Given in memory

These two eighteenth-century flagons are designed to hold wine for the communion service. They are also one, lasting, part of a family’s efforts to preserve the memories of the deceased. Both were given to the church of St Mary’s Castlegate in York in 1724. The inscription on one flagon reveals that it was given by John Hutton ‘in memory of Barbara his Wife daughter to Thomas Barker Esq., obijt [who died] December the 14th 1723’, and the other simply states that it was given ‘in memory of Eliz. Daughter of Thomas Barker Esq. Obijt February the 4th 1717’. The two thus seem to have been given as a set in memory of two sisters. Such contributions of church silver in the name of the dead is a practice which stretches well into the medieval past, when such inscriptions often explicitly solicited prayers for the soul of the deceased. Protestants denied the utility of such prayer but across the centuries other, shared impulses continued to motivate this form of commemoration: a desire to contribute to the church community, and a need to ensure the continued presence of the names and thus memories of loved ones long after they had departed.

Two flagons, 1724, silver.

YML: (Museum) 8.3

Further Reading

Robert Whiting, The Reformation of the English Parish Church (Cambridge, 2010), ch. 4.

For another example of this kind of early modern commemorative church silver see the chalice and paten given by the seventeenth-century clergyman and author Daniel Featley in memory of his wife Joyce, now held at the V&A:

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