Woman of Business

It is generally assumed that, like Hester Bateman, female goldsmiths of the eighteenth century were widows who continued to run the businesses bequeathed to them by their husbands. This is certainly true in the majority of cases but, as with all rules, there is an exception.

On August 14th 1748, Elizabeth Jackson (nee Dickenson) registered her mark (EJ in a lozenge - Grimwade 601) at Goldsmiths’ Hall. The marriage of Elizabeth Jackson and William Oldfield took place on 14th September 1750 at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden and no indication is given as to William’s previous profession or Elizabeth's marital history . However, on 19th December 1750, the register carries another mark entry for “Elizabeth Oldfield” (maker’s mark EO in a rectangle – Grimwade 628). This mark was re-registered on 5th September 1754. William Oldfield died in 1766. He appears to have adopted his wife’s profession of Goldsmith, for he is noted as such in his will dated 6th February 1766 and proved on 21st April. However throughout his life the business was run in the name of his wife.

Elizabeth survived her husband by nearly a decade and continued working. She died in early 1775 and her will [3], proved on 6th May 1775, mentions a legacy to her unmarried sister, Ann Dickenson, thereby establishing her own maiden name.  Unfortunately it has not, so far, proved possible to find a record of her birth or her previous marriage to Mr. Jackson.  It is certainly possible that, as suggested in Grimwade, Elizabeth’s first husband was Charles Jackson (Grimwade 337, 339, 1095 and 3611): like Elizabeth, he was a noted spoon maker.  However no evidence has been found to confirm this marriage. When she registered her first mark in 1748, as Elizabeth Jackson, her address was Paternoster Row whereas Charles Jackson’s last recorded address had been ‘at the Golden Cup in St. Swithin’s Lane’ in 1739.

Elizabeth Oldfield (formerly Jackson and neé Dickenson) appears to be a very early example of a married woman who was openly credited with the running of a goldsmith’s business, although many may have done so in an unacknowledged capacity.

Luke Schrager

The Registers of St. Paul’s Covent Garden, London- Marriages 1653-1837: Harleian Society Vol. 35: 1907.

Public Record Office: Prob 11/918, Image Reference 52.

  Public Record Office: Prob 11/1008, Image reference 51.


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