Last week in Marrakech I bought a couple of interesting silver-plated objects – a sugar-box and tea-caddy made by Richard Wright of Manchester. Wright has, as all Moroccans know, given his name to the silver tea-tray, or rayt, and was also responsible for what must have been enormous exports of silver-plate from the 1830s onwards, perhaps well into the latter part of the century. Wright teapots are common enough, especially 1½ pint plain silver pots. I have also seen 2 pint versions of the same, and others with repoussé flower-decorations. There are much more elaborate 1½ pint (and perhaps larger) sharafia-work teapots with feet, lattice-work engraving and crowns on the lid.
My two boxes are the first I have seen, though I don’t imagine they are enormously rare. It is clear that Richard Wright set out to supply the utensils for the budding tea-trade between England and Morocco. With tea-trays, caddies, sugar boxes and tea-pots he seems to have covered the field: I have also seen an incense-burner, and heard tell of a coffee-pot.
The interesting thing about Wright is that I can find no trace of him in Manchester or anywhere else in England. It is possible that his work came to be imitated in Morocco, and that later Wright pieces are local copies, perhaps made in Fes to capitalize on the popularity of the Wright brand. But the original Wright must have existed. Who was he? His mark appears in no directory of silver plate marks that I have consulted; and his name is absent from trade directories. English museum metalwork departments know nothing of him.
One possibility is that his was a confected identity created or taken over by Jewish or Muslim Moroccan traders in Manchester to brand exports to their home country. The dealer who sold to me in Marrakech last week told me that the sharafia work decoration was applied to silver put out to Jewish metalworkers (presumably in Manchester, though he had no idea of this). Many, perhaps most, Mancunian Moroccans were from Fes, the centre of the fine metal-working trade in Morocco, and later a major centre of tea-pot manufacture.
I’ve attached a few pictures. Do any of my readers have any idea about Richard Wright, or know anything about the silver-plate trade in Morocco? I’d be grateful for any references, anecdotes, photographs or other information. This is his mark, stamped on the base of his export items in English and Arabic: