Spoon in a hat

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

Moderator: Moderators

User avatar
Grymm
Post Centurion
Posts: 594
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:18 pm
Location: The Chilterns

Spoon in a hat

Postby Grymm » Wed Apr 01, 2009 4:18 pm

The image of (usually) a man with a spoon in his hat turns up occasionally in medieval and 16thC paintings but is it;
a. Some sort of symbolism like 'This man is hosting the party'?
b. A practical way of carrying a spoon so it doesn't get broken in your purse?
c. Summat else?

I believed that it was a. until recently. At TORM I brought 2 lovely little hand carved wooden spoons from Peter Crossman, put one in me hat and one in me purse (along with the comb, firelighting kit, file o wax, dice and shaker, tweezer/nail pick/scoop set, small awl, money pouch, rosary...y'know usual pocket detritus) and left them there whilst I did school sessions and now 2-3weeks later the purse one has a chunk knocked out of the bowl lip so b. is starting to look like a sensible option, but I thought I'd throw it out there for any other ideas, opinions or theories.

Peter Crossmans site (no spoons on it though)
http://groups.google.co.uk/group/crossmancrafts


Futuaris nisi irrisus ridebis.

User avatar
robin wood
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2007 5:07 pm
Location: edale, peak district
Contact:

Postby robin wood » Wed Apr 01, 2009 4:32 pm

It's an interesting question, I go for b, have a look at those pictures and think where else is the chap going to put it? no pockets, often no purse.

Another interesting point is that most of the pictures you are referring to are from the low countries, Breugal etc. Did they do the same in the UK?
Did we use wooden spoons in the UK? Why is it that wooden spoons are almost as common finds in Europe as wooden bowls but that they are very rare in the UK? Why for instance are there only 2 spoons from the Mary Rose when there were 250 bowls and dishes? Why despite hundreds of medieval bowls from London not one single spoon?

I am a wooden spoon maker but I suspect medieval Brits were not using many of them.



User avatar
The Methley Archer
Posts: 299
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2005 3:32 pm
Location: Methley, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire
Contact:

Postby The Methley Archer » Thu Apr 09, 2009 6:28 am

Just for discusion a painting by Hieronimus Bosc? Two Sheperds.
Attachments
Jheronimus_Bosch_Two_Shepherds.jpg


Daughters are a fathers punishment for being a man

User avatar
Sir_John_Thomas
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:16 pm
Location: Boston, in the Shire of Lincoln

Postby Sir_John_Thomas » Thu Apr 09, 2009 12:51 pm

Maybe the reason that only 2 spoons have been discovered on the Mary Rose, is because they wore them in their hats, and therefore, they got washed away in said hats when she sank.

Could very well be a practicle thing, they had no pockets to put em in, so stick it in yer hat. A sensible person always has their spoon handy, never put it in your pouch on your belt, cus if you drop your belt, you've lost your spoon!


http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l? ... N%26um%3D1


"God said love thy neighbour as untoo thy self, unless they are Turkish, in which case, KILL THE B**TARDS!"

Richard IV before leaving on crusade

http://community.lincolnshire.gov.uk/Th ... fSkirbeck/

User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:35 am

Robin Wood said

Did we use wooden spoons in the UK? Why is it that wooden spoons are almost as common finds in Europe as wooden bowls but that they are very rare in the UK? Why for instance are there only 2 spoons from the Mary Rose when there were 250 bowls and dishes? Why despite hundreds of medieval bowls from London not one single spoon?

I am a wooden spoon maker but I suspect medieval Brits were not using many of them.


The concept here seems to be that if a thing has not survived, we must assume it didn't exist. So, taking this premise a stage further, there were no ploughs, carts, trestle tables, threshing flails, chairs, footstools, bows or arrows in 12th century England, since not a single example of any has survived. I mention the 12th century as it is my own chosen period, but the same premise must also be relevant for all periods.

Sorry, Robin, but I have always taken the exact opposite view - that if a wooden object has survived for the past 850 years or so, it is because of some special and unusual circumstance. I also hold firmly to the premise that "absence of evidence is never evidence of absence".

An example of this is the 12th and 13th century coffer chests which have survived - they are very few in number and represent a tiny proportion of those made for domestic use - but they survive precisely because they were not domestic, but Church "parish coffers" and have continued serving the same function for 800 years. Domestic examples would have been destroyed or replaced with changes in fashion or in house refurbishments.

Looking at the documentary evidence for the 12th century, the use of spoons is certain:

Writing of his second journey across France to Paris in 1176, Gerald of Wales (at that time Archdeacon of Brecon) states that he had extensive supplies and baggage accompanying him. He bewails the fact that his chamberlain somehow got separated from the main party, taking with him goods to the value of 40 marks including "cups, spoons, clothes, a box full of letters, writing tablets and the palfrey itself". The spoons here are certainly not of wood, but the Chamberlain having the care of them is significant.

