Page 1 of 1

Obituary of James Littler Barritt--1863

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:29 am
by dognose
The obituary of James Littler Barritt that appeared in 'The Bookseller' in 1863.

See: William Eley (II) viewtopic.php?t=8565&start=35


August 18. At his residence, St. Margaret's, Rochester, aged 62, Mr. James Littler Barritt, formerly senior partner of the firm of Barritt & Co., wholesale Bible Warehouse, 173, Fleet Street.

The deceased was the second son of Mr. Thomas Barritt, who, for many years, held a responsible situation in the Hand in Hand Fire Office : at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to the eminent goldsmiths, Rundle & Bridge, who then carried on business in the premises now occupied by Messrs. Strahan & Co., to learn the art of die-sinking; and soon after the expiration of his apprenticeship he commenced business on his own account, as a sinker and engraver of dies, but, by a series of accidents, after several years found himself largely engaged in bookselling. Of Mr. Barritt's personal history we have nothing to record, but in business he was so intimately connected with the rise and progress of the Bible Trade that our readers will not be displeased if we digress a little and give a few particulars respecting it.

In the year 1824, or thereabouts, the Bible trade was a very snug, quiet business, in the hands of Mr. Gardner, who had the Oxford agency, Messrs. Longmans, who sold the books printed by Eyre & Strachan, and a few others who, like Messrs. Suttaby, bought the sheets and bound them in small numbers. About this time a German customer wished Mr. Remnant, a rising bookbinder, to bind half a dozen books in some covers which he had brought over from France ; these embossed morocco covers were a novelty, nothing like them had been seen in England, and Mr. Edmonds, Mr. Remnant's foreman, who was ever keenly alive to promote the business of which he is now the head, thought that Bibles and Prayer-books bound in similar covers would have a large sale ; but where they were to be procured or how manufactured no one could tell.

Chance led him to inquire of an artist who cut dies for a helmet manufacturer in Westminster, and he undertook to resolve the problem by sinking a die ; this was step No. 1. The next thing was to produce covers from the die ; it so happened that in Lovell's Court, opposite Remnant's shop, there lived a working silversmith named Eley (of whom more presently), he had screw presses to stamp spoons and dish-covers, and Edmonds, by watching the process of stamping the silver, learned how to stamp leather. In his investigations he heard that a clever young man, named Barritt, was employed by Eley as a die-sinker; his services were accordingly engaged to cut a book die, and thus Mr. Remnant was able to bind books in a new style, which became immensely popular. Mr. Gardner gave him as much work as he could do ; others, also, rushed to his shop, and there is no doubt that he made very handsome profits out of his foreman's good taste and ingenuity, as we are told that for binding alone, he charged 7s. 6d. for the Ruby 24mo bible, 6s. for the Long Primer prayer, 8s. for the Minion bible, and 4s. for the 32mo prayer. Barritt was now fully employed upon dies for Remnant, but not content with this he invested his savings in a press, and embossed and sold covers to binders. As soon as Remnant discovered this, he ceased to employ him further, and Barritt then turned his attention to embossing generally. Mr. De la Rue had introduced embossed cards and paper, also embossed leather blotting-cases, cardcases, pocket-books, &c. Mr. Barritt found a patron for cards and paper in the late Mr. Creswick, of Chandos Street, while he employed some pocket-book makers to make up blotting books and card-cases for himself; he was now fairly launched in the stationery business.

About the year 1831, Mr. William Eley, the silversmith, gave up that business to work out a patent for a new cartridge invented by himself, but he was before his day, and met with but poor success ; he accordingly left that and joined Mr. Barritt, who was then established in St. James's Walk, Clerkenwell, and only wanted capital to develop his new business. Some Prayer-books, then a few small Bibles, next some Watts's hymns were procured and bound, these sold quickly. Larger books were procured and disposed of, then a move was made from Clerkenwell to the present house in Fleet Street.

In 1835, Mr. Eley left the business in order to follow out his scheme for making cartridges, but unfortunately while engaged in trying some experiments with a new percussion cap, the compound exploded and he was shattered to atoms. His sons succeeded to his business, and the world-wide reputation of the ammunition and cartridges of Eley Brothers testifies to the soundness and usefulness of their father's invention.

On Mr. Eley's retirement, Mr. Frederick Wilson succeeded him. Mr. Barritt occupied himself with travelling in the country, and thus extended the connections of the house in all directions. Up to about 1839 the agency for the Queen's Printers' Bibles had been in the hands of Messrs. Longman, but the agency was then divided with Messrs. Barritt, and soon after, when the great reduction of price took place in the sheets, Messrs. Barritt also introduced a cheaper kind of binding, so that an enormous impetus was given to the business. A Ruby Bible bound in morocco extra was in January sold to the trade at 10s. 6d., while in the following April, a book, just the same in appearance, was offered for 8s. 6d., and at this price the percentage of profit was greater than at the former.

