Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Silver Vaults. Chancery Lane

English: detail of silver teapot
English: detail of silver teapot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Taking the No 15 bus from Whitechapel to the Fetter Lane was a very good idea as the rain poured down in torrents. Comfortable in the warm moist interior it was fun to watch the lunch-time workers struggling with inside out umbrellas, fly away hats and vicious gusts of wind from all directions. I suffered the same fate as soon as I stepped off the bus, rushed in to Starbucks for shelter and coffee, and then stepped out into the storm again. By the time I arrived at the Silver Vaults the top of my take-out was full of rainwater!

The visit to the Silver Vaults was organised by Augusta currently studying to be a City of London Guide, and she had arranged for us to meet Steven Linden who is Secretary of the Silver Vaults Business Association and Director of Linden & Co (Antiques) Ltd - Vault 7.

The London Silver Vaults opened as The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit in 1876. Originally renting out strong rooms to hold household silver, jewellery and documents, it transitioned to housing silver dealers in secure premises a few years later. One vault was used to store a farthing, with the owner paying over £100 over the years for the vault.
Silver hot water jug, Dublin c1770, using a co...
Silver hot water jug, Dublin c1770, using a coffee-pot shape with a higher base. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) thick walls lined with steel, the vaults were never broken into. The building above the vaults was struck directly with a bomb during World War II - however this did not damage the vaults at all, despite the building being destroyed. A new building, Chancery House, was constructed ten years later, and since 1953 it has been in its present format, with shops based underground. All the shops have been owned for at least 50 years by the same families. It said that it has "the largest single collection of commercial silver for sale in the world", contained within more than forty shops.
Mr Linden showed us around the two corridors with fascinating displays of all kinds of treasures, mainly silver, but the Vaults also sell jewellery and stamps, among other exciting things.  
The public are more than welcome to visit at any time and the owners and staff are happy to talk to you about items of interest.  It is also an excellent place to go for that special gift. 
We spent a an interesting time looking at a silver Porringer (yes you can eat porridge out of silver) and a Georgian gravy jug. The hallmarks on both were unusual and fascinating, including a mark recording a monarch's jubilee, the maker's mark, the year, plus assay marks for London and England and much more. Also discussed the unfinished underside of the base of the jug, which proved its provenance even more than the hallmarks. The discussion moved on to the properties of a silver teapot to make the best tea over porcelain and the visit ended with being shown a rare C18th tool for good tea making, sadly we could take no pictures so will have to leave you guessing as to what it was until you visit the Linden vault.
If you would like to visit the vaults with me get in touch, happy to organise a Group Tour.

For information about the City of London hallmark the leopards head and the interesting question of why it appears 'crowned' and 'uncrowned' read on

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