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.

Henry Morley and His Stirling Landscape Paintings

Henry Morley was an influential Stirling artist. He was born in Nottingham in 1870 and trained in Paris before studying in Stirling with Joseph Denovan Adam the renowned painter of Highland Cattle. Henry Morley chose to live in the Stirling area and married the rectors daughter and artist Isobel Miller Hutchinson in 1901. Henry and Isobel Morley were leading lights in the arts & crafts movement, to the extent that they commissioned Crawford and Fraser to build the arts & crafts house, The Gables, St Ninians, into which they moved in 1910. It seems they were very much at the centre of Stirling society and entertained artist and designers at the heart of the Scottish arts and crafts movement such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The impact of the Henry and Isobel Morley in the area is still very evident even today with Morley Crescent in Stirling being named after them.

Henry Morley mostly painted recognisable Stirling rural landscapes, in which he often captured the work of agricultural labourers (See Figure 1 “The Horse Pond”). His work was well liked in the Stirling area and he sold many of his works locally via exhibitions at the Stirling Fine Arts Association held in The Smith Institute (now The Stirling Smith Art gallery & Museum). More recently (2005) the importance and popularity of his work was celebrated in a large Henry Morely dedicated exhibition in the same location.

The Horse Pond, Oil on Canvas, Henry Morley Circa 1934 1Figure 1 The Horse Pond, oil on canvas by Henry Morley. The painting depicts a Stirling rural scene agricultural workers watering horses at “The Horse Pond”. The painting is 14 inches (35.5cm) X 17 inches (43.18cm) and is presented in its original glazed frame. The reverse of the frame carries a label from the Stirling Fine Arts Association showing the title of the work (The Horse Pond), the artists name (Henry Morley), his address (The Gables, St Ninians, Stirling) and also the date of the exhibition (16th January 1935).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Great Ocean Liners Potter

The popularity of cruise holidays has grown in recent years and represents a continuation of a great elegant tradition, that of the great ocean liners of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Opulence was the word from luxurious fabrics to state of the art gadgets combined with the best dining experience and sumptuous state-rooms, the great age of the ocean liners was truly a Bishop & Stonier Water Jug and Bowl 1playground for the well healed traveler. Obviously only the best was good enough and this applied to everything, including the china. One major supplier of china to the luxury shipping industry was the company Bishop and Stonier. The company Bishop and Stonier was formed by William Livesley, Edwin Powell and Fredrick Bishop under the name of Livesley Powell & Co in 1851. Livesley and Powell were both potters, but Bishop was a lawyer who funded the operation. Much of their wares were shipped to the USA, for example in 1851 over one million items were recorded as having been shipped to New York. On Livesley’s retirement in 1866 the company name changed to Powell and Bishop. In 1878 Powell and Bishop were joined by John Stonier. John Stonier was a glass and china merchant based in Liverpool who had built up a considerable business fitting out the great liners of the day, including the ships of the White Star Line. In 1891 Stonier formed a new company with Duncan Watson Bishop using the trade mark Bisto incorporating the first two letters of both their names along with the Wand of Caduceus. Their advertising slogan was “The sun never sets on Bisto ware” and of course this implied a link with Bisto ware and the glamour of the great liners plying the oceans of the world. Stonier and Co was the supplier of china for the Titanic and unsurprisingly Bisto ware featured highly on board the ill-fated ship, including plates carrying the small pattern used in 1st Class along with the Delft pattern and Flow pattern used in 2nd Class. By the 1920s many producers of pottery had started to experiment with more flamboyant patterns and colours. Bisto was amongst these and produced a number of quite eye catching art deco bathroom sets (Figure 1) along with the now famed Aztec ware. Bisto was sold to George Jones & Sons in 1933 and they continued to use the Bisto mark until 1939. For more details about the china aboard the Titanic see “A look at the china patterns used on Titanic“. For more details about Bishop & Stonier marks see the Potters Index.

The Antique Cradle

Every antique dealer should have an antique cradle. It’s almost a rite of passage. However, it is very hard to say why. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that caring for a child is a prime instinct and that somehow a cradle in a display gives warmth, conjuring up the image of a safe, homely scene with the baby gentle being rocked to sleep by a doting parent. How cosey the scene seems! That the cradle conveys this image is set deep into our psyche, one only has to think of nursery rhymes “Rock-a-bye baby”. The concept of the crib even infiltrates our understanding of the very foundations of our society –  “the cradle of civilisation” for example.

A Georgian oak cradle, circa 1780.

Figure 1 A Georgian oak cradle dating from approximately 1780. This cradle is available at Carlton Fine Art and Antiques Centre, Salts Mills,

The cradle itself has been around for as long as we have existed, the prehistory cradles no doubt ranged from simple bark cradles to more sophisticated cradles not dissimilar to those produced today. The basic design being a box or receptacle that a baby can be placed in and easily rocked to sleep probably hasn’t changed for centuries. The cradle, along with a bed, has historically been one of the first items added to a household. By the 18th century cradles used by the wealthy became status pieces, many of the Georgian versions were sturdily made from hardwoods such as oak and mahogany and were designed with hooded ends and sometimes decorated with Gothic inspired spires and embellishments (Figure 1). These were large pieces of furniture made to last for years and they were passed on through families so becoming the cradle of the generations. However, fashions and styles change, and by the Victorian period cradles, although still following the same basic design, became softer, a trend that has continued through into the 20th and 21st Century.

This sort of brings us back to the original question – why should an antique dealer have a cradle in a display? I think the answer lies in the fact that a cradle calls to the innate parent in all of us.

