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The ‘Armada Service’: a Set of Late Tudor Dining Silver

  • Dora Thornton and Michael Cowell

Discovered in a potato barn in a small Devonshire village in 1827 (fig. I), the ‘Armada Service’ is one of the most important groups of English silver to have been found in England. It consists of a set of twenty-six parcel-gilt dishes, engraved with the arms of Sir Christopher Harris of Radford, Devon (c. 1553–1625), and those of his wife, Mary Sydenham (fig. 2). The dishes form part of the dining silver accumulated by Sir Christopher between 1581 and 1602, whenever cash or metal was available to be converted by London goldsmiths into this recognized, tangible evidence of wealth and social status. The ‘Armada Service’ is the unique survival of a type of utilitarian plate which is listed in the inventories of the gentry and aristocracy of the late Tudor and early Stuart periods. Undecorated plate of this sort would have been particularly vulnerable in times of financial need, since its bullion value far outweighed its decorative appeal.

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
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