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A Very Brief History of British Pewter

With the peak of Pewter use in domestic and public life was in the period 1550-1750. Pewter from before the middle 1600s is difficult to find.
The Romans used pewter during their occupation and there are some 200 pieces or more of Romano British Pewter ware to be seen in Museums and collections.

After the Roman exit Britain was often consumed by internal warfare until the Normans took control.

Pewter reappears in ecclesiastical use – buried with priests instead of more precious metal chalices for example – after the Norman Conquest. By the mid 1300s there are references to working Pewterers. There was some organisation of Pewterers and evidence of quality control in London in the time of Edward III about 1348.

Edward IV in 1473 granted the ‘Craft’ (guild) powers to control other pewterers throughout England and they could and did seize wares not to their standards and from makers not to their liking. Monies from fines accrued half to the Crown and half to the Guild giving an incentive to exert strict control. Locally organised Guilds are to be found established in other pewter making areas throughout the 1400s.
With relative peace came some prosperity. The Yeoman and Gentry classes moved from using treen to using Pewter and the use of Pewter was extensive from the middle 1500s to the middle 1700s.

Afterwards with the widespread use of ceramics and glass, they being less expensive and lighter than Pewter took much of the market. The industrial revolution and factory production in the early 1800s providing all the needs of the domestic market brought about the end for most of the makers of cast pewter.

The marketing methods of the early pewterers frequently offered to take back old pewter and replace it with new, allowing up to 75% of the new value. Scrap gathered for weapons manufacture also lessened the availability of truly antique pewter.

Further books to be considered

The Pewter Collector by H J L J Masse

British Pewter by R F Michaelis

Pewter A Guide for Collectors by Kenneth Ullyett
Antique Pewter of The British Isles by Ronald F Michaelis

British Pewter and Britannia Metal for pleasure and investment by Christopher A Peal

Chats on Old Pewter by H J L J Masse, Ronald F Michaelis and Henry J Kauffman.