An Exeter Silversmith Identified?
The identity of the silversmith who used the 'JAP' mark on Exeter silver, I believe, is still a mystery to many, myself included, but I came across this piece of research from 1996 that perhaps provides the answer to this long standing question.The Identity of the Westcountry Silversmith JAP
A silversmith’s mark consisting of the Roman capital letters JAP in a rectangular punch is not uncommon on flatware assayed in Exeter. However, it is not mentioned in either national or local listings of hallmarks. The most recent examples encountered by the writer are on five fiddle pattern teaspoons and a pair of Old English pattern tablespoons. All are stamped with the maker’s mark, the duty mark, the lion passant, and the Exeter town mark. Between them they carry the Exeter date letters for 1840/41 (gothic D) 1847/48 (Gothic L) and 1848/49 (gothic M).
The use of the 1840/41 punch had to be delayed owing to its late arrival from London, but generally the date letter was changed on 7 August of each year. The account of all the silverware assayed at the Exeter Assay Office between 7 August 1840 and 7 August 1849 does not list any silversmith with the initials JAP or JP. This is despite the existence of a copper plate, once belonging to the Exeter Assay Office, punched with the mark JAP. The plate is undated and bears no example of date letters. However JAP’s mark appears between those of William Harris Rowe of Devenport (fl. 1836 — 1849) and Exeter’s George Carter (fl. 1834 — 1842).
There is no silversmith with the initials JAP among those listed in the Exeter trade directories available for the period. Nor is there one among the members and freemen of the Exeter Company of Goldsmiths, or those created freemen of the City of Exeter during the nineteenth century. He or she appears therefore, to have been one of a number of silversmiths who lived and worked away from Exeter, but sent their products there to be assayed.
Perusal of trade directories for elsewhere in the Westcountry reveals among the of Plymouth the probable identity of JAP — James Andrew Page. In 1840 Page was working at 17, Whimple Street, but by 1852 his address was being given as 17, George Street. In April 1856 these premises were broken into, but the intruders were unable to proceed beyond the kitchen. Some time between then and 1862 his business became Page, Keen and Page and by 1866 had moved to 41, George Street. His home appears to have to have been at Townsend Hill Villa, and then possibly after his retirement 10 Windsor Terrace. It has yet to be discovered which of the Exeter silversmiths submitted work to the Assay Office on his behalf.
Source: Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries
— Author: Sadru Bhanji - Autumn 1996
James Andrew Page, was the son of Thomas and Jane (nee Smith) Page, who were married at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on the 10th March 1801. James Andrew Page was born on the 4th March 1811 and baptised at the Batter Street Presbyterian Chapel on the 13th June of that same year. James later married Anne Eliza Hearder on the 25th July 1834. He died, at Plymouth on the 14th October 1898.
Quite when the business of Page, Keen and Page was founded is in some doubt. The firm itself always claimed that they were founded in 1811, the same year of James Andrew Page's birth, perhaps Page took a another business that is as yet unidentified, but as of yet, no evidence has come to light to verify that claim. It is thought that the business was running by 1838 at 17, George Street, Plymouth, and the 1841 census reveals that living at James Street, Plymouth was a 19-years-old apprentice jeweller, named Henry Keen. Whether Henry keen trained under James Andrew Page is unknown, but it is likely, as he later became Page's partner in the business, the other partner noted was James Hearder Page, who joined his father and Henry Keen in 1871. James Hearder Page had married Paulina Jane Stevens on the 6th October 1863.
A dissolution of the partnership occured on the 1st January 1872, with James Andrew Page retiring from the business. Henry Keen died on the 26th November 1886. At around the turn of the century the partners were noted as James Hearder Page, and his two sons, Reginald George Page and James William Frederick Page. James Hearder Page retired on the 18th June 1913, and he died, aged 80 years, on the 18th January 1918. In 1925 the firm converted into a limited liability company, and in that same year Page, Keen & Page merged with Goulding & Co. who were also located at George Street, Plymouth.
In 1941 the George Street premises were destroyed by enemy action, and the firm moved, firstly to 17, Duke Street, Tavistock, before returning to Plymouth at the end of the war, to the location of 87, Mutley Plain.
J.W. Page died having been knocked down by a bus at the end of the year 1935, he was aged 58 years. R.G. Page died in 1945, aged 76 years. The directors at the time were noted as F.M.S Carter and B. Newton. An earlier director who pre-deceased R.G. Page was noted as T.W. Willes.
Page, Keen and Page Ltd. merged with Bowden and Sons in the 1970s and the famous old name of Page, Keen & Page disappeared. Bowden and Sons later became part of the Michael Spiers group of jewellers.