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Last Updated 06-06-2019

David Moulson


The tradition of marking measures with a crowned regnal initial, this time a ‘C’, also carried on through most of the 17th century. In a chapter concerning the ‘Wardmote Inquests’ in the 1633 edition of ‘Stow’s survey of London’ the following appears ‘Measures Sealed. And also that ye see that all Tiplers and other sellers of Ale or Beere as well of privy Osteries, as Brewers and Innholders in your Ward, not selling by lawful measures sealed and marked with the letter C crowned….’.  Dr Homer wrote that ‘This clearly implies an official recognition of the mark as the then current verification for ale measures, at least in the City of London’ 12. 

I know of one example of the crowned C on a measure formerly in the Little collection, and exhibited in 1989 at the Museum of London 16. It is a two-banded quart tavern pot uniquely engraved with ‘A Winchester quart exact the standard att Gildhall’.  There is still uncertainty as to whether the Winchester capacity standard was for wet or dry goods and this pot’s capacity is 42 fl oz.  This fine measure is marked ‘WV’ probably for William Vinmont made Free in 1678 and dead by 1694, but whose widow, Abigail, continued the business until her death in August 1698 and so it probably dates to the 1680s.  This suggests that the use of the crowned C continued until Charles II died in 1689.

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HR marks 4

3.  Weight temp Henry VII or VIII with crowned h mark


In 1963, Dr Homer personally measured 160 balusters from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.  Of these, only 25 had verification marks including 13 with either crowned hR or HR.  He published the results in Libra 12, and summarised his findings in an article for this Journal entitled ‘Standard Measure?’ 13.  He said that these 13, which presumably had been verified in London, were on average larger than the others measuring about 1008ml or 35.5 fl oz to the quart compared to 960ml for the others He felt that his results showed a somewhat casual attitude by pewterers to producing baluster measures to size.

I wonder whether they may have been more concerned, not with accurate capacities, but with conforming to the Company’s Sizing of 1673-74 detailed by Welch History of the Pewterers’ Company’, Volume II.  This is the earliest specific mention of wine measures in the Company’s records.  As a point of interest, they also dictate that wine measures were to be made of lay metal rather than fine, which explains the rather heavy feel of baluster measures.  The weights specified were three pounds for quarts, two pounds for pints and one pound for half-pints.  Double volute measures tend to be lighter and do not conform to the Sizing being made largely in the second half of the 18th century when the Company’s powers were waning. However, bud measures made at the end of the 17th and into the 18th centuries may well conform.  I weighed a quart, two pints and a half-pint and they all fell within only one or two ounces under the prescribed weight, probably explained by wear and polishing for three hundred years.  Possibly, as pewter was sold by weight, the pewterers ensured the weight was always a bit below the standard but charged for the standard weight and gained an ounce or two on each sale!  Of course, this is a very small sample, and more research is needed.


Having reviewed previous theories about HR marks, and before analysing the evidence I gathered, we need to try to understand the process that gave us our current standard measures of capacity, and how they were verified and marked.

Monarchs have tried to impose standard measures across the country since early medieval times.  The first successful attempt, after much earlier confusion, was the establishment by Henry VII of a Wine Standard and Ale Standard in 1496 as detailed by Professor RD Connor 15.  This gave Wine and Ale Standards respectively of 231 and 282 cubic inches per gallon, which equates to 16.65 and 20.33 fl oz per pint.  Connor debates at length the origin of these capacities but draws no firm conclusions. 

Some late 15th century standard measures still survive.  However, even these primary standards against which the standards in daily use were to be checked throughout the country, do not conform to the amounts above!  Nevertheless, these two capacity standards were accepted during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth.  250 years later, the Carysfort Committee tried to find out why these amounts had been adopted for ale and wine.  In 1758, they applied to the Commissioners of Excise for an answer, and they in turn cited a memorandum dated 15th May 1688 which said that ‘all beer and ale had been gauged at 282 cubic inches for a gallon and other excisable liquors at 231 cubic inches.

In 1700, the courts heard a test case against Thomas Barker, a wine importer.  It concerned excise he had paid, but because of confusion over which standard should be used in the calculations, the case was abandoned by the Crown after five hours.  The matter was left to Parliament to resolve which was done in the form of the Act 5 Anne c27, s17 of 1706 – six years later!  This stated that a lawful wine gallon should be 231 cubic inches but did not stipulate how such measures should be marked.


Despite the 1688 memorandum, as late as 1699 ale was still not being dispensed to the proper measure.  Then, a Proclamation notified all inn keepers, alehouse keepers, sutlers, victuallers and other retailers of ale and beer that ‘as from the 24th June 1700 they shall be required to retail and sell their ale and beer by the full ale quart or pint according to the said standard in vessels duly marked with WR and crown be they made of wood, glass, horn, leather or pewter’ 21.  So this is how ale measures came to be marked with the crowned WR, but how were wine measures to be marked?

