Instow Cup was ‘typical of its time’

Joseph Bulmer

Chalice created under Archbishop of Canterbury orders

THE Instow Communion Cup is believed to have been in the possession of Instow Parish since its manufacture in 1576 by John Jones of Exeter, one of the most productive Devon goldsmiths of his age.

Records show that Jones became a Freeman of Exeter in 1555, was bailiff in 1567 and churchwarden at St Petrock’s in 1570. More than 130 of his communion cups have survived and some are still in use.

Alison Mills, museum development manager at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, said the chalice would have held consecrated wine and bread and was “typical of its time”.

“It was re-fashioned in Exeter from an earlier communion cup,” she said.

“The design is very plain, following the Church’s instructions to replace the ‘old massing chalices’ with ‘decent’ communion cups of prescribed design.

“In the Exeter diocese this happened between 1575 and 1577. As sacred imagery was considered ‘superstitious’ in the Church of England, other forms of ornament were introduced.

“Instructions for the change in design came from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and were relayed to local goldsmiths by the Goldsmiths’ Company.

“This gave a massive boost to the goldsmiths’ trade and the great demand led to the formal establishment of assay offices outside London, at Chester, York, Norwich and Exeter. John Jones of Exeter is known to have created at least 130 others throughout the West Country.

“In this example the engraved scrolling on the cup and paten is characteristic of the Renaissance ornament that had recently been introduced into England from Continental Europe.

“The Tudor rose motif on the paten is also typical of the time, perhaps representing the obedience of the church and the people to the throne.

“This communion cup and paten demonstrates how liturgical silver developed new forms to signal the move away from Roman Catholic traditions.

“It has suffered considerable damage over the past 400 years – three splits to the rim, which have made it unusable for dispensing communion wine. However, the damage does not detract from the value as a museum object.”