A short history of the Pewter Society
Just before the outbreak of the 1914-1918 war, a group of pewter lovers used to meet at The Sketch Club, London for “Pewter Suppers”. From these meetings grew the idea in the summer of 1918 of forming a society where collectors could meet to share their knowledge. After much correspondence, Herbert Cooke convened a meeting at the headquarters of the London Sketch Club on the evening of Monday 9 th December 1918 attended by the following 12 collectors :
- T. Charbonnier Walter Churcher
- Lewis Clapperton Herbert Cooke
- Howard Cotterell Col. Croft-Lyons
- Richard Davidson Antonio de Navarro
- Charles Port Maj. John Richardson
- Dudley Westropp Alfred Yeates
Those present inaugurated “The Society of Pewter Collectors” and then elected the following officers : –
- Antonio de Navarro – President
- Howard Cotterell – Vice President and Joint Secretary
- Walter Churcher – Joint Secretary
- Lewis Clapperton – Treasurer
The members then decided to invite Mrs. Carvick-Webster and Dr. Young to become members and to offer Honorary Membership to :- W.J.Englefield, H.J.L.J. Masse, Charles Welch, The Editor of The Connoisseur, and the Head of the Dept. of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum , thus assembling a strong team.
The rules were approved at the next meeting in January 1919 and by June of that year a design for a certificate to be presented to every member upon joining had been accepted. These certificates were still in use in 1939.
The membership, which was strictly for bona fide pewter collectors only, was limited to 25, excluding honorary members, and was by invitation only having been personally recommended by two members. This limit was progressively increased to 30 in 1923 and to 40 in 1968, when the name of the society was changed to The Pewter Society to reflect its more studious approach. The requirement to be nominated for membership was dropped in 1978 and applications were dealt with by the committee, but it was not until 1982, after much debate, that the barrier to dealers becoming members was finally removed from the Constitution. These historic decisions transformed the Society into being a much more open one.
Initially the Society met twice a year on either a Monday or Wednesday, once in London and once in the provinces where the meetings were usually held in member’s homes with an average attendance of about ten. Prior to the formal business, visits were made to nearby antiquarian buildings, such as churches and museums and after the meal the host’s collection would be inspected and admired.
On 28 th May 1920 the Society was entertained at Pewterers’ Hall, Lime Street when Bertrand Johnson gave a talk on the history of the Company and its halls. This began a long and happy relationship between the Worshipful Company of Pewterers and the Society. This treasured link has grown steadily and since 1967 the Society has regularly been invited by the Master and Court to hold its A.G.M. at Pewterers’ Hall, Oat Lane . Subsequently several members have been invited to be Freemen of the Company and also several Freemen have asked to join our Society.
Over the years the Society and its members have been linked with many displays and exhibitions such as those at The Daily Telegraph Exhibition at Olympia in 1928 and The Great Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1938. Since then it has been involved in exhibitions at Lincoln, Norwich, Worthing, Pewterers’ Hall also the one at Reading Museum in 1969 celebrating our 50 th anniversary and the superb “Pewter A celebration of the craft 1200-1700” at The Museum of London in 1989-1990.
The generosity and commitment of early members to increasing public appreciation of antique pewter was illustrated when several members donated items of Bristol and West Country pewter to the Bristol museum following a meeting with the museum committee on the lawn of the County Hotel, Taunton . Another example of individual benefaction was the rescue and restoration of the four early candlesticks at York Minster by our member Jimmy Fenton. More recently both the Society and individual members have made financial contributions and donations of objects to the Museum of Pewter housed at Harvard House, Stratford on Avon
After the 1939-45 war the social “set-up” had changed and meetings were then held on Saturdays in hotels. The Society became more studious and talks were introduced into meeting programmes. The frequency of meetings was doubled to four per year.
From 1983 the Autumn Meetings were extended to two days so that short talks of an educational nature could be included for the benefit of novice members. With the aim, of improving the dissemination of accurate information the Society also organised two one-day seminars in 1988 and 1989 for museum curators and staff.
In 1993 the Pewter Collectors Club of America joined us in Edinburgh for a three-day celebration of our 75th Anniversary. Since then we have had reciprocal celebrations with them and also with other sister societies abroad which included two visits to Colonial Williamsburg and two to Amsterdam .
During the last ten years much effort has been devoted to the creation of an excellent Database of about 17,389 pewterers and 15,500 marks and also much literature has been published.
Our Society which will be celebrating its centenary in 2018 has grown to a current total of over 200 members and has considerably changed over the years. No doubt it will continue to evolve but its aim to stimulate interest in and knowledge of old pewter still remains the same.