Why do certain pans capture the imagination?
This guest post was contributed by reader Martin.
There are pans in a kitchen that are more useful than this small saucepan. Measuring 10cm by 8cm (3.9 by 3.1 inches), it could serve as a butter pan or be used to prepare and serve small nibbles. But those were not the thoughts that moved me to buy this little one. Rather, it was the stamps that immediately caught my eye when I saw what was on offer. In particular, a crown and four letters piqued my curiosity. But I was also interested in the stamp of a manufacturer I had never heard of before.
Even without further research, it was obvious that the small saucepan would have to be an English product. The design of the cast iron handle with the triangular support plate, as well as the suspension eye in the form of a simple keyhole gave the first clues (although some narrow French pans were also equipped with similar handles). A second look was directed at some still slightly silvery spots in an area about 2cm below the outer rim of the pan. It quickly became clear that these must be remnants of tinning, typical of many English pans. I don’t know why British manufacturers put these tinned “bands” about 2-5cm wide, depending on the size of a pan/pot, on the outer rim of the pan. What practical advantage did they offer or was it purely decoration? British VFC readers will certainly know.
The small saucepan is a flyweight. It weighs only 473g (1 lb) and is thus the record holder at the lower end of the weight scale of my collection. Most of my lids weigh more. The copper, which is only about 1.5mm thin, the handcrafted production by means of dovetails and the other features suggest manufacture from about the mid 19th century.
The maker’s stamp not only confirmed my suspicion, but increased my research interest. After all, between the name “W.S. ADAMS & SON” and the address “57 HAYMARKET”, it also reads “IRONMONGERS TO THE QUEEN”.
Immediately my view changed again to the five stamps — a crown, under it first the letters “VR” and still one line lower “BP” — directly beside the manufacturer’s postmark. First ideas whirred through my head. So on to the Internet! But first I would like to describe the condition of the small saucepan.
It is not unusual for old pans to have a variety of scuffs, scratches and sometimes dents. Many of us even appreciate these signs of an intense working life in a kitchen. But if a pan is littered with hundreds of small holes, then these are not “badges of honor” of a long working life, but probably signs of neglect.
Pitting is the name given to this kind of corrosion. A really nasty thing that is hard to deal with. My little saucepan was attacked by this disease. Neither the photos of the selle, nor the description gave reason for such a presumption. I could only see that the pan was heavily corroded and therefore very dark on the outside and inside. Only after I had thoroughly cleaned the pan did this unpleasant surprise come to light. But my doubts about the purchase did not last, especially since the price was low. However, the uncertainty remained for a while whether a restoration really made sense.
William Salkeld Adams (1808-1898) is listed in London trade directories, electoral registers, and rate books as an ironmonger located at 57 Haymarket from 1839-80. The Adams premises at 14 Norris Street were first listed in the tariff books in 1856. I found another entry for “ADAMS, W.S. & SON” in Debrett’s Illustrated Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1862 (shown at right). In this standard work of several hundred pages, one finds the entire hierarchy of the British nobility with all ramifications listed in an extremely detailed manner. At the end of the book follow the court suppliers, differentiated according to categories of goods or occupational titles. In this volume of 1862, both addresses mentioned above are listed. If you want to study the British nobility in more detail, I can recommend a study of the work of Debrett. One finds it under the mentioned title in the Internet.
Crown and monogram
My research showed that the crown stands for a king or queen. Even if the stamp is already rubbed off, the characteristic features like orb with cross, the jewels framing the crown and the lower widening, which in the original is made of ermine fur as padding, can be recognized with sufficient certainty. See comparison images to my photos.
Based on the royal crown, it was not difficult to interpret “VR” as VICTORIA REGINA. The comparison images of Queen Victoria’s monogram prove this. As the royal head of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. She was also the first Empress of India.
But what does “BP” stand for? Since the inventory of the royal palaces was systematically recorded from the stationery with letterhead to the furnishings of the kitchen and dining rooms, my first guess was “BP” stands for “BUCKINGHAM PALACE”. However, on comparison pictures of I found no abbreviations, but always the full name of the palace. Then I had the thought “BP” could mean “BRITISH PEERAGE”. I would be glad if readers could clarify this point.
Whenever I discover an interesting piece of historical kitchen copper, I go through some time in euphoria, of course, it does not last. But what remains over time is a kind of good friendship. So it will be with this, my smallest saucepan.
Meanwhile, she returned to my kitchen after her renovation at Atelier du Cuivre, Villedieu-les-Poêles. Unfortunately, the craftsman was not able to reattach the tinned strip on the top edge. Now, while it does not perfectly match the design often found on English pans, it is otherwise perfectly renovated and sparkles like a little star in my kitchen.
VFC says: Martin, what a delightful piece this is! I understand completely how it captivated your imagination. I am glad the restoration turned out as beautifully as it did.
As for the BP mark, my vote is that it is indeed the designation for Buckingham Palace. I know from experience the temptation to link a set of stamped initials to the most exciting personage possible, but in this case the simplest explanation seems to me to be the most likely. I would expect there were many such pieces in existence at one point — perhaps more have survived to the present day. Readers, have you seen more pieces with these same markings?