Home » Museums and Art Galleries of London » Museum of London displays a Rare Silver Plate owned by Samuel Pepys

Museum of London displays a Rare Silver Plate owned by Samuel Pepys

(c) Museum of London

The Museum of London has acquired and is displaying an extremely rare silver plate, originally owned by Samuel Pepys. The silver plate, with knife and fork scratch marks offers a fascinating link to the life and times of Samuel Pepys, the naval administrator and famous diarist.

(c) Museum of London

The rim of the plate is engraved with the coat of arms of the Pepys family, and the underside has London hallmarks. Also on the plate’s underside are the date letter for 1681/2 and the maker’s mark ‘MK in a lozenge’ indicating that it was made in the workshop of Mary King in Foster Lane: just five minutes’ walk from the Museum of London. There’s a much later scratched inscription, reading: ‘date 1681’.

(c) Museum of London

Very little 17th century silver survives because it was often refashioned or melted down. This plate is one of just three surviving items of silver known to have belonged to Pepys. The other two are now in the United States of America.

(c) Museum of London

Samuel Pepys was born in London in 1633 and began work at the Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board 1660. In the same year, Pepys started to write his famous diary that became an important chronicle of London social life and current affairs in a time of considerable turmoil. Pepys was an avid collector of books, prints, silver, household-furnishings, ship-models and curiosities. As his wealth increased, so did his collection of silver plate which was considered an investment and a sign of wealth and status.

In 1666, Pepys placed an order with the Goldsmith Sir Robert Vyner for twelve plates increasing his stock of plates to thirty overall. However in September of the same year Pepys sent his money and plates off for safe keeping due to the Great Fire of London ‘About four o’clock in the morning, my Lady Batten sent me a cart to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things, to Sir W. Rider’s at Bednall-greene….His house full of goods, and much of Sir W. Batten’s and Sir W. Pen’s I am eased at my heart to have my treasure so well secured.

(c) Museum of London

Pepys enjoyed showing of his silver, in 1667 Pepys wrote: I home and there find all things in good readiness for a good dinner … we had, with my wife and I, twelve at table; and a very good and pleasant company, and a most neat and excellent, but dear dinner; but Lord, to see with what envy they looked upon all my fine plate was pleasant, for I made the best show I could, to let them understand me and my condition.

You can see Samuel Pepys’s silver plate on display in the Museum of London’s War, Plague and Fire gallery.

If you would like further information, visit the Museum of London website here

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