The credit of introducing this cheap morocco and morocco extra binding is due to Mr. B. West, of Clerkenwell, a binder who had long been trying to get his cheap binding taken up, but without success, till the Bibles themselves were cheapened. Then commenced that extraordinary competition in the trade which has never once ceased–books which before sold in single copies henceforward sold by the hundred, and so largely has the business of Messrs. Barritt increased that they have, on more than one occasion, ordered an edition of a hundred thousand (Ruby, 48mo) Prayer-books, and one of fifty thousand (Pearl, 24mo) Bibles, to be printed for their own consumption.

Mr. Wilson retired at the end of seven years, and at the same time Mr. Barritt, having acquired a sufficient sum to live upon in comfort, left the business, which was disposed of to his brother-in-law, Mr. West, the binder mentioned above, who carried it on alone for some time, and then in conjunction with Mr. Hector Baxter; the business being still carried on under the name of Barritt and Co., and since Mr. West's retirement in 1860 it has been continued by Mr. Baxter, ably assisted by Mr. Robert Stevenson, a gentleman who has grown up with the business, and has been actively engaged in its development.


Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:50 am
by MCB
Grimwade page 747 records "his (William Eley the Second's) death was in fact due to an explosion caused by his own careless stirring of a mixture of fulminate of mercury in an experiment". That was in June 1841.
Sorry but that's definitely going out with a bang!


Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:50 am
by dognose
The incident that occurred on Friday the 25th June 1841 was reported in The Times, Monday 28th June 1841:


The Inquest noted that the mercury fulminate had been brought to the workshop in a wet, stable state and William Eley was drying the material prior to weighing it, this was done by applying it to a sheet of metal placed over a boiling kettle of water. It was at this point the the explosion occurred.

The explosion was carried directly upwards, and although one of Eley's sons was not more than six feet away from his father, he sustained no injuries, nor did any other of the people, including the old retainer James Price, who were in the same room when the explosion happened.


Re: Obituary of James Littler Barritt--1863

Posted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:07 am
by dognose
A later advertisement for Eley's cartridges.

Eley - London - 1891

Eleys moved to the 254, Gray's Inn Road factory in 1864 from the adjacent premises at Calthorpe Place that they had occupied since 1859.


Re: Obituary of James Littler Barritt--1863

Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:43 pm
by dognose
An Eley Brothers advertisement from 1862


The firm was named Eley Brothers as from 1851, the brothers in question were the sons of William Eley (2) (Grimwade 3102, 3109, 3110, 3113), they were William Thomas Eley (born 1821, died 1881), Charles Eley (2) (born 1824, died 1902) and Henry Eley (2) (born 1826, died 1907).


Re: Obituary of James Littler Barritt--1863

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:19 pm
by dognose

HEAD OFFICE: 254, Gray's Inn Road, London, W.C.

CAPITAL: £300,000 nominal. £250,000 issued.

FACTORIES: Angel Road, Upper Edmonton, London, N.
Harty Ferry, Faversham, Kent.

PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Sporting and Military Cartridge Cases and Cartridges for every description of Small Arm, Percussion Caps, Gun Wads, Lead Shot, Fulminate of Mercury.

PRIME MATERIALS USED: Brass, Copper, Cupro Nickel, Lead, Gunpowder, Paper, and Felt.

PRODUCTS are manufactured for home and for foreign consumption.
Agents and Depots in Birmingham, Glasgow, Exeter, Liege (Belgium).
Agents in Gothenburg (Sweden), Florence (Italy), Winnipeg, Canada, Buenos Ayres, Argentina, Sydney, N.S.W., Cape Town, Cape Colony.

NUMBER OF BUILDINGS ON THE FACTORIES: Five main buildings in which manufacture is carried on. Four magazines and a number of isolated wooden buildings specially arranged to meet the requirements of the Explosives Act.
The works are built upon an estate of sixty acres.

SPECIALITIES MANUFACTURED OR INVENTED : "Pegamoid" (Waterproof) Cartridge Cases and Cartridges.

BENEVOLENT INSTITUTIONS: Sick and Benefit Society.
Three classes of subscriptions 6d., 3d., and 2d. per week.
Sick benefits respectively 10s., 5s., and 4s. for thirteen weeks,
5s., 2s. 6d., and 2s. for a further thirteen weeks.
Free medical attendance.
Payment at death £10, £5, and £2. 10s. Firm contributes 50 per cent of members' subscriptions up to a total of £300 per annum. Dividend shared out at end of each financial year.
Superannuation Fund for skilled Engineers. Each contributes 2s. per week, with £4 per member, per annum, added by the firm.

DISTINCTIONS OBTAINED: At the International Exhibitions, in Paris, 1900, Liege, 1905, and the Franco-British Exhibition, 1908, Grand Prix have been obtained, whilst numerous distinctions were received ever since 1876.

