Silversmiths

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell



As alluded to previously in our blog dedicated to Paul Storr  Rundell, Bridge & Rundell were extremely successful businessmen during the 19th Century. We decided to collate some information that we found in some books in the office while looking at the Arts & Crafts Movement. We thought this information would be really useful and helpful to anyone wanting to find out more about these men and what brought them all together. 

So, let’s see where it all began. 

The Beginning: Philip Rundell
Philip Rundell spent a lot of his time, as a child, with the leading gem engraver in Bath called John Wicksteed. His workshop was in Widcombe and Rundell soaked up all the knowledge he could while he was there. William Rogers, a jeweller, then took him on as an apprentice in 1760. When his apprenticeship ended he was extremely eager to head to London to make his own money and his own living. As his father wasn't wealthy he relied heavily on his sister’s money which helped him kick start his career which was soon to be a huge success.

In 1767 (or 1769, the date is unclear) he travelled to London and began work as a shop-man in Theed & Pickett Goldsmiths and jewellers of Ludgate Hill. 

The Work Begins.
The work soon began and he was employed to get to know the business and the customers in order to become extremely valuable to Pickett. Due to Pickett being fairly alone in this business this was a fairly simple task to carry out as Pickett needed Rundell’s help to run the business. Pickett was growing weary of his work and his only goal was to attain Civic Honours. Rundell proved to be very reliable and Pickett was soon assured that he was able to take on the responsibility of looking after the business. In 1772, Rundell was made partner in the firm and it’s name changed to “Pickett & Rundell”. Thereafter, Rundell began searching for ways to become the sole owner of the firm and the first thing he had to do was find the money. Luckily for him, his brother, Thomas, had married an Heiress! 

A Man of Many Moods.
It was not uncommon for Pickett to delve into deep depressions and huge moods due to the fact that previously in his life his beloved daughter, Elizabeth, was burned to the death while getting ready to go with her father to an occasion in the evening. Rundell found an opportunity when Pickett had fallen into one of his many depressive states and pushed him into leaving the firm. He lied to him, telling him the business was suffering and it was not worth his time or investment.

Pickett died in 1796 and Rundell knew that one of his daughter, Mary Pickett, had shares in her late father’s business. Since Rundell wanted sole ownership he bought her out for a sum finally fixed at £1,000 per annum.

Introducing John Bridge.
A new assistant had been taken on in 1777 and his name was John Bridge. He was so trustworthy, competent and hard-working after Pickett’s “retirement” Rundell left him in management of the shop.  

Rundell, loving the theatre, liked to associate himself with the likes of actors and actresses. Meanwhile, Bridge was left to do what Rundell had done for Pickett - become indispensable. Although being underpaid, Bridge knew that if he wanted a partnership he would have to pay for it out his own pocket - so that’s what he did. In 1788, Bridge became a partner of the firm and the name was changed to “Rundell & Bridge”. 

Seeing Double! John & John Bridge
It just so happens that Bridge’s cousin (also called John Bridge) was a highly regarded and established farmer living in Winford Eagle, 7 miles from Bridport. His cousin let him borrow the money for the partnership. At the time King George III regarded John the Farmer very highly and the two were good friends. Through this friendship the farmer directed his cousin the King’s business in jewels and plate. When John Bridge was returning from London the King sent for him and George III introduced Bridge to the Queen, the Royal Family and members of the court and nobility. The King commanded whoever was to be married to go to Ludgate Hill for any plate or jewels they may want for the occasion which, as you can imagine, made his orders skyrocket. Rundell & Bridge were then appointed as Gold and Silversmiths to the crown. They also secured a similar warrant from the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Princes and Princesses of the Royal Family. So, overall, Rundell had indeed been very lucky when he took Bridge as a partner. 

Once the orders began coming in from the richer clientele, the stock needed to be improved. To their benefit the French Revolution began and this brought in refugees carrying all their wealth, in jewels and plate. Through this Rundell & Bridge amassed a large amount of French plate by the leading craftsman. 

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
In 1803, the Napoleonic Wars allowed for advance of rents which the upper class profited from meaning large orders poured into Ludgate Hill. By this time Edmund Waller Rundell, the eldest son of Philip’s deceased brother, Thomas, had joined the firm bringing with him more capital to increase the stock. The name of the firm had been altered to “Rundell, Bridge and Rundell” in 1805. 

Arrival of Paul Storr
Paul Storr, since 1796, worked in Air Street in Piccadilly and was recognised by Rundell and Bridge for his excellent work. We do not know what was offered to Storr other than the likely promise of a partnership in the firm. Storr made it clear to Rundell, Bridge and Rundell before he started working with them that he would absolutely not be wanting to lose who he was. He made sure his identity was kept intact by creating a new company which he would call Storr & Co. He would do whatever Rundell gave him to do but said that he would be staying at his own address.
Rundell planned to keep Storr so busy as his partner that he would not be able to keep Storr & Co. running. However, at Storr & Co., all the workers were being trained well in the way Storr wanted them to be trained and their workmanship was being perfected.  

