Q. I recently inherited a little black box from my dear deceased aunt. The box has this written in the satin on the lid: “William Adams. Sheffield, England, Since 1834.” Inside were three silver-plate utensils. I know they are old and I love them but I am not sure what they were, or are, used for. I’m thinking one has something to do with pastry because it looks like a little serving piece, but not sure what the scoop would be for, maybe jelly, or sugar? Could you please tell me?
A. What a lovely item to inherit from your dear aunt. It is a Victorian British three-piece cheese set.
▪ First a little background on Sheffield, England. Sheffield became well-known for blade production beginning in the 14th century. By 1600, it is said to have been the biggest producer of cutlery outside of London.
▪ Naturally, there were many companies in Sheffield that produced the many cutlery items used by the aristocratic Victorians. One of those well-known companies was William Adams. I use the word “aristocratic” because they could afford all of the many, many utensils used at their meals which were created in the Victorian period: 1837 - 1901.
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Queen Victoria and her penchant for fine dining was responsible for the creation of many utensils during her reign, including soft-boiled egg cutters; egg spoons; bacon forks; hot cake lifters; citrus spoons; ice cream spoons and forks; mango forks; jelly knives, trowels and servers; honey spoons, waffle knives; sardine and anchovy forks, horseradish spoons, and pea spoons, to name a few.
It almost seems like if you name a food, there was a serving and eating utensil created specifically for that food item. Servants had to learn all of them. After all, can you imagine the ruckus which would occur, if the Queen was given an ice cream spoon instead of an egg spoon with which to eat her soft boiled egg?
▪ Today, hostesses have found other uses for some of these vintage Victorian utensils. The cheese server you have, for example, could indeed be dual-purposed or repurposed as a serving piece for small pastry items; the spreader, for anything to be spread, and the scoop for things such as nuts, mints, or even whipped cream.
The bottom line is: Enjoy them and use them as you wish.