The discovery of new agents of ignition which towards the latter half of the eighteenth century were applied to firearms, closed a period of nearly 200 years, during which scarcely any important advance in projectile weapons had been made. Among the notable inventions evolved at this period was the detonating lock. From this, by imperceptible process of evolution, sprang the percussion cap, and ultimately the cartridge, the genesis of all the vast progress made in firearms during the last century. Much as the percussion cap facilitated the construction of the cartridge, no less did the latter expedite the development of breech-loading firearms, by providing, in its expansible case, the means of securing that complete obturation of the breech which had for centuries defied the efforts of generations of gunsmiths.

Until about the year 1800, the gunsmith, in conjunction with the powder maker, provided practically all the accessories appertaining to the use of the gun, but, curiously enough, the latter appears to have been indifferent to the progress accomplished in allied branches, so that the manufacture of detonators, percussion caps, wadding, and cartridges, became at this period the subject of new and separate commercial enterprises.

By 1828 the demand for these accessories gave promise of opening an almost unlimited field for inventive ingenuity. William Eley, the founder of the present firm, was early attracted to this interesting branch, and literally devoted his life and fortune to mechanical inventions. To him is attributed the once-famous wire cartridge, which, by delaying the dispersion of the pellets, effected the same purpose in the guns of the period as is now produced by choke-boring. At the age of forty-seven he fell a victim to a disastrous explosion of fulminate of mercury, which simultaneously destroyed him, his laboratory, and its contents. The business initiated by Mr. William Eley was continued by his three sons under the style, Eley Brothers, until 1874, when it was converted into a joint-stock enterprise, with limited liability.

Established at a period in the last century when the evolution of modern firearms was in the first stages, Messrs. Eley Brothers, as makers of an infinite variety of caps, detonators, wads, and cartridges, have since been closely associated with every successive advance. The displacement of the flint-lock by the percussion muzzle-loader was attended by a rise in the demand for percussion caps, which attained its height about the year 1865, and has, since the introduction of breechloading weapons, about that period, steadily declined, while in its place has developed a correspondingly increasing demand for breechloading cartridges. Changes in military weapons were generally somewhat anticipated by similar changes in sporting-guns, and some of these are well illustrated by means of the annexed diagram, in which the curves relating to the output of pin-fire and central-fire sporting-gun cartridges indicate how the former have been superseded by the latter.

Similarly, the curves, commencing with the introduction of smokeless propellents about the year 1886, illustrate the still growing preference for smokeless over black gunpowder.

In an undertaking involving, from the first, the use of vast quantities of explosives in combination with metal and paper, each prone to exercise some deleterious influence upon the other, the chemist is an important factor, and more especially has this been the case since the introduction of smokeless sporting and military powders. A laboratory replete with modern testing plant is a feature of the factory, and continues to advance in importance as the materials employed in cartridges became more numerous and more complex.

As the last decade of the eighteenth century evolved new agents of ignition which revolutionized firearms, so history repeated itself almost exactly a century later, by which time smokeless nitro-compounds began to exhibit unmistakable signs of extinguishing the older black gunpowder, and bringing about another revolution. Advantage has already been taken of the increased energy of modern explosives to reduce the size and weight of military cartridges, thereby enabling many more to be carried, and imparting practicability to magazine and automatic reloading rifles. The nickel-jacketed, pointed projectile of the .280 calibre Ross-Eley cartridge, of 140 grains weight, having a muzzle velocity of 3,050 feet per second, affords, when compared with the .577 Snider-Enfield bullet, of 480 grains weight, with a velocity of 1,100 feet per second, an interesting example of the progress of military rifle ballistics of the last fifty years.

Another interesting feature incidental to the introduction of smokeless sporting powder is that whilst forty years ago three cases satisfied the requirements of the 12-bore shot-gun, upwards of a dozen are now deemed necessary.

To what extent the cartridge maker has contributed to progress in firearms is scarcely perhaps fully appreciated. When the manufacture of guns and cartridges became independent industries, the necessity of co-ordinating the dimensions of guns with those of cartridges became apparent, and by the influence naturally appertaining to an immense business, Eley Brothers were able to induce the adoption of measurements common to guns and cartridges, which have since achieved so much towards facilitating the manufacture of both. The inventive ingenuity of William Eley was inherited by his son William Thomas Eley, and subsequently found expression in the production of machines by which the construction of cartridge cases was immensely simplified and cheapened, and it is particularly to a machine devised by him, which entirely revolutionized the manufacture of percussion caps, that much of the early success of the firm may be attributed.

Seeing that for a period of nearly fifty years the firm shared with but one competitor almost a monopoly of the British cartridge-making industry, while to every nation it has supplied cartridges in countless numbers, it has exercised a direct influence upon the design and development of the firearms of the world.

For quite a long period it rested with the cartridge maker to advance or retard the progress of the gun by making, or declining to make, any modification in cartridges which might be necessary. To what extent the firm has responded to continuous changes in the interests of the gun is indicated by the fact that since its inception upwards of 1,000 sizes and types of cartridges have been produced, and to-day some 400 different cartridges are made at its factory at Edmonton.

This firm has frequently been called upon to supplement the resources of the national arsenals, and maintains the plant and organization essential to the production of military cartridges.

Source: The Rise and Progress of the British Explosives Industry - 1909