17th Century Seal-Top Spoon

This artefact was reported through the Fishing Protocol by Sussex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority. Wessex Archaeology’s find’s expert Lorraine Mepham identified it as a seal-top spoon.

The spoon is made of a copper alloy, which is evident from the green/blue discolouration of the metal. The spoon has a fig-shaped bowl with little or no reinforcement of the bowl underside. At the top of the handle there is a seal-top knop surmounting baluster moulding.

A seal top spoon refers to the shape of the spoon, which ends abruptly as if cut off, leaving it flat. The seal-top was introduced during the reign of Elizabeth I, but the baluster mouldings are later variants, belonging to the early 17th century (James I or Charles I).
During the 16th and 17th century it became common when travelling for people to carry their own personal eating utensils and writing materials. Most letters and documents were sealed with wax and it was for this purpose that spoons were often manufactured with the owner’s seal on the end of the handle.

On close examination of this spoon it is impossible to tell if there was a seal on the top for this use. This may because there was not one, but it could also be due to corrosion when the artefact was in the sea. This find was discovered on intertidal mud in the Chichester Harbour area, washed up by the sea. It may have been moved by currents from a shipwreck site or it could be an isolated find thrown overboard as refuse.

It is important that finds like these are reported, as further finds could identify a shipwreck
location and all finds reported can add to our knowledge of the past in the local area.

Remember you can report any discoveries made while fishing in the Sussex area, phone, post or through our online form.

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