Banff silver heritage
Banff does not have silver mines or natural deposits of the metal… so why was it renowned as a silver town?
The Town of Banff was confirmed by King Robert II as a Royal Burgh in 1372 and is considered to be the finest small Burgh in Scotland. The port formed part of the Northern Hanse, a group of Scots harbour towns that traded with the Baltic. The most prosperous period was around the 16th - 18th centuries when grand town houses were built by the local gentry landowners who would leave their estates in winter time and spend the dark nights socialising in Banff. The construction of Duff House in 1735 – 49, added the Earls of Fife to this list of important Banff residents.
With the Union of Parliaments in 1707, Scotland’s prospects changed. Communications with England improved together with better trading conditions which led to the expectations of the Scottish people increasing. Continental & English fashions, including table manners and eating utensils, became popular, especially in the richer households. A higher demand for silverware resulted and the silversmiths relocated to Banff to supply that demand.
By the 17th century, silversmiths are known to have been working in Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth, Glasgow, Inverness, St. Andrews, Elgin, Montrose and Banff.
From the 1680s to the 1880s there was a succession of twenty-four silversmith working in Banff, who produced a variety of silver goods including mugs and cutlery.
Banff silversmiths were capable of producing sophisticated silverware equal to the quality of work being produced in Edinburgh at the time.
The Banff Spoon
Banff spoons were very popular and you can now make your own silver spoons here at The Smiddy.
Provincial silver certainly had an interesting array of hallmarks.
Each town had its own town hallmark. Sometimes letters from its name, or part of a places heraldic device. Banff has a “B” or a “BF”. These stamps were often accompanied by the initials of the maker.
Original Scottish Provincial Banff Silver is now highly collectable. However, if you don’t own any, you can always pop into Banff Museum on the High Street and have a look at their superb collection.