The squirrel perched on the end of this silver spoon formed a prominent part of the family crest of the Gilberts, an eminent Elizabethan family whose achievements included the defence of Britain from the Spanish armada and the colonisation of America.

The hallmark on the spoon indicates that it was made around 1580 by John Edes, an Exeter silversmith who trained under the esteemed goldsmith John Jones. The spoon was probably made as part of a set for Sir John Gilbert. The oldest of the three Gilbert brothers, John was knighted in 1571 and as Vice-Admiral of Devon was instrumental in organising the defence against the Spanish Armada. The middle brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, led the 1583 expedition that established a colony on Newfoundland, but he drowned on the voyage home following the sinking of his frigate, the Squirrel. When Sir John Gilbert died in 1596, his silverware passed on to his youngest brother, Adrian Gilbert, who commemorated the inheritance by engraving the spoon with the date and his initials. Adrian served as an agent to Sir Walter Raleigh, with whom he established the first British colony in the New World at Roanoke Island in Virginia. The spoon was most likely crafted from silver from the Combe Martin mines, which were owned by the Gilbert family, and the squirrel finial is thought to be unique among early English silverware.


Gilbert Family; at RAMM on long term loan.

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