Hester Bateman isn’t only the most popular of all women silversmiths, but also an exceptional business woman and one of the greatest silversmiths of her period.
Born in Clerkenwell in 1708, she married John Bateman, goldsmith, in 1732 and they had six children.
When her husband died in 1760, she was most certainly already well-versed in the business since John handed-down all his tools to her and she was able to register her own mark the following year giving birth to a family business that prospered for almost a century.
Hester was most probably illiterate, which makes her success even more extraordinary. She brought into business her sons Peter and Jonathan, together with Jonathan's wife Ann. In 1790 Hester retired and her sons and Ann registered their own mark. After their retirement, Ann’s and Jonathan’s son William carried on the family business until it finally closed in 1843.
The firm specialised in a vast range of household silverware in the neoclassical style including trays, inkwells, teapots, salt cellars and sugar bowls. Beaded edges, graceful shapes, piercing and bright-cut engravings are characteristic of the Bateman’s production.
Using the latest technology at the time, the company was able to compete on price with other companies making Sheffield Plate items whilst maintaining extremely high standards and quality.
The firm received commissions from religious congregations, private individuals and the City Guilds.
Nowaday, a fine collection of the firm’s production can be admired at the Victoria and Albert Museum.