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Hester Bateman: Domestic Silver in 18th Century England

Hester Bateman (1708–1794) is considered one of England’s most successful woman silversmiths of the late eighteenth century due to her entrepreneurial acumen. From a poor background and no formal education, she married the goldsmith and chain maker John Bateman at 24. Upon his passing in 1760, the widowed Hester took over the shop, registering at London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall on April 16, 1761 with the first of her nine ‘HB’ marks.

'HB' mark on the underside of a Hester Bateman silver cup
‘HB’ mark

Over the next 30 years, along with her sons, Jonathan and Peter, and daughter-in-law Ann, Hester Bateman built up the family business using thin gauge sheet silver, specializing in household silver. The wares produced for the table included flatware, salvers, cruet stands, jugs, salts, mustard pots, tankards, and fashionable tea and coffee sets and accouterments.

Detail of engravings on a Hester Bateman silver cup
Engravings of cartouches, ribbons, flowers and foliage,
as well as a crest of an eagle holding an arrow.

Her work is characterized by bright cut engraving, beading to borders, and piercing in the neoclassical style. The key to Bateman’s success was the adoption and integration of modern technologies that took advantage of new mechanized and cost-efficient manufacturing processes and able to supply elegant wares to an aspirant middle-class. Collectors today appreciate both the elegance of the 18th century forms and her role as a skilled craftswoman and business owner in a male-dominated industry.

Hester Bateman silver cup
Hester Bateman Sterling Silver Two-handled Cup and Cover, London, 1786. At auction through April 22, 2021 as lot 1066, with an estimate of $2,000-4,000.


2 thoughts on “Hester Bateman: Domestic Silver in 18th Century England

  1. Hi I have a piece by Hester Bateman looks like a big goblet with a cover. No other design or crest just plain. What do you think it is? A covered sugar or drinking cup? Around 350 grams. Thanks

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