Anne Tanqueray (1691-1733) 

Subordinate goldsmith to George 1st and probably the best woman silversmith of all time.[1] As the eldest daughter of David Willaume, a prominent Huguenot silversmith/goldsmith, who had come to London from Metz, north east France in 1685, it was probably not surprising that she became involved in the craft of her father.  On 19 October 1690 David had married Marie Mettayer at the French Protestant chapel in Brown’s Lane, Spitalfields where Marie’s father – Samuel Mettayer was the Minister. Ann was their first child, born a year later on the 19th July 1691. Three more children arrived, but sadly two died in infancy. The other surviving child David II also became a silversmith. The Manor of Tingrith in Bedfordshire was either bought by David II as a family home, or David Willaume Senior for retirement purposes.

Ann must have watched her father working on a regular basis and it would seem that she, too, trained in the art of silversmithing although not undertaking a formal apprenticeship as such. Incidentally, becoming a journeyman silversmith required young women of better than average physique, for the tools whereby silver was formed into such things as tankards, dishes, trays, kettles, teapots, and the like were neither light nor easily handled. There was the heavy sledge hammer weighing eight or more pounds with which the silver was beaten on the specially shaped anvils many times in the course of making a piece. Perhaps Ann was not of such muscular form as she seems to have concentrated on small items!

On the 16th September 1708 David Willaume, her father, formally contracted with David Tanqueray (originally from St Lo in Normandy) to ‘teach him the skills of  goldsmithing’ as an indentured apprentice for seven years. Nine years later Ann and ‘the apprentice’ were married in 1717 although he did not finish his apprenticeship until 1722. There is some doubt about this last date as he appears to have his own apprentice by May 1718 when he calls himself a citizen and goldsmith.[2] David and Anne had two surviving sons, but also 2 daughters (Ann b1718, MaryAnn b1723). 

Her husband established his own workshop probably in Green Street, Leicester Fields and later in Pall Mall[3], entering  his first mark as a largeworker in 1713 and it is likely that Ann created some of the items bearing her husband’s markHis second mark (Stirling) was in 1720.

On David’s death (which, strangely, does not seem to be recorded) and the fact that he was still paying for his apprentice in July 1723 (although this may have been Anne using his name), he appears to have died at the end of 1723.  Anne, being resourceful and obviously skilled in her own right and despite being a working mother of young children, took over his business and entered two marks of her own (Sterling and New Standard) in the Goldsmiths Touch Register. 

To be a woman silversmith in the 17/18th centuries was apparently not that unusual. There were, between 1697 and the Victorian era, a total of 63 women silversmiths in London, each possessed of her own registered touch mark.[4] Ann Tanqueray would have had the opportunity to produce her own work (mostly small silver items) and oversee skilled journeymen making larger pieces. Tanqueray’s workshop was noted for its high level of excellence and in 1729 -1732 it became Subordinate Goldsmith to King George 1st.

Ann Tanqueray died on 21 November 1733, aged  just 42 and was buried 4 days later in Tingrith Church, near the family home in Bedfordshire. In her will she left her tools to her two sons (David and Thomas)[5] who were not yet 21 years old.

Examples of  Ann Tanqueray’s work can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum Wales, and at Welbeck Abbey. 

[1]  Waxantiques description: www.waxantiques.com

[2] Ancestry.co.uk Apprentice records

[3] British Museum Collectors online for David Tanqueray

[4] Collector’s Weekly article Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee — April 3rd, 2009This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

[5]  Ancestry.co.uk wills 

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