William E Bennett
, died 1967
Material and Medium: Silver
Dimensions: Overall: 97 × 70mm (diameter) (3 13/16 × 2 3/4in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 1979.416
This silver condiment set was made by William E Bennett. It was hallmarked in London in 1934. The object comprises a circular stand with three tall triangular blocks upon it. A salt cellar, pepper pot and mustard pot slot between these blocks. Each of these has a triangular profile.
William Bennett first trained at Sheffield School of Art. During the early 1930s he studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London under the guidance of the Sheffield born silversmith, Omar Ramsden. In 1937 Bennett was appointed as Head of the Silversmithing Department at Sheffield School of Art.
The mustard pot has a removable clear glass liner so it can be easily cleaned. This is a feature shared with many early silver or silver plate mustard pots. It became necessary when the fashion in England changed from serving dry mustard powder ladled out of a caster, to serving wet mustard from a pot.
The stand is engraved on two sides with trees. Engraving is a process in which a sharp tool is used to cut lines into the surface of an object to produce a decorative design. The tree motifs are simple, linear designs typical of the 1930s Art Deco style.
Condiment sets became fashionable table accessories in wealthy homes during the 1700s. They usually comprised a circular or rectangular tray on which several glass bottles (known as cruets) were placed. The tray usually had a central, vertical handle, enabling the condiments to be moved easily up and down the table. These objects were usually called cruet frames or soy frames.
The glass cruets contained popular condiments of the time, including ketchup, cayenne pepper, vinegar, oil, lemon and soy. Silver or Old Sheffield Plate bottle tickets with the name of the contents were often hung around the neck of each cruet.
An enormous number of cruet frames were made in Old Sheffield Plate during the late 1700s. They were made in a vast range of patterns often in the fashionable Neo Classical style. Some cruet frames were incredibly ornate and held up to ten bottles. Simpler cruet frames held just two bottles of sauce.
The Neo Classical influence of simple lines and pierced decoration lent itself particularly well to the manufacture of cruet frames. The fact that they were made in such large quantities in Old Sheffield Plate suggests that they were very popular among the aspiring middle classes.