George Unite – A Birmingham Silversmith and His Family

George Unite was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire in 1799. His father was Charles Unite (b1775 ). Not much is known of his early life but George Unite was apprenticed to Joseph Willmore in 1810, and went on to register his own makers mark in 1832, which was used until 1865.

George married Ann Wilkenson (b1840) on 3rd October 1824 at St Peter and St Paul in Aston, Warwickshire. Their eldest son George Richard Unite was born that same year. The couple had 7 children in total – George Richard was followed by Dora in 1827, Samuel b1829, Barbara b1831, Edward b1833, William Oliver b1835 and Frances b1841.

The eldest son George William Unite had followed his father into the silversmithing business by 1860. He married Anne Maria Loach that year at St Bride Fleet Street London, and gave his occupation as silversmith. Anne was a widow three years older than George William, and the couple had no children.

The second son Samuel was listed in the 1851 census as a silversmith, although it seems he specialised in the fashionable Japanware, being listed as a Japaner with premises at 27 Northwood Street in Birmingham in 1855. He married in 1856 but died in 1861 without children aged 32.

The census of 1861 shows the third son Edward still living in the family home of 65 Caroline Street, Birmingham, and his occupation is given as jeweller. The street today lies within the Birmingham jewellery quarter. Four years later in 1865, the business became George Unite and Sons, and all three sons were involved in the business. This agreement continued after George Unite’s death 4th July 1874 until 1896 when, with the death of eldest son George Richard Unite, the business partnership dissolved.

Third son Edward had married Mary Jane Moffat in Sollihull in 1867. They had one son – George Willoughby Grosvenor Unite b 1871. The fourth son William Oliver Unite had married in 1861. He had 4 children but his only son George Lander Oliver Unite predeceased him in 1886, dying aged just 14.

Of George’s three daughters, Barbara and Dora didn’t marry. The youngest child Frances married Thomas Turner a gun maker in 1868. The Unite family wealth seeems to have gone to Edward’s only son George Willoughby Grosvenor Unite, who was independently wealthy. Marrying in 1900, the 1901 census shows him as living on his own means with 2 servants. He died in 1942 age 71 at Granard House, 98 Dovehouse Street London, leaving £66,000 to his widow Mary. In today’s money that would be £2.6 million.

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William Comyns

The silversmiths firm of William Comyns was established in approximately 1859 and by the early 1880s had become notable because of the high quality decorative silver ware the company produced. William Comyns gained particular fame for pieces incorporating highly integrate designs and also for his silver and tortoise shell pieces incorporating William Comynshigh quality silver pique work. The popularity of William Comyns was aided by the company selling its products via prestigious London retailers such as Tiffany and Co, Henry Lewis, etc. The desirability of William Comyns silver and Tortoiseshell pieces was so great that William Comyns became the primary and most desirable producers of items such as the highly ornate tortoiseshell and silver clocks. Examples of these in good condition fetch very good prices at auction. William Comyns also collaborated with good porcelain  manufacturers such as Royal Worcester and Crown Staffaordshire to produce some wonderful silver and porcelain tea and coffee sets consisting of fine china coffee cans held within ornate silver holders presented on matching china saucers (Figure 3).

Figure 3 for Comyns BlogThere are collectors who specialise in William Comyns and because of this good pieces are steadily disappearing into private collections. This of course makes William Comyns silver quite hard to find with a consequent knock on effect in terms of value. However, it is still possible to acquire good pieces at reasonable prices, for example a late Victorian William Comyns Bonbon spoon (Figure 1) may be bought for between £150 – £200 and, a good Edwardian William Comyns silver and tortoiseshell trinket box (Figure 2) may be bought for between £450 – £550.  We try to ensure that  keep a number of Victorian and Edwardian William Comyns pieces in stock.

George W Adams and the Chawner Silversmiths

By Rachel Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

January 1797 in England started with violent winds and stormy seas. January 4th fell on a Wednesday and on that day Jonthan Chawner, a tanner from Horncastle in Lincoln, travelledFigure 1 to London to sign apprentice indenture papers with William Fearn for his son William ChWilliam Chawner salt spoonawner.[1]

William Fearn was a well-respected silversmith known for producing quality flatware. 1797 also saw him begin a partnership with William Eley, and a joint makers mark was registered.[2] William Eley had done his own apprenticeship with Fearn in 1770. William Chawner’s apprenticeship must have gone well, because he joined Fearn and Eley as a partner in 1808, with a triple makers mark (Figure 1) being registered in that year[3]. This partnership continued until 1815, when William Chawner set up Chawner & Co (Figure 2), and moved into silversmith premises at 16 Hosier Street, West Smithfield in London which had formerly been occupied by George Smith.[4] On 16th June that year, William married Mary Burwash at St Bartholomew the Great[5]. The couple went on to have 2 children –  William Chawner (b1817) and Mary Ann Chawner (b1818).