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

Victorian Frog Loving Cup

Victorian Frog Loving Cup

Rachel Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

A loving cup is a large, two-handled mug usually associated with a wedding. However, in the mid nineteenth century loving cups were used for other purposes. For example there was a tradition of giving loving cups as a christening gift.

Elsmere & Forster Frog Loving Cup 1This loving cup (fig 1) is a particularly unusual one because it gives us an insight into a family of potters and the company Elsmore & Forster, based at Tunstall Staffordshire. Elsmore & Forster was a quality manufacturer of pottery goods, whose production ran from 1851 – 1873[1], One side the cup is painted with a traditional floral decoration (Fig 1) and on the other it is inscribed “A present for William Venables, 25 December 1860 (Fig 2). However, there is a surprise waiting for the user of this cup, because lurking within are three quite charming pottery frogs (Fig 3).

The most probable recipient of this cup was a William Venables born in Wolstanton, Staffordshire, in 1860. His family were an established Potteries family, going back to his grandfather, John Venables (b1806). The 1841 census shows John Venables resisident in Tunstall, a sub-district of Walstanton, with his wife Emma (b1806) and their 4 children.[2] By 1851, John had become an earthenware painter, and his oldest son William (b1831) had become a potter.[3] Another 2 of his children went on to become potters – by 1861, his second son John (b1832) and daugher Sarah (b1839) were both potters.[4] By 1861, William Venables had married, and was living in Burslem with his wife Emma and 2 sons – Alfred and newborn son William[5] who had been born in 1860.

Figure 2Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday that year. 1860 was a very cold December, with Lord Hatherton of Teddesley Park near Penkridge (26 miles from Burslem) recording in his diary that the Figure 3temperature had dropped to minus 10 degrees killing a number of magnolia plants, some of which were 30 years old. [6] Perhaps the loving cup was filled with hot drinks and passed to unsuspecting visitors. William himself entered the pottery industry. The 1881 census shows he was living at home with his widowed mother, and working as a clerk in an earthenware factory.[7] Beyond that date, he is difficult to identify in the censuses with any certainty. It is possible he moved away from the Staffordshire area after the death of his mother.

We will never know if the cup was made or decorated by one of the family, or if a similar one had been given 4 years earlier to his elder brother Alfred. Nevertheless, it represents a fragment of the family’s history, and the loving cup was preserved and handed down through the generations, its inscription bearing witness to its original owner. This cup is currently for sale via the Penrose Antiques Ltd Ruby Lane web site.


[2]  1841 UK Census: Class: HO107; Piece: 993; Book: 20; GSU roll: 474622

[3] 1851 UK Census. Class: HO107; Piece: 2002; Folio: 412; Page: 27; GSU roll: 87404.

[4] 1861 UK Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 1925; Folio: 36; Page: 29; GSU roll: 542888.

[5] 1861 UK Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 1928; Folio: 16; Page: 25; GSU roll: 542889

[7] 1881 UK Census Class Rg11; Piece: 2714: Folio:87; Page: 49; GSU roll: 1341650

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.

Joseph Lang and the Sporting Gun

My husband is always telling me that we need to stock more mantiques, mantiques being those antiques that are of particular interest to men. With this in mind we have acquired a rare Victorian deactivated sporting gun (with an accompanying deactivation certificate) by Joseph Lang (Figure 1).

Joseph Lang was a very influential figure in country sports and the development of recreational guns. He first set up his own business the “Gun and Pistol Repository” in 1821, eventually buying out the entire stock of his prior employer the gunmaker Alexander Wilson in 1825 to becomes Londons largest gun dealer. During this time Joseph Lang sold the highest quality sporting guns, including those produced by James Purdey. His association with Purdey steadily strengthened with Joseph Lang marrying Purdey’s daughter Eliza in 1828.  Joseph Lang’s first son Joseph was born in 1829, and his second son James was born in 1835. Joseph the younger was then apprenticed to James Purdey and Joseph the younger then joined his fathers business in about 1853.Joseph Lang 1

Figure 1 Joseph Lang Sporting Gun

Joseph Lang the elder was renowned for playing a key part in introducing the breach-loading gun to British sportsmen. Prior to this guns were loaded the traditional way via the muzzle and these new fangled breach loading guns steadily creeping into use on the continent were viewed with scorn. Joseph Lang didn’t really agree with this, and in a radical move started to manufacture high quality breach loading shot guns for the British market. Being a businessman with a good view on taking commercial opportunities and being recognised as a very good shot, he then went on to prove the value of the breach loader in shooting competitions in which he out-shot competitors who used the old fashioned muzzle loading guns.  Needless to say, demand for his guns increased and he provided custom made guns to leaders in Victorian society, including the Prince of Wales in 1868.

Our particular example is a hammer action 12 bore shot gun with intricately engraved double barrels. The gun carries the makers name Joseph Lang (Figure 2a and 2b). along with the serial number 3834, dating it to 1867, the year before the Prince of Wales bought his Joseph Lang. This gun will be for sale at the Wetherby Antiques Fair on the 27th and 28th of July 2013, and potentially for sale if we still have it at the Stafford Bingley Hall Antiques Fair on the 9th, 10th and 11th of August 2013. Come and see and get a 20% discount on this gun or any other item of our stock if you can tell us you have read our WordPress blogs.

Josph Lang 3Joseph Lang 2

Figure 2a showing a closeup of the firing assembly and ejector system, 2b shows the makers name Joseph Lang.

For further information on Joseph Lang, see Best Guns by Joseph McIntosh

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

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