Dish Cross

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Foster Lane, London, England, c. 1768/9
Maker: Henry Bailey (active 1750-1775)
Medium: Silver
S 55 Gift of Mrs. Francis White in 1973

In the midst of our festive season where cooking at home is commonplace, now more than ever, we can all agree keeping food warm on the table has long been a problem.

In the 18th century, the kitchen could be quite a distance from the dining table in larger homes or even in a separate building, making the need for a device known as the dish cross. The useful dish cross had a basic form of one central spirit lamp to warm the food, supported by four pivoting central legs with sliding adjustable supports that could accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes from round dessert dishes to oval ones for fish.

These pieces were generally made of silver and have several marks like this one in the collection. There are four marks on the bottom of the device, including the lion passant to show English quality sterling, the leopard’s head crowned for the London assay office mark, N for the London date of 1768/69, and HB for maker Henry Bailey. Bailey also put his mark on two legs. Baileyy was an apprentice and later a journeyman to London silversmith Edward Aldridge. During that time he likely knew Edward’s wife, Elizabeth, who after her husband’s death registered her own maker’s mark in 1766 as a silversmith, not uncommon for women in this period. After his time in Edward Aldridge’s shop, Bailey entered into a partnership with Samuel Herbert, who had been his fellow apprentice in the workshop. Later Bailey established his own shop on Foster Lane where he made a variety of quality items now in museums, like this Cake Basket now at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which he made in partnership with Samuel Herbert and this Inkstand now at the Chrysler Museum of Art, as well as this dish cross now on the dining room at the Hammond-Harwood House.

On Foster Lane Bailey was in good company as he was located near many of his fellow craftsmen and also near Goldsmiths’ Hall, built for The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. The association, more commonly known as the Goldsmiths’ Company, is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London and received its first royal charter in 1327. The company strategically chose this site for its proximity to the craftsmen and has continuously occupied the corner of Foster Lane and Gresham Street since their first hall was built in 1339. The Company has had two subsequent buildings and Henry would have known the second edifice, a red brick Palladian building built in the 1630’s. The current impressive Goldsmiths’ Hall was completed in 1835. Today the Company continues its work by supporting metal artisans through exhibitions and education, funding associated charitable interests, and overseeing the assay office. To learn more about this history of the hall click here and to escape to London for a virtual tour follow this link.


By Rachel Lovett, Curator

Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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