In 1834, William Chawner died aged around 51. His son William was just 17 years old, therefore his widow Mary took over the business whilst William did his apprenticeship, however it was not to be. At the end of the 1830s William Chawner decided against joining the family business, and instead chose to go into the Church. By this time, his sister Mary Ann had married, in 1838, to George William Adams. It was agreed that he would go into the business with her mother, and a joint makers mark was registered from March – November 1840. After this, George Adams took over Chawner & Co, and ran it exceptionally well. He was an exhibitor at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the company became one of the largest producers of top quality silver flatware in Victorian England. The Chawner & Co pattern book was published in 1875, and became the encyclopedia for Victorian flatware patterns. It was heavily referenced by Ian Pickford in his now-standard reference book on silver flatware.[6]

William Chawner Figure1The 1881 census shows that George’s son, George Turner Adams (b1841) had also become a silversmith[7], and the subject of him taking over Chawner & Co must surely have been discussed. Maybe George Adams felt that his son wasn’t up to running the firm, or perhaps his son had indicated he didn’t want to remain in the business, as his uncle had done before him. Whatever the reason, George Adams sold the business in 1883 to Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater, and his son didn’t remain in silversmithing. By 1891, George T Adams had become a commercial handler of timber[8] and by 1901 a commercial traveller,[9] and by 1911 he was a commercial traveller and watchmaker.[10]

George William Adams remained close to his Chawner relatives. His brother in law William graduated from St Johns College Cambridge, and had a string of clerical appointments. He married in 1844 and had 6 children. William’s eldest son, another William Chawner (1848-1911) also went into the Church. A graduate of Emmanuel College Cambridge, he went on to become a Fellow, Tutor, Master then Vice-Chancellor of the college. Another son Alfred (1852-1916) went onto become a surgeon, physician and medical practitioner. The 1871 census shows both these nephews, then aged 23 and 18 respectively, residing with George Adams at 73 Addison Road, London[11] (Figure 3)

It was certainly a comfortable home, as the census shows the household included a cook, a housemaid and a footman. If Jonathan Chawner had foreseen the future family fortunes on that blustery January day in 1797 when he took his son to sign the apprenticeship papers, I think he would have been pleased.


[1] London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/1282-1287

[2] Grimwade 3112

[3] Grimwade 3114

[4] London Metropolitan Archive, Records of the Sun Fire Office, MS 11936/468/906890  15 May 1815

[5] Guildhall, St Bartholomew the Great, Register of marriages, 1813 – 1827, P69/BAT3/A/01/Ms 6779/5.

[6] Silver Flatware: English, Irish and Scottish, 1660-1980 ISBN 9780907462354

[7] UK 1881 Census RG11; Piece: 61; Folio: 118; Page: 16; GSU roll: 1341013

[8] UK 1891 Census Class: RG12; Piece: 40; Folio: 92; Page: 31; GSU Roll: 6095150

[9] UK 1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 22; Folio: 67; Page: 31

[10] UK 1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 255

[11] UK 1871 Census RG10; Piece:35;Folio: 113; Page: 59; GSU roll:838760

This Blog is also Available via AntiqueStalker.co.uk

Diana Princess of Wales and the Victorian Silversmiths Cornelius Saunders and Francis Shepherd

History is a funny thing, simple actions can, by playing a part in big historical events at a later date have significCornelius Saunders and Francis Shepherd Blog Imageant implications in the long term. Take for example the jewelery company Saunders, Shepherd & Co Ltd.

