SHEFFIELD AND ELECTROPLATING
High jinks