James Dixon & Sons
, founded 1806
Material and Medium: electroplated Britannia metal
Dimensions: Overall: 20 x 265mm (13/16 x 10 7/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2007.75-79
This communion set comprises a communion flagon, cup, paten, chalice and alms dish. The set dates to around 1898 and is made from Electroplated Britannia metal. A paten is used to hold the Communion bread during the Christian Eucharist service. The chalice and flagon are used to serve the communion wine. An alms dish is used to collect donations from the congregation during the service
The communion service was used during services at the Whittington Congregational non-Conformist Chapel in Shropshire, which was established in 1844. Aside from the paten, each piece is engraved with the name of the chapel. The paten was originally used as part of an earlier communion set at Preeshenlle Congregational Chapel, from around 1875. It was later integrated into the Whittington service.
The communion flagon, cup, paten, chalice are by James Dixon & Sons of Sheffield. The paten does not have a maker's mark. James Dixon & Sons (originally Dixon & Smith) were one of the largest and most prolific manufacturers of holloware, flatware and cutlery in Sheffield. The firm was originally founded in 1806, a time when the popularity of affordable, fashionable Britannia metal goods was booming. They soon branched into different materials and markets and established international trade links. From a very early stage of their history, Dixon's manufactured goods for the ecclesiastical market. A catalogue dating to around 1816 illustrates a "christening bason" available in Britannia metal.
Revealing the object's Hidden History…
As part of the DCF funded Living Metal project, we invited a number of silversmiths to view items from the collection in order to reveal their 'hidden histories'. Peter Perry and Victoria Kershaw examined the communion flagon and were able to offer fascinating insights into its manufacture and design. Peter Perry served his apprenticeship at James Dixon & Sons. He now runs the silversmithing firm, Perry Glossop & Co. Victoria Kershaw is a Sheffield born designer-silversmith.
Hidden History: how was the flagon made?
Peter informed us that the foot and lid of the flagon had been spun and the body 'turned up'. This is when a piece of flat sheet metal is shaped on a piece of equipment called a mandril. The metal sheet is turned in on itself to form the basic shape of the body (in the case of this flagon a slightly conical tube). The two edges are then soldered together, creating a long seam running down the length of the body. The handle is usually attached over this seam to disguise the seam.
The handle, sockets (where the handle meets the body), lid, joint (hinge) and knob were cast. All of the individual parts were assembled and soft soldered together. The object was then buffed, silver plated, hand burnished and polished.
Hidden History: Victoria Kershaw's thoughts on the flagon…
"The flagon is heavy with a large base. There is a decorative spout and detail on the handle. Some of the aspects are difficult for the viewer to understand, i.e., on the lid there has been an extra element soldered on to stop the handle bruising the lid when opened, but it is difficult to see the connection of that shape to the rest of the piece.
Likewise the heart shaped piece at the bottom of the handle doesn't really echo other stronger elements within the piece".