COLERIDGE WEDDING SPOONS. Pair of large silver table spoons given to Samuel Taylor Coleridge on his wedding to Sara Fricker by John Prior Estlin, 1794/5
Lot 277
Sold for £5,000 (US$ 8,395) inc. premium
Lot Details
Property of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's direct descendant
Pair of large silver table spoons given to Samuel Taylor Coleridge on his wedding to Sara Fricker by John Prior Estlin, each engraved 'JPE [monogram] / to/ STC [monogram]', Old English pattern, 225 mm. long, Peter and Ann Bateman, London, 1794/5


  • These evocative relics are sold with a note of provenance by Coleridge's grandson and editor, E.H. Coleridge (the son of Derwent Coleridge): 'I know nothing about this pair of table-spoons, save (A) that they are mine, and were, as I suppose, my father's before me; and that (B) that the monogram discloses the initials "J.P.E. to S.T.C."; that is being interpreted, John Prior Estlin to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and (C) that the plate-mark is of the year 1794-5, the year of S.T.C.'s marriage at Bristol I can but guess that they were a wedding present from the Revd John Prior Estlin, Unitarian Minister of Lewin's Mead Chapel, Bristol to S.T.C. of Clevedon-cum-Utopia. But how they were preserved in their integrity in and through Clevedon and Bristol, and Stowey and London and Greta Hall and elsewhere until, either in 1829, or 1845, or before or after they were given or bequeathed to my father, only the Guardian Angel of Wives... could declare. If they had been left to the care of S.T.C. they would, surely, have suffered an S.T.C.-change into something richer and rarer, haply another Kubla Khan, totus ac teres [trans: complete and polished] with no "half-intermitted burst"! The Estlin letters say nothing about spoons, but they do show how intimate and tender was the relationship between the poet and his wife, and the elder and protective married couple. Now my grandmother was the most loyal and grateful or recipients! As late as March 1800 she begs "to be remembered to you and dear Mrs Estlin with all, all, all, my heart!" – and though she cared but little for silver spoons, her experience thereof being limited, she must have treasured this early gift, when youth and love and hope were undivided, and preserved them as heirlooms when there was "little to earn and many to keep" and sorrow for her portion' (typed transcription by his grandson A.H.B. Coleridge).

    The marriage was celebrated on 4 October 1795 at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Coleridge writing to Poole a few days later: 'On Sunday Morning I was married -- at St Mary's, Red Cliff – poor Chatterton's Church -- / The thought gave me a tinge of melancholy to the solemn Joy, which I felt – united to the woman, whom I love best of all created Beings' (E.L. Griggs, Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, i, 1956, p. 160). However, no member of Coleridge's family attended, 'not even George; and Sara was not introduced at Ottery for a year. This marks the beginning of a decisive social alienation between Coleridge and his brothers' (Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions, 1990, p. 102). John Prior Estlin, donor of the spoons, was at this time a junior minister at Lewin's Mead Chapel, Bristol, and was keen that Coleridge, too, should join the ministry; a desire that was to be frustrated by the Wedgwood annuity of 1798.

    The spoons bear the maker's mark of Peter and Ann Bateman, successors in business to their mother, the celebrated silversmith Hester Bateman (who died that year), responsible for introducing innovations in the silver business akin to those wrought by Coleridge's patrons the Wedgwoods: 'Hester Bateman... expanded the range of goods and the quantity to supply a largely middle-class market using the latest, most cost-efficient manufacturing processes. The firm's deliberate use of new ideas and technology allowed it to compete with the cheap silver and Sheffield plate from Birmingham and Sheffield... Peter Bateman worked with his sister Ann after his elder brother's death... At its best the workmanship combined simple manufacturing and decorating techniques to form an elegant if repetitious effect. It used easily worked sheet silver and a repertoire of bright-cut, pierced, or beaded ornament that could be repeated or recombined in unlimited variations. The Bateman style was not high fashion but it was fashionable. In particular, the middle class appreciated the cost-effectiveness of using thin-gauge metal and less time-consuming manufacturing methods' (Ann Eatwell, ODNB).
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