Date Made/Found: 1780-1785
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1943.262
This is a pipe lighter made from Old Sheffield Plate. It was made in Sheffield by around 1783.
Old Sheffield Plate was developed in Sheffield around 1742 by Thomas Boulsover. It is a type of silver plated metal made by fusing a thin layer of silver onto a copper ingot. It was rolled out into sheets and used to make decorative objects that looked like silver but were much cheaper.
The lighter would hold peat or other combustible materials for lighting pipes or cigars. Matches did not become widespread until the 1830s. Originally it would have had a loose copper lining to protect the interior.
It may have been used in the home or in a coffee house or club. In the late 1700s many men smoked pipes and cigars. In the home they would wait until the end of dinner, when the ladies would retire leaving the men to smoke and drink together.
Manufacturers in the city often copied the patterns of silver objects in Old Sheffield Plate. However, objects made from Old Sheffield Plate cost around a third of the price of those made from solid silver. They proved to be very popular with the rapidly expanding middle classes, aspiring to replicate the styles and dining practices of the very wealthy. This pipe lighter has a finely pierced border, which indicates superior quality, as many lighters were of plain design.
This object is part of the Bradbury Collection.