Maistre Wace, writing his "Roman de Rou" towards the end of his career (perhaps 1170) gives some clarification. He says that spoons were only issued to diners when the need arose - a story starts "I do not know what they had to eat but they needed spoons. A chamberlain had the spoons . . ." [my italics]. In the story, a knight concealed one of them, but the theft was discovered because the chamberlain counted the spoons before and after the meal. This example is obviously an aristocratic meal and the spoons are again plainly not of wood, but their use at meals is undeniable. That they were only issued at need can be explained simply by the aristocratic diet, consisting mainly of solid pieces of meat handled with the fingers. Sauces would be mopped up with bread.

For the lower orders, for whom watery pottage was certainly a mainstay of the diet, the use of spoons in some form must surely be assumed. Perhaps they were of wood, perhaps of horn. Nobody wrote about them, or considered them worth including in manuscript illuminations and none have survived, Just like arrows, we must expect them to have been widespread despite this.


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
zauberdachs
Post Centurion
Posts: 695
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2005 7:38 pm

Postby zauberdachs » Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:43 am

Brother Ranulf wrote:I also hold firmly to the premise that "absence of evidence is never evidence of absence".
Attachments
can-of-worms.jpg


Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

User avatar
robin wood
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2007 5:07 pm
Location: edale, peak district
Contact:

Postby robin wood » Fri Apr 10, 2009 3:24 pm

Totally agree about absence of evidence not being evidence of absence but wooden spoons survive in good numbers from medieval contexts in mainland Europe, Novgorod, Lubeck etc so why there and not here? Why do combs survive from the Mary Rose, small wooden objects carried on the person, but not spoons? Why do wooden bowls survive in similar numbers to spoons on mainland Europe, here we have the bowls but not the spoons?

My guess is horn, but it is only a guess, there was a continuing tradition of the use of horn spoons in Scotland in the 19th and well into 20th century, it may have been a hangover from earlier more widespread use.



User avatar
wurzul
Posts: 261
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:50 am
Location: West Country, UK
Contact:

Postby wurzul » Fri Apr 10, 2009 4:38 pm

There are a handful of images of French Revolutionary soldiers of the 1790s carrying their spoons in their hat cockade straps. I suppose it does make them easy to access should a pot of stew hove into view.



User avatar
Karen Larsdatter
Posts: 462
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:56 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Postby Karen Larsdatter » Sat Apr 25, 2009 2:57 am

robin wood wrote:Totally agree about absence of evidence not being evidence of absence but wooden spoons survive in good numbers from medieval contexts in mainland Europe, Novgorod, Lubeck etc so why there and not here?

http://www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk/secrets/vikinhom.htm
http://www.mondes-normands.caen.fr/angl ... /spoon.htm

robin wood wrote:Why do combs survive from the Mary Rose, small wooden objects carried on the person, but not spoons?

http://www.maryrose.org/lcity/cook/men1.htm :?:



User avatar
Cat
Post Centurion
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:40 pm
Location: A Muddy Field Near Tewkesbury

Postby Cat » Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:49 pm

I tend to have a spoon in my hat so's I'm not sans spoon if offered food! I was told once that it is a symbol of rank ...can't remember what rank though.


http://www.blood.co.uk. You get biscuits and everything.
A'Stanley A'Stanley!

User avatar
gallois
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:00 pm

Postby gallois » Mon Apr 27, 2009 1:50 am

Fascinating stuff you guys can think to argue about! All this evidence and absinthe......absence! I have been going to events for about 20 years. I have quite a lot of kit but for dining purposes I only have a knife and a bowl. Maybe its a celtic thing! If its solid enough to cut....use knife, if its not solid....drink from bowl or use bread to mop up! Nothing mysterious about that to me.
While on same subject evidence of arrow heads going back to prehistoric times indicates use of bows and arrows even if the shafts have disintegrated in to history. To suggest that there was a period when they werent in use is rediculous...perhaps all the hunters became vegetarians for a while? Er....and there is no physical evidence for dragons and unicorns?


"A long bow and a strong bow,
And let the sky grow dark.
The nock to the cord, the shaft to the ear,
And a foreign king for a mark!"

User avatar
Foxe
Post Centurion
Posts: 759
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:46 pm
Location: Defending Devon from French invasion
Contact:

Postby Foxe » Fri May 08, 2009 7:49 am

Cat wrote:I tend to have a spoon in my hat so's I'm not sans spoon if offered food! I was told once that it is a symbol of rank ...can't remember what rank though.


It's probably less rank than keeping it in your shoe or codpiece...


...and further this Informant saith not.

Foxe

'Don't be fooled by his general air of living in a skip'

http://www.etfox.co.uk

m300572
Post Centurion
Posts: 624
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2005 1:11 pm
Location: NW England

Postby m300572 » Fri May 08, 2009 10:36 am

Cat wrote:I tend to have a spoon in my hat so's I'm not sans spoon if offered food! I was told once that it is a symbol of rank ...can't remember what rank though.


Does "Grubby peasant always on the scrounge for free food" count as a rank?