Saunders, Shepherd & Co Ltd was established in 1869 by Cornelius Desormeaux Sanders Sr and James Francis Hollings Shepherd in 1869. Although a big event for them, in the grand scheme of things the registering of a company happens all the time and is really a pretty minor event. However, in this case the small event lead to great things. Cornelius Saunders and Francis Shepherd were silver smiths and jewelers who had quite an inventive turn of mind. In 1889 they invented the Krementz, a patent one piece shirt stud and also the self closing bracelet. In 1893 they registered their silver mark CS*FS (Figure 1) and used this to make high quality heavy grade silver items such as the the charming Stirling silver mustard pot shown in Figure 2. By 1899 they had become recognised as goldsmiths, jewelers, silversmiths, gem ring and gold chain makers, particularly specialising in silver, jet and onyx jewellery for the export market. They evenFigure 3 Diana's Bracelettually changed the company name to Saunders, Shepherd & Co Ltd in 1916, by which time they had established factories at 58-61 Fetter Lane, London, 94, Vyse Street, Birmingham and a branch at 62, Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Between then and the 1940s the company started to lead on jewellery design and also started to import and manufacture watches. However, Saunders, Shepherd & Co Ltd had a rough time during the depression of the 1930s and during WW2, with their London premises being badly bomb damaged in in 1941. By 1945 the company was down to just 30 employees, but it recovered eventually moving to 1 Bleeding Heart Yard, London in 1980.

In 1981 the future of Saunders, Shepherd & Co Ltd seemed secure, they were commissioned to make an 18ct gold bracelet for Lady Diana Spencer who wore it on the day of her wedding to Prince Charles on July 29th of that year (Figure 3). Since then the company has grown from strength to strength, they now  concentrate on the design of high quality jewelery. They were joined by Eterna watches in 1996. They are also the exclusive distributors for Fope Jewellery of Vicenza, Italy, they export to the USA and have launched watch brands such as Bergerie and SandS. They are now based at their new factory in Albion Street, Birmingham and are thriving.

The Penrose Antiques Ltd Ruby Lane Shop

Well things have changed, our Ruby Lane shop has grown substantially and the number and range of stock items available has increased tremendously.  We now have a range of silver by excellent silversmiths such as the Bateman family and William Comyns. We also stock lovely porcelain including Royal Worcester, Old derby, first period Worcester and Crown Staffordshire to name but a few and pottery from makers such as Davenport, Doulton, Allerton, Spode and  Elsmore & Forster. We also have some lovely glass, 18th Century English Delft, high quality vintage watches (including military watches) and a few boxes, although good boxes seem to fly out almost as fast as we find them. At the moment we have a truly beautiful Regency rosewood and mother of pearl twin chamber tea caddy complete with the typical Georgian wooden ring handle and  typical elegant Regency moldings, see below. Boxes link this are normally quite distressed or have been questionably renovated, but this one is a real peach and in a lovely original condition. The stock is changing on an almost daily basis so it is definitely well worth visiting on a regular basis.Regency Tea Caddy 1a

The Georgian Newcastle Tankard

We have just acquired a superb Georgian Solid Silver Tankard made by the excellent Newcastle silversmith John  Langland II

Newcastle Silver Tankard 1798-9 a

The Langlands family were the largest manufacturers of silver and silver plate in Newcastle. The Langlands manufactured silver for over 60 years with John Langland II taking over the business following his fathers death in 1795. John Langland II died in 1804, but his widow Dorothy Langland maintained a flourishing business right up to 1814.

This particular tankard is beautiful. It carries the hallmarks for Newcastle 1798-9 and the makers mark for John Langland II. It is a presentation tankard, and was further engraved with a lovely ornate pattern in approximately 1867. Along with this pattern there is an inscription for a Mr Matthew Bernard, who apparently served as Treasurer of the Sir Colin Campbell Lodge of the Odd Fellows Friendly Society for 9 years. It seems that the lodge met at the Crown Inn, Rochdale Road, Bury, Lancashire, this English pub is still, after all this time, serving beer. I wonder if Mr Bernard celebrated receiving this tankard by quenching his thirst with it on the day of it’s presentation?

Newcastle Silver Tankard 1798-9 c

The tankard is in a lovely antique condition, however there are one or two tiny indentations in the body and the hallmarks and makers mark on the main body are rubbed but legible

The Tankard weighs just over 300g and is 5 inches high. It is currently for sale via our Ruby Lane shop.

The Doulton Biscuit Barrel

Every antique has its own history, and that history is often linked to the history of the region of origin or the manufacturer. A nice example is a lovely Doulton Burslem Biscuit barrel with silver plated mounts and decorated with the Doulton Persian Spray pattern. This particular item screams about the history of a small pottery maker Pinder Bourne and how Pinder Bourne became incorporated into what is now known as Royal Doulton.

