William Chaffers

William Chaffers (28 September 1811 – 12 April 1892) was an English antiquary and writer of reference works on hallmarks, and marks on ceramics. His Marks and Monograms on Pottery and Porcelain, first published in 1863, has appeared in many later editions.


Chaffers was the son of William Chaffers and wife Sarah, and was born in Watling Street, London, in 1811; he was descended from a brother of Richard Chaffers (1731–1765), a manufacturer of Liverpool porcelain. He was educated at Margate and at Merchant Taylors' School, where he was entered in 1824.[1][2]

He was attracted to antiquarian studies while a clerk in the city of London, by the discovery of Roman and medieval antiquities in the foundations of the Royal Exchange during 1838–9. At the same time he began to concentrate attention upon the study of gold and silver plate and ceramics, especially in regard to the official and other marks by which dates and places of fabrication can be distinguished. In 1863 Chaffers published two important works:[1]

Other publications are The Keramic Gallery, in 2 volumes, with 500 illustrations (1872); a handbook abridged from Marks and Monograms (1874); Gilda Aurifabrorum, a history of goldsmiths and plate workers and their marks (1883); also a priced catalogue of coins, and other minor catalogues.[1][2]

His reputation was furthered in organizing exhibitions of art treasures, at Manchester in 1857, South Kensington in 1862, Leeds in 1869, Dublin in 1872, Wrexham in 1876, and Hanley (at the great Staffordshire exhibition of ceramics) in 1890. Chaffers was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1843, and he was a frequent contributor to Archæologia, to Notes and Queries, and to various learned periodicals upon the two subjects of which he had particular knowledge.[1]

In 1841 he married Charlotte Matilda, daughter of John Hewett.[2] About 1870 he retired from Fitzroy Square to a house in Willesden Lane, and later moved to West Hampstead, where he died on 12 April 1892.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Seccombe, Thomas (1901). "Chaffers, William"  . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 409.
  2. ^ a b c d "Chaffers, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5016 . (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


Categories: 1811 births | 1892 deaths | Information and reference writers | Pottery | 19th-century antiquarians | Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London

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