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The evolution of lion passant


Daniel. I was fascinated by your recent explanation of how the duty mark changed when the level of duty increased in the course of a year (see posting ‘Absence of a town mark?’). That detail prompts me to wonder why marks other than the duty mark changed at particular times. For example the London Leopard’s head became ‘uncrowned’ during 1821-22 and the shape of its surrounding mark was altered twice in the subsequent five years. Another example would be the change in form of the lion passant in London in June 1887, only to return to its former form in 1840. I’m being lazy in asking you these questions: Perhaps you can recommend a good source of information on such matters. Best wishes. Peter


Hi again Peter,
There is no actual reason given for the changes in 1822, but the most likely explanation for the different designs was to discourage counterfeit marks, which was causing concern at the time. The actual changes in 1822 were two fold, the lions head uncrowned and the lion passant guardant (facing towards you) was replaced by the lion passant (facing forwards). Another possible reason for this was that in 1820 the assay office decided to increase marking charges, due to the fact that they were losing money at the time, so these changed marks may have been used as a way of showing this increase, much like the duty increase marks. Other changes in the marks, specifically those seen around 1839-1840, were due to the change of the engraver in charge of assay marks (John Smith 1815-1839, William Wyon 1839-1851), who redesigned the Leopards head and lion passant marks.

As you can see it is a little more complex than the reasons for the change in the shape of the duty mark. The best resource I can suggest is J. S. Forbes book, Hallmark: A History of the London Assay Office, which starts out explaining why hallmarking was introduced, and goes on to explain changes in laws, duties, and the personnel involved in the assay office. It is very comprehensive, and was only published in 1999 so should be easy to get hold of.

Let me know if you need any further info.
Best regards


Thanks, Daniel. As informative and helpful as ever! Best wishes. Peter