We have seen earlier that from the time of Henry VII to Charles II the tradition was to verify using the crowned regnal initial with no ‘R’. While a very few measures and even a beefeater flagon have survived with RWMR intertwined verification marks for William and Mary it is not until we get to the reign of William III, after Queen Mary had died in December 1694, that legislation requires ale measures to be stamped with a crowned W now with an R.  This was used up to the implementation of Imperial measure in 1826, alongside infrequently found crowned AR and GR marks during the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Could it be that in London they introduced crowned hR or HR marks during the reign of William III to distinguish wine standard measures from those of ale standard?


The surviving measures have one of three main types of crowned hR or HR mark: hR without a sword, hR or HR with a sword incorporated in the mark, and the Arms of the City of London flanked by H and R. 

HR marks 5

4.  Half-pint hammerhead with a crowned hR mark inscribed ‘William Pole att ye greenwood near Billingate'

It is worth noting now that 23 out of the 39 measures with a variant of the HR marks bear identifiable maker’s marks, and all were London pewterers.  Another was inscribed for Westminster and one has a house mark of three birds, possibly cranes struck three times, and was found at Three Cranes Wharf perhaps belonging to an inn at that location. So 25 out of 39 were made by London makers or have a secure London provenance.  I found no measures made outside London with an HR mark and believe it is safe to conclude that this was a verification system restricted to the City of London and its surrounding districts.

The first group of measures comprising 11 examples is those marked hR without a sword (Figs. 1 & 5).  Four have identifiable touches, one by William Waters (1677-1699), two by his brother Anthony who opened shop in 1698 and one by Robert Seare (1667-1711). 

Two slim baluster measures in this group hold significantly less than the other 10 for which I have capacities.  These are both apparently early examples as they have been dated to the mid-16th century on body style, and on the size and style of their unidentified touch marks.  The Museum of London #80227 from Three Cranes Wharf contains 14.0 fl oz per pint, and the Victoria and Albert Museum #222 holds only 14.8 fl oz per pint (Fig. 1). We have no way of knowing when and under what circumstances these two measures came to have their hR marks struck, or if indeed they are of 16th century manufacture.  None of the five museum owned examples came from archaeologically datable contexts. 

5.  Examples of the crowned hR mark (without a sword)

HR marks 6 a

HR marks 6 b

HR marks 6 c

HR marks 6 d

Anthony Waters J547

William Waters J548

Nicholas Marriott J549

Overlaid Image hR marks J550
(courtesy of Jan Gadd)

We tend to think slim balusters date from the 16th century and the more squat style from towards the end of the 17th but what came in between?  It is quite possible that they continued to make slim balusters well into if not throughout the 1600s.

The hR marks are identical on the Worshipful Company’s gallon and the Museum of London’s now lidless pint #8461.  All the others in this category are different.  Dr Homer quotes the text of a London broadside issued by Lord Mayor Brocas on 28th July 1730 in a Journal article on the fraudulent verification of measures 18.  This followed previous broadsides of 1708 and 1720-21 requiring all weights and measures to be marked according to the standard of the Exchequer.  The 1730 broadside noted complaints had been made to the Court that weights and measures in daily use were not marked or sealed by the legally appointed officer, and that many plumbers and pewterers were marking or sealing unlawful weights and measures in their own workshops with imitation stamps.  The City ordered that no person should buy or sell with any weights or measures, which had not been properly marked.  Additionally, they ordered that the City’s Arms be added to the mark or seal used.  Thus, we can now be confident that marks incorporating the Arms are unlikely to date from before 1730.

This shows that pewterers were accustomed to stamping their measures with imitation verification marks, which explains the variety of designs found. Not even the Waters brothers used the same stamp!  Capacities of hR marked measures in this category range from 16.4 to 18.5 fl oz per pint.  There is no significant difference between the marks to indicate they might have been made to different capacity standards.  As stated earlier, the four I was able to weigh did conform to the company’s Sizing of 1673-74.  So perhaps Dr Homer was right when he said in his 1994 Journal article that his data ‘demonstrated a casual attitude by pewterers to producing baluster measures to size’.  For interest, the 13 he measured averaged 17.75 fl oz per pint and those in this category with the crowned hR averaged 16.55 fl oz per pint.

None of the makers died before 1699 and the earliest to open shop was William Waters in 1677.  I believe that they were all making wine measures to the standard laid down in the 1688 memorandum as confirmed by the 1706 Act.  Furthermore, it was then that the hR mark was adopted to distinguish between Wine standard and Ale standard measures.  Ale measures being marked with a crowned WR as laid down in the 1698-99 Act 21.  In other words, I believe it is unlikely that baluster measures were verified with a crowned hR before the end of the 17th century, and probably not until the introduction of the crowned WR mark. 

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