The First Argyll
In the 18th Century, the argyle (also spelled ‘argyle’) was famously named after, and crafted in honour of, the fifth Duke of Argyll, John Campbell and his wife, Elizabeth Gunning, Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon. Throughout winter, the Duke lamented the fact that his gravy was served freezing cold due to the extended distance between the kitchen and the dining table. So, in order to prevent this, the argyle was created.
Evolution of the Argyle
The earliest prototypes had an internal compartment that could be heated up with an iron rod which kept the contents warm.
Gradually, different shapes, styles, and sizes of argyles were crafted. There were a few different adaptations, and; with each alteration, the heating system improved. Gradually, the argyle changed from the aforementioned rod technique to an internal double-walled chamber that could be filled with hot water.
Argyles are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, but typically most have a rounded, curved body, and a small foot to the bottom. Typically, the spout is placed close to the bottom of the argyle; this allowed the gravy served to be drawn from underneath the layer of fat that settled on top.
Perhaps it’s because of the shape, but many people bought argyles with the assumption that they were tea or coffee pots and attempted to use them for that purpose. One person described the argyle as a ‘curious little water warmed coffee pot’ (Clark, 1926).
However, later they began to be sold as individual coffee pots. The argyle’s dual usage makes it quite a practical piece of silverware.