Knife and fork
Date Made/Found: around 1760
Material and Medium: iron and steel, Old Sheffield Plate, resin
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2004.525-526
This knife and fork were probably made in Sheffield, around 1760. The blade is a scimitar shape, which was a popular style in the 1700s. This type of blade was usually fitted to a haft with a bulbous, curving end known as a pistol grip or pistol haft. The back edge of the blade has a hump to add strength, which is typical of scimitar knives after 1720. Scimitar knives had a dual purpose, as they could be used not only for cutting food but diners could also use the rounded end to scoop up sauce in a similar fashion to a spoon.
The end of this knife is smaller than earlier examples and the blade is relatively narrow, which probably reflects changing patterns of eating as well as new fashions. The fork has three curved tines, which contrast with the two tined forks used in the 1700s. The tines on the earlier forks were straight, incredibly sharp and were even named cutlery forks or fork blades. They could easily cause an injury if placed inside the mouth without due care. These forks were most likely used for holding food steady on the plate while cutting. If they were used to lift food to the mouth the diner would carefully remove the food from the fork using their teeth. The curved tine fork was far more user friendly, enabling food to be placed into the mouth safely.
During the middle to late 1700s French-influenced knives with straight blades and pointed ends became fashionable. Simple blades with rounded ends and straight sided hafts were also popular at this time. This knife is an infusion of old and new styles: the scimitar blade and a straight haft.
The hafts are made from stamped sections of Old Sheffield Plate, which were then soldered together and filled with resin to add weight and secure the tang (the rod running from the blade through the handle). This technique was more commonly used to make silver hafted knives and forks during the late 1700s.
These objects form part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.