Wilkes and Liberty, Wilkes and the Forty Five

User avatar
Ghost
Posts: 304
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:11 pm
Location: York

Postby Ghost » Fri May 08, 2009 1:01 pm

Why is it that wooden spoons are almost as common finds in Europe as wooden bowls but that they are very rare in the UK?


maybe, unlike bowls, they broke..........and then they simply chucked 'em in the fire in a desperate attempt to keep warm in the traditional UK wet and windy weather? :lol:


"Tell your masters that Englishmen do not surrender" - Thomas Beaufort, Earl of Dorset to French Herald; Valmont, 1416.

m300572
Post Centurion
Posts: 624
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2005 1:11 pm
Location: NW England

Postby m300572 » Fri May 08, 2009 1:11 pm

Ghost wrote:
Why is it that wooden spoons are almost as common finds in Europe as wooden bowls but that they are very rare in the UK?


maybe, unlike bowls, they broke..........and then they simply chucked 'em in the fire in a desperate attempt to keep warm in the traditional UK wet and windy weather? :lol:


That doesn't really explain the lack of spoon in the archaeological record - the bowls that are found are often broken and were certainly discarded rather than being casual losses (at least in most cases - shipwrecks apart!). The Glastonbury Lake Village excavations (Iron Age site) produced a fair number of bowls and bits of bowl and other vessels, and also a number of spoons/ladles/dippers. I suspect however that most broken wooden artefacts went into the fire - the amount of wood needed to run a small fire in a single house over a year is fairly staggering.


Wilkes and Liberty, Wilkes and the Forty Five

User avatar
glyndwr 50
Posts: 65
Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:16 pm

Spoon in hat etc etc

Postby glyndwr 50 » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:55 am

Firstly I agree with all the previous post's .however I find that there is a element of concern about the statement ( if something has not been found or has survived,there is no reason to suggest that it never existed ) .Firstly I agree with this statement,but I do think that it is opening a can of worms .To explain ,I was at a 12th cent period bash many years ago and one of the reenactors had a four pronged fork with an antler handel ,and I must admit it did looked the part but it was hanging from his belt for all to see .Many reenactors commented on this ,to which the reply was " just cause one has not been found don't mean it did not exist ".I know its only a fork but it did cause a bit of a problem with the purist in the group .A few weeks later and a lad came onto the battle field with a Roman Gladius strapped to his back. This did not go down to well but his reply was " If he can have a four pronged fork then why can't I have a Roman Gladius . Do you see where I am going with this. I understand what Brother Ranulf is saying and I do agree with him ,but I can also see the other side.Surley there must be a sensible answer to this or we could end up with anything goes attitude.



Death is only nature's way of telling you to slow down.



User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:12 am

Quite right and I think that most groups take a very sensible approach. I was speaking with my "researcher's hat" on - I have learned to approach research with a very open mind, to try to get inside the minds of the people of the time and to "tune in" to the way they thought, the materials they used, their view of the world and so on. It is also important to take account not just of surviving artefacts but to read written records and literature, look at wall paintings, sculpture, stained glass, pieces of jewellery and so on for clues. In this context I believe it is right not to accept that the surviving archaeological record is the whole story, not by a very long way.

For re-enactment, however, there has to be a set of acceptable and standard parameters, such as "if you can find three pieces of evidence for it, you can have it". This approach would exclude all the forks, gladii, two-handed swords, visored helmets, spectacles, bizarre costume items and so on in 12th century re-enactments for example.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
Sir Thomas Hylton
Posts: 291
Joined: Tue May 26, 2009 10:40 am
Location: NR Burton upon Trent
Contact:

Postby Sir Thomas Hylton » Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:38 pm

Cat wrote:I tend to have a spoon in my hat so's I'm not sans spoon if offered food! I was told once that it is a symbol of rank ...can't remember what rank though.


<TONGUE IN CHEEK>
Perhaps its something like the order of the garter... Order of the spoon :lol:



User avatar
Dishtwiner
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:01 am

Postby Dishtwiner » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:55 pm

I think the pictures of men carrying spoons in their hats is some sort of symbolism, although what I have no idea. I am familiar with Breughel’s paintings and of all the people in his paintings I can only find two that have spoons in their hats. So I don’t think it was just a practical place to keep your spoon. In most hats of the period there is nowhere to put your spoon, and why would you need to carry a spoon around? You would only need a spoon when you were eating out of your bowl which would be at home so I imagine you left your spoon there too.
I think perhaps as to why there are so few spoons in the archaeological record in this country might be that on the continent they have a different appreciation of their wooden spoons. The few spoons that I am aware of from the continent are decorated which I think is still a trend today in places like Austria and Sweden and so they probably cherished their spoons more and looked after them. But the Mary Rose spoons were very plain and this was a tradition with Welsh domestic cawl spoons in to the 20th century. In Gwynoaf Breese’s book on Traditional Spoon carving in Wales he says that “ Eating spoons in daily use were considered to be ready for replacing about once a year”. In my experience wooden spoons last longer than this but perhaps it shows that people saw spoons as just something utilitarian and easily replaced. So when you had finished with it straight on the fire.
But it is strange that so few spoons were found on the Mary Rose. Horn spoons does seem to be the answer. Do they exist in the archaeological record? Would they be easier to make than a wooden spoon and so perhaps cheaper? Or perhaps the food they were eating could just be drunk straight out the bowl, they do appear to be drinking bowls so perhaps spoons were not required?




Return to “General History”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests