My family has an old silver teapot said to have belonged to Aunt Rose, my grandfather’s great aunt, Helen Rosalie Beggs née Champion de Crespigny (1858-1937).

Aunt Rose’s teapot

The pot has 5 hallmarks.

The first mark, a lion passant guardant- a lion walking with one paw raised from the ground and head turned to full face – indicates the teapot is sterling silver, an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, most often copper. Pure silver is too soft to be used for teapots. Between 1720 and 1822 lion passant guardant appears on all silver wrought in England. After 1822 the lion the lion passant ceased to be guardant and faced to the left, that is the lion’s face was no longer turned to the viewer but looked forward.

The second mark is a crowned leopard’s head. This was used on silver made in London made between 1478 and 1822. The town mark was the hallmark of the assay office that tested the purity of the piece, in this case the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office in London.

It is thought that the marks were changed in 1822, without public announcement, with the hope of catching out forgers.
The third mark, a lower case e, identifies the year the piece was made. Legislation prescribed that there should be a mark “to denote the year in which such plate is made”. Each assay office used a different system. The letters were used in a cycle, and for the London office, this e was used in 1740, 1780, 1820, and 1900.

The fourth mark is a duty mark. From 1784 a duty was imposed on all manufactured silver articles. An image of the head of the sovereign was stamped on all plate to show that the requisite tax had been paid to the Crown. The tax was discontinued in 1890 and the mark was no longer used. On this teapot the sovereign’s head is poorly formed and worn, but I think this mark is the head of George III which appeared on silver from 1786 to 1821.

The fifth mark is the maker’s mark. I think it is the mark of Richard Pearce, a London silversmith, used from 1817 to 1824. See and for an example identified as his work: .

Since the the first mark the lion appears to be guarding, looking towards the viewer, it dates before 1822. The second mark is definitely crowned, thus I am sure the the pot was made before 1822. Because there is a duty mark, the pot was made after 1784. I believe the teapot was made in 1820, as that is the only possible year indicated by a lower case e between 1784 and 1822.

We do not know how the teapot was acquired or came to be in the family’s possession.


A George IV silver teapot by Richard Pearce, London 1821, Of oval form, with flowerhead, leaf scroll and shell borders and bands of curved lobes and flutes, raised on flowerhead, leaf scroll and claw feet, engraved with a crest and monogram, height 17cm.