Hello, my attention was attracted by the retailers mark that was present inside the arm of a pair of electroplated sugar tongs and it is pictured below.
It reads “R.Gilbert & Sons Ltd”, the “something” jewellers of “Coventry & Barrow”. We will sort the “something” out later. What intrigued me was the distance between the 2 towns mentioned. I know about 200 miles, is nothing compared to distances of say between towns in the USA. However outlets in1small town in Cumbria and a medium sized town 200 miles away in Warwickshire, Central England looks unusual. Initial searches with “Coventry” soon found this interesting postcard/trade card image.
I have tried to “improve” the script a little. R.Gilbert & Sons Ltd ‘s shop was in the “Bank Building, High Street” in Coventry. Below is a reference to more stuff on “Gilbert’s” Coventry premises.
It seems from the image above that Gilberts were the “City” jewellers and they gave a “useful present” with wedding rings bought just as we have seen that other jewellers did. There is no dating evidence though.
A little further research with “Barrow” lead to some horological references and 1 site gave 3 although there is more information only available for subscribing members. Here are the “Gilberts”.
Gilbert, R & Sons of Coventry.
Gilbert, R. & Sons of Dalton-in-Furness, Carnforth.
Gilbert, Richard & Sons of Barrow-in-Furness.
The question is are all these different “R.Gilbert and Sons”, are they the same “R.Gilbert and Sons”, are they the same family with different “R.Gilberts” or even just a concern continuing a successful name?
More geography now, Dalton is a village very close to Barrow and the town of Carnforth is not far away in Lancashire and even in the mid 19th century there was a rail connection between that town and Barrow. This looks like an expanding family firm but still no evidence for a time line.
Below are some photos of “Gilbert” pocket watches and here we have the chance of dating the “Gilbert” business by the use the hallmarks on the silver or gold cases of their pocket watches. Following are some referenced Gilbert case hallmarks.
Face signed "R GILBERT& SONS BARROW & DALTON". The case is hallmarked for Chester with the letter "C" to indicate 1886. There is also a mark of C.H in a chamfered rectangle likely belonging to “Charles Harris” a Coventry based watchcase maker.
Movement is stamped “R. GILBERT & SONS, COVENTRY & BARROW” and the case has Chester hallmarks for 1900 with the case makers mark J.F
Dial marked “R GILBERT & SONS COVENTRY & BARROW, MAKERS TO THE ADMIRALTY” with Gilbert movement and Solid Silver English Case with hallmarks for Birmingham 1901 and “C.H.E” for Charles Hutton Errington, Coventry, case maker.
Face is marked "R GILBERT & SON LTD, COVENTRY AND BARROW”. The case is a Denisson (Handsworth, Birmingham) and hallmarked for 1915 the movement is by Williamson (Coventry).
I believe for this example the “Denisson” is miss-spelt and should refer to the “Dennison Watch Case Company”.
Although not conclusive there is the likely hood that “Gilberts” made their main base in Coventry around the final decade of the 19th century at a time when Coventry was regarded as one of the 3 biggest watch and clock making areas in Britain, ranking with Prescot near Liverpool and London’s Clerkenwell. On the “watch forum” from where some watch details came was a reply from a descendant of the Barrow Gilberts stating they believed the founder of the company was a “Richard Gilbert” who was born around 1848. This does however possibly contradict another watch reference that is shown below.
Dial is marked 'R. GILBERT & SONS'. Has Birmingham hallmark for 1817-18 (lion, anchor, small “t” in pointed shield). Back plate is marked 'R. GILBERT & SONS', 'BARROW & DALTON'.
There are 2 obvious explanations for this early dated activity, first that the Gilbert movement was a replacement movement for an earlier cased watch or Gilberts came into being around the turn of the 19th century.
The actual date of the company’s birth may be for discussion but the “watch forum” suggested, that from the time of the 1st World War, the shortage of skilled workers lead to Gilberts becoming more of a Retailer than a watchmaker. Evidencing the use of somebody else’s movement in the 1915 watch for this.
The end of Gilberts was likely to have been in the early 1970’s when a Liquidator was appointed for the jewellers “R. Gilbert and Sons Limited.”
Finally regarding “Gilbert’s” claim as to be “Makers to the Admiralty”. Barrow was a shipbuilding and Naval port and ships and boats certainly needed accurate watches.