Doulton Burslem Biscuit Barrel 1886-1891 a

 

 

A lovely Doulton Biscuit Barrel decorated with the Doulton Persian Spray pattern dating to between 1886 and 1891. This item is currently for sale via our Ruby Lane shop

Pinder, Bourne and Co was established at the Swan Bank Works, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in around 1848 by Thomas Pinder. They manufactured a range of earthenwares. By 1851, the company had moved to Fountain Place Burslem and the company name changed to Pinder Bourne and Hope. The company moved yet again to Nile Street, Burslem in 1860, and once again changed its name to Pinder Bourne and Co in 1862. In 1877, Henry Doulton was offered the opportunity of becoming a partner in Pinder Bourne and Co for the princely sum of £12,000, however Doulton and Pinder did not really get on very well, partially because the company wasted the £12,000, and matters were only resolved via arbitration. Pinder retired and Henry Doulton took over the firm, changing the company name to Doulton and Co. Pieces dating from about this time represented a mix of artistic influences, many of the old Pinder Bourne patterns were retained, but re-branded. For example, the Doulton Persian Spray pattern seen on our biscuit barrel was actually the Pinder Bourne and Co Pomegranate pattern.

At about the time of the Doulton takeover, John Slater the Pinder Bourne art director persuaded Doulton to expand into china as well as earthenware. The range of items produced increased incredibly and Doulton produced a vast array of figurines, character jugs, vases, and decorative wares. The products became steadily more popular eventually coming to the attention of King Edward the VII who granted the Royal Warrant that allowed Doulton to incorporate a crown into their back-stamp giving rise to what we now know as the excellent pottery company Royal Doulton.

Beautiful Things – The Regency Egg Cups by Crispin Fuller 1819

One of the real pleasures of buying and selling antiques is the acquisition of beautiful things. A nice example of recently acquired beautiful things is an absolutely lovely pair of Regency egg cups. I know egg cups, sound fairly mundane, but in this case they are not, anything but.

These particular egg cups are what I would describe as something quite special. They are amazingly crafted consisting of 2 and 1/8 inch diameter bowls that have been stunningly embossed with a lovely floral design. The bowls then sit upon a beautifully simple pedestal, which in turn sits on a once more finely decorated base. The egg cups are fully hallmarked for London 1819 and were made by the very good silversmith Crispin Fuller (Makers Mark CF). When describing pieces of silver like this it is very easy to become taken over be superlatives, in this case the superlatives are well justified. Not only are the truly lovely, but they are of a heavy grade of silver, weighing approximately 1.5 ounces each and made by a good silversmith. As one would expect with pieces of this age they do carry one or two imperfections, the makers mark on one egg cup is a bit rubbed and the flanges around the bowls are not all quite uniform, but generally these egg cups are in a great antique condition.

Crispin Fuller Egg Cups 1819.1L

For more details and an opportunity to buy these lovely silver items please visit our Ruby Lane shop.

Builth Wells Antiques Fair (4th and 5th of May 2013)

Come and visit us at the Builth Wells International Antiques Fair this weekend. Look for the above sign to find us and if you tell us tell us you saw it on WordPress, Pinterest or Twitter we will give you a 20% discount on any item or items on our stand. We will be  in Hall 2 Stand B10.Penrose Antiques sign

Happy shoping

Rachel and Morgan

Investable Silversmiths Part V: Exeter Silversmith William Rawlings Sobey

Following on from the Stone family silversmiths, William Rawlings Sobey (1811 – 1852) is another sought-after Exeter silversmith. Born in Exeter around 1811, his makers marks are registered from 1833 to about 1852. He was a contemporary of John Stone, and like John Stone, he manufactured spoons, (Figure 1) butterknives and other flatware in the Fiddler and Old English patterns. The 1841 & 1851 census returns show him as resident in All Hallows Goldsmith Street. The 1851 White’s Devonshire Dictionary lists his workshop as being at 1 Queen Street.William Rowlings Sobey William Rowlings Sobey

Unlike John Stone, William Rowlings Sobey was not folllowed by his son into the business. When William died in 1852 aged 41, he left behind 4 children. His only son George Ferris Sobey (b1840) was 11 at the time of his father’s death. George went onto become a solicitor in London. He married and had 8 children prior to his own death aged 46 in 1886.

After William’s death, his widow Elizabeth lived with their two youngest children Elizabeth Anne Sobey (b1843) and Fanny Lucy Sorbey (b1844) at St  James Place in Exeter. In the 1860s, Elizabeth Anne Sobey married William Borrough but she was widowed young. The youngest child Fanny died unmarried in 1871 aged 27.

For further details about the caddy spoon in Figure 1 contact enquiries@penroseantiques.co.uk

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