Looking Good, But for How Long?
So, at last Rundell had got everything the way he wanted it to be. He could afford to hire any artist or sculptor he needed and business was so great that he could hardly cope with the orders which flowed in from all parts of the world. Agents or correspondents were established not only in Paris, Vienna and St Petersburg but also in Constantinople, Smyrna, Baghdad, Calcutta, Bombay and South America. The order for the plate given to Nelson as a tribute of gratitude was then given to Rundell, Bridge & Rundell and to Paul Storr as the head of their manufactory. 

The memoirs of Philip Rundell give us insight into who he was. Rundell was a very tight-fisted man and was adamant in the fact that he would not pay for any restoration the shop needed. Storr found that he was just another part of huge industry and he was drowning in it. He felt he was losing his personality in his work which he vowed he would never do. Storr soon came to realise that in order to regain some of his reputation and identity that he would have to leave and work by himself. It is clear then why Paul Storr finally reached a point where he could no more stand Rundell and his ways. Paul Storr in 1820 quit and Rundell retired in 1823 and died in 1827 and in accordance to the partnership agreement his shares were paid for over 6 years at 5% interest. Of the 1 million and a half he left the bulk, over £900,000, to his great nephew,Joseph Neeld, who had taken care of him during the last 14 years of his life. 

Due to the fact that Rundell only had 4 years working with his own mark, any of his pieces with this mark are fairly rare because Rundell retired in 1823.

Was There A Silver Lining?
The remaining members of the partnership formed a new partnership to last 7 years at the end of which Edmund Rundell also retired. 

Rundell, Bridge and Co as it was known from 1833 onwards was purchased by Francis Lambert and transferred to Coventry Street. In view of the fact that the successors of Harman & Lambert had lost their entire archives it is almost impossible to reconstruct this chapter of the story.  

The shop was demolished in 1823 and moved to Bond street as Harman & Lambert. 

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell all had very significant roles in the making of the firm and all their background and personalities shaped the firm. We hope today’s blog has been insightful and interesting and you’ve learned more about the clever, clever men who made such beautiful art.





Paul Storr -  
the most influential silversmiths in history
 
Paul Storr is perhaps one of the most influential silversmiths in history and is synonymous with the character of the Regency period. His career began at a very early age and he became the apprentice of Andrew Fogleberg at the age of just 14. Born in 1771, it’s said that the foundations for his career were laid down after he experienced his father Thomas’ metalwork, patterns and designs. Storr went on to enter his first mark in 1792 after entering into what would turn out to be a relatively short partnership with William Frisbee. Fogleberg’s work was a massive influence on Storr. Once he started to use his PS mark, he would only make small changes to it for the remainder of his career.
Storr benefitted from encouragement from figures as illustrious as King George III, whilst his gold font, commissioned by the Duke of Portland for his son’s christening in 1797 was seen as a milestone. Two years later he was commissioned by Lord Nelson to create the “Battle of the Nile Cup”. Collectors still fervently seek out his work today, paying sizeable sums to invest in the pieces, which continue to only rise in value.
In the years after he first entered his mark, Storr started to adopt a minimal neoclassical style. Storr is often compared to Paul de Lamerie due to the way that his work dominated his era. Storr set up his own workshop in London’s Air Street in 1796 after deciding to travel down an independent route post-Frisbee. After 1800, he moved away from his initially restrained style to design elaborate pieces for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the royal goldsmiths, selling his work through their London shop, whilst adapting his designs to suit the house style and the tastes of their affluent customers.
In 1801, Storr married Elizabeth Beyer, his long-time friend, going on to produce ten children with her, with 54 grandchildren resulting. Paul Storr became a partner in Rundell, Bridge and Rundell in 1811 after making a name for himself on a global level, yet initially rejecting offers from them. It is thought that the decision to finally accept Phillip Rundell’s invitation was instrumental in laying the foundations for his later work, for which he would become renowned to this day. The firm almost completely monopolised the silver market in the early 19th century, and their relationship with Storr was extremely beneficial for all concerned, leading to Storr taking on commissions through this influential firm that he may not have been met with otherwise.
1811 was the same year that he decided to move his workshop to Dean Street in London. Orders became bigger and more lucrative, and customers even more well-known and powerful. During this era, he was incredibly prolific as his skills became more and more sought after. It is thought that Duke of Cambridge, Prince Adolphus bought an entrée dish there, as suggested by the coat of arms engraved onto the item. This item is incredibly prestigious and demonstrates just how much Storr had developed as a master craftsman since his minimal neoclassical works of his earlier years.
Storr left Rundell, Bridge and Rundell in 1819, experimenting with naturalistic designs whilst no longer needing to conform to their house style. It’s thought that he felt frustrated about losing a significant amount of creative freedom by being restricted to their styles. The work he produced at this time was in keeping with the Rococo form, a style which was experiencing a new lease of life. A new partnership was started in 1822 with the Bond Street retailer John Mortimer.  Storr agreed to this new arrangement after realising that he needed a new central location for selling his work. Storr was asked to sell most of his work through the shop. The arrangement was however affected by friction, with Mortimer’s management of the Storr and Mortimer business being criticised. The arrangement did last until 1839, when Storr decided to retire to live with his wife in Tooting. However, he sadly died just five days after relocating.
Storr’s legacy lives on in his influence and the techniques he introduced which are still being emulated today. He is noted not just for his designs but his approach to every element of a production, from start to finish, adding magical finishes to his work to ensure that the end result surpassed all expectations. Storr is constantly praised for the way that his designs managed to get make the most of the metal form, working around its strengths as well as its weaknesses.
For those not in a position to actually invest in Storr’s work, it can be viewed in several museums located in a number of locations, perhaps most notably The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York which features work from the end of his career. Other museums known for housing Storr’s work are located in places such as Boston, San Francisco and the UK. Experts in the silver trade regularly agree that Storr’s skill, creative eye and attention to detail have barely been matched since his passing, with his level of versatility also being seen as one of his magical attributes. He was able to apply his own unique identity to not only minimal neo-classical work but to the exuberant and ostentatious tasks given to him through his work with Rundell, Bridge and Rundell too.

 Storr paid the same amount of attention to low-key pieces as his did to the more highly prestigious commissions he was given through aristocrats and other severely affluent figures. His understanding of the nature of silver, exploiting what it could do and negotiating around what it couldn’t achieve have ensured that his legacy shows no signs of fading. His pieces are said to perfectly encapsulate the elegance and sophistication of the Regency era. Storr also ensured that each piece he made was completely unique, with a robust dedication to avoiding repetition. It’s often said that his unique understandings of the capabilities of metal made it possible to bring any design to life.

To listen to an audio version of this post visit   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC05VmYq84w

The silversmith Leslie Durbin

The silversmith Leslie Durbin is perhaps best known for making the Stalingrad sword of honour, which was presented to Joseph Stalin by Winston Churchill in 1943. The commission was produced after George VI decided to honour the Russian military for their efforts against the Germans in WWII. Durbin was born in Fulham in 1913, and endured something of a tragic childhood, after his father lost his life during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. He began studying silversmithing at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1926, whilst attending normal school duties in the mornings. In 1929, Durbin was taken on as an apprentice by Omar Ramsden, but was disappointed to find that he would be learning as a “chaser, engraver and decorator of precious metals”, when he was hoping to trained in general silversmithing. As a result, he continued learning his preferred trade at night school whist continuing to work with Ramsden, before winning a Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’ apprenticeship in 1938.

At this point, his fortunes began to soar. He won a competition to design the plate for the Chapel of Chivalry in Guildford Cathedral, making the pieces at the CSAC. The completed pieces went on exhibition at the Company’s Exhibition of Modern Silverware at Goldsmiths’ Hall. Goldsmiths’ then proposed that a gift for Princess Elizabeth be presented to the queen, and Durbin’s design won. The casket that was made was in fact a joint collaboration with Reginald Hill due to the deadline that was in place, but this was nonetheless seen as a milestone for the young silversmith. The war meant that a proposed Travel Scholarship was cancelled, but he was then commissioned to make a dish to be presented to HM King George VI and HM Queen Elizabeth to mark their state visit to Canada, with the company wishing to promote the newest talented silversmiths.

The Royal dish was hallmarked in 1939, though Durbin did not actually report to RAF duty until December 1941. It is thought that the delay was due to the number of important commissions he had been working on. Leslie was transferred to the Modelmakers’ Section of the Central Interpretation Unit, and was pleased that the opportunity allowed him indefinite leave from the military. It was around this point that he was commissioned to make the Stalingrad sword of honour. It’s said that before the work was handed to Stalin, it was seen by around 500,000 people in Britain.

Unsurprisingly, Durbin’s career went into the stratosphere when the war ended. Setting up a workshop in Rochester Place, London, he was asked to make another sword of honour for Lord Tedder, the Marshal of the Royal Air Force. A silver and glass casket was made for George VI in 1949, presented by the then Queen Elizabeth. During the 1950s and 1960s, Durbin was the most noted silversmith in Britain, producing an array of government presentation pieces as well as college plates. In the 1980s, Durbin designed the reverse of the pound coin, and came second in a race to design the millennium commemorative coin.  Durbin died in 2005, leaving behind an illustrious legacy.