Antique Treen Trenchers - evolution of the plate
An antique treen trencher was a flat rectangular/square piece of wood which was indented in the centre to retain the juices from food such as meat, before plates existed. Improved designs had a second smaller cavity for salt. The examples with the small depression for the salt were probably from a wealthy household as salt was expensive in the 1500's.
The trenchers acted as small cutting boards when people ate just with their fingers and knives and wear should be seen on both sides.
Actually before the wooden treen trenchers, bread was used as a material for a trencher, it was baked and then kept for four days to dry out and then trimmed to shape after use these bread trenchers would have been given to the dogs.
These antique treen trenchers possibly then evolved into the plate we know today. Certainly when pewter and china became available the use of wood declined and only a small number of these square trenchers remain.
From the inventory from Abingdon Court Hall we know that 100 of these trenchers were ordered in 1576. Often ceremonial events would end with a dinner and presumably these trenchers were used for official used. Some are on display at the museum still.
Six were apparently found on the Mary Rose.
Images show a small trencher with lots of wear on both sides and interestingly the number 1v to the reverse, possibly indicating this came from a set of trenchers.
They are extremely rare although some made later in the 1800 and 1900's exist.