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The 53 lots from the late Charles C Brian’s collection, estimated at £20,000-30,000, took £43,000 at the December 4 sale.

One spoon appeared to solve something of a local mystery.

This was a 7½in (19cm) long trefid spoon by Henry Muston bearing the Borough of Plymouth mark and the word Sterling in a shield-shaped punch and with its finial pricked W over GK 1694.

It is highly likely that it was the spoon Charles James Jackson described in English Goldsmiths and their Marks, first published in 1905, using it as the source for Plymouth marks.

‘The Plymouth Spoon’, as it became known, was owned by the city’s manufacturing retailer Page, Keen & Page which made replicas to sell as souvenirs of Plymouth. Having survived a Luftwaffe bomb, it had disappeared by around 1957 when the firm was taken over.

Chilcotts specialist Jennifer Bell, who recognised it while cataloguing the collection, hoped it would stay in the city but it went to a Norfolk collector at a double-estimate £2100.

Excited by Exeter

The top-selling spoon was another Exeter piece: a 1576 seal top by John Jones described by Timothy Kent in West Country Silver Spoons and their Marks as “one of the most important and successful provincial goldsmiths of his epoch”.

Bearing the town mark in the bowl and I and Ions on the stem along with the informal date letter B, the 6¼in (16cm) long spoon estimated at £1000-1500 sold to a northern dealer bidding for a collector at £3600.

While Brian’s principal love was spoons, which accounted for 48 of the lots, his collection was led by a piece of Exeter hollowware – a Britannia standard tazza by Abraham Lovell, 1716. Of plain circular form but engraved to centre with a crest, the 10in (25.5cm) diameter, 3¼in (8.5cm) high tazza, more than tripled top hopes selling to a local collector at £3800.