Silver Toast Racks
Margaret Crumpton and her husband Peter Crumpton are the authors of the book British Ceramic Toast Racks, published by Richard Dennis publications at The Old Chapel on Shepton Beauchamp in Somerset, England.
“It is impossible to write about the toast rack without first giving some thought to toast itself. The word toast derives from the Latin torrere (tostum – to parch or to dry with heat). A person or an occasion is honored by ‘toasting’ them or it – a term that is derived from the floating of toast in tankards of ale, a practice which dates back to the fifteenth century.” – Margaret Crumpton
Silver Toast Racks
by Margaret Crumpton and Peter Crumpton
The earliest toast racks were made of silver.
Silver toast racks seemed to have been introduced c. 1770, but earlier hallmark examples may be recorded. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century racks became more and more fashionable, their design sitting well with other table silver. Toast racks were beautiful objects.
Reflecting prevailing styles, the dividers were often made from silver wire formed into imaginative scrolls and arches reseting on elegant feet, frequently with a tray and generally for six slices of toast, although a nine-divider rack is noted from 1774.
The introduction of less expensive Sheffield Plate in the 1780′s popularized toast racks and these followed the same elegant silver designs.
The great silversmiths of the day, such as Paul Storr and Matthew Boulton, included toast racks in their oeuvre. In this enlightened age the challenge to innovate was taken up by designers. Samuel Roberts, for example, patented a folding toast rack in 1807; numerous models were introduced incorporating condiment sets.
Toast racks closely followed design styles into the Victorian period – even Pugin produced a Gothic revival toast rack. Throughout the nineteenth century earlier styles remained in production but new designs were introduced – pyramids, Tudor scrolls, rustic arches, wishbones, and molecular structures. What might be termed ‘novelty’ racks appeared in the late nineteenth century with leaves as dividers, followed by tennis rackets, golf clubs, and boats.
During the same period the design gurus of the day conceived the most beautiful, interesting creative ideas – the avante garde pieces by Christopher Dresser, and the arts and crafts designs by Voysey and Ashbee, are the most expensive and sought-after masterpieces.