remarked that persons buying goods looked upon the hall-mark as an indication of the country from which they came. Mr. Martin said if the practice were general it would sweep away the trade altogether. Mr. Wortham said that the instance referred to (the testimonial to the Duke of Connaught) was the first which had occurred. Mr. Wallace stated that there had been two instances, but what happened in the Duke of Connaught's case had drawn public attention to the subject. After some conversation, in which the practice was strongly condemned as deceptive, and a change in the law advocated, Mr. Lowen said it was intended to hold a meeting and appeal to the public not to countenance the practice. The Corporation were then thanked for their reception of the deputation, and satisfaction was expressed at the communication which had been received from the Inland Revenue."

Source: The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith - 5th September 1879


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Re: For Those with an Interest in Irish Silver

Postby dognose » Thu Aug 07, 2014 7:27 am

16th Sept. 1751 - Mr. John Wilne elected Assay-master and collector of the duties on wrought plate.

Source: The Monthly Chronologer for Ireland - 1751

John Wilne was to remain in the office of Assay Master until 1754. He succeeded William Archdall, who held the position since 1736, and was replaced by William Williamson, who was Assay Master until 1770.


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