Date Made/Found: around 1830
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate
Dimensions: Overall: 130 x 125 x 140mm (5 1/8 x 4 15/16 x 5 1/2in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1943.479
This object is called an argyle. It is similar in style to a small teapot. The argyle is made from Old Sheffield Plate and dates to around 1830. The maker's mark of a hand is stamped onto the base. This tells us that the argyle was made by J Watson & Co of Sheffield.
Argyles were used to serve gravy. The body of the argyle has a double lining (sometimes called a 'jacket'). There is a hole at the top of the handle that enables hot water to be poured into the liner. The heat from the hot water would keep the gravy warm during dinner.
Dinner was an important social event during the late 1700s and was the main meal of the day. A dinner invitation would extend through the entire afternoon and evening. A formal dinner usually consisted of two large courses that included many different small dishes. These were all placed on the table at the same time, after the French fashion (this style of dining was sometimes called 'service à la française').
The downside was that the dishes were on the table for a long time and were cold by the time each course ended. The duration of grand dinners meant that an argyle would be necessary to keep the gravy warm for as long as possible. Other implements such as hot water plates would also be used for keeping vegetables warm. Spirit lamps were used to warm dinner plates on the sideboard before they were laid on the table.
During the 1800s, the style of formal dining gradually changed to follow the Russian fashion (sometimes called à la Russe), where the table was laid with complete settings and no food was put onto the table. Instead, servants served the guests.
This object forms part of the Bradbury Collection.