Snuffer tray

late 18th century (made)


Length: 24.8 cm, Width: 8.8 cm

M.163-1920 MET

Snuffer tray, Sheffield plate, English, Late 18th century

Elongated, octagonal, with chased border and rolled edge.

Snuffers were first invented to cut off and retain the burned wicks of candles when the wax around them had melted; they were not necessarily used to extinguish the candle's flame. They are first recorded in the 15th century and numerous patents for snuffers are known from the middle of the 18th century, regularly reappearing with improvements until 1840 when candles that completely consumed their wicks were first developed, rendering snuffers superfluous. Snuffers often appeared with a tray or pan to catch the flakes of dried wax and upon which to rest the snuffer. Such trays are variously shaped and decorated; some have four feet, a vertical rim, decorated with reeding, pierced work, gadrooning or relief masks. Later examples in both silver and Sheffield plate could be oval or canoe shaped. This one is octagonal and has a chased border and rolled edge. After about 1770 the snuffer tray is frequently indistinguishable from the so called ‘pen tray’. Sheffield plate originated, with the discovery in 1742, that bars of silver and copper, in unequal proportions, fused by heating under pressure, could be rolled into sheets of laminated metal and worked like silver. The industry this material created flourished for about 100 years until superseded by electroplating in the 1840s.

The Wolseley Bequest

Location: In Storage

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