The guildsmen were divided into several different groups - the hammermen, coppersmiths, and braziers, whose labour was specially skilled, having certain privileges not shared by their fellow-workers. Next to them ranked the so-called sadware men, who made such heavy articles as the large dishes known as chargers and trenchers. These were succeeded by the hollow-ware workers - makers of pint, quart, and other pots, tankards, flagons, etc., all for holding liquors. Then there were the triflers, who used the trifle mixture described previously, turning out such small wares as forks, spoons, buttons, etc; and, last of all, the lay-men, whose humble vocation it was to work in the adulterated material from which they took their name, using it generally for making cheap tankards and inkpots.

It 1430 it was ordained that, to prevent fraud, all articles made in pewter should be of a certain weight; but it was not until 1530 that marking pewter ware was also made compulsory. At that date it was enacted by Act of Parliament "that the makers of pewter wares should mark the same with several marks of their own to the intent that the makers of such wares should avow the same to be by them wrought," and also to make it easier to bring to justice the "deceivable hawkers," whose nefarious practices have already been described. The marks - or touches, as they were called - were at first of the simplest description, but as time went on it became customary to add to the initials of the makers symbolic designs of a decorative nature, and occasionally also particulars concerning the constituents of the pewter.

The Pewterers' Company owns a set of five touch-plates, or plates registering the marks of the London pewterers, facsimiles of all of which are given not only in Welch's book, now out of print, but also in Mr. Masse's "Pewter Plate." Both these publications also contain complete descriptive lists of all the touches at Pewterers' Hall, which in the latter work are supplemented by lists of various hall-marks and other miscellaneous marks. By the aid of these the collector will be able, in many cases, to identify the maker and fix the approximate date of specimens. There will, however, always be considerable difficulty in deciding as to the genuineness of old pewter. The final incontestable proof that pewter ware is really of the first or second legal standard of olden time is only to be obtained by melting it down and analysing its constituents. Excellent secondary tests are those of weight and colour, a good judge being able at once to guess at quality through quantity without actually placing the specimen in the scales; whilst no modern maker has yet succeeded in imitating the sombre yet delicate lustre of ancient ware.

Old English Pewter 200278