Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!

Signed and dated 1850


LOST on Monday between Old Town Street & Union St, purse containing sovereigns…

This unusual silhouette is a posthumous portrait of William Tucker town crier of Plymouth, a position he held for thirty-five years. Dressed in his regalia of gilt-edged cloak and tricorn hat, and carrying two bells, he would have a prominent figure on the streets. On this particular day he is advertising the lose of a purse containing sovereigns. No doubt there would have been a reward offered for its safe return.

A bell man or town crier spread the news at a time when many people could not read newspapers. The tradition dates back to the sixteenth century when Chester’s first bell man was paid one penny for ‘going for anything that is lost’ and four pennies for leading a funeral procession. An article in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette on 12 July 1828 records how the town crier (possibly William Tucker) gave notice that Henry Broom — described as ‘a wretch in human shape’ — was intending to auction his wife. He subsequently sold her for one pound, much to the crowd’s anger and a riot broke out.

The silhouette is painted and has a watercolour border. It is signed and dated August 1850 on the reverse. The artist was probably a relative of the sitter. The silhouette is also inscribed along the bottom edge – WILLIAM TUCKER / Died Novr 1st, 1848. Aged 79. Being Town crier of the Borough of Plymouth 35 Years. The silhouette is set in the original dark wood frame.

Item Ref. 4473

Size: framed, 380 x 338mm (14⅞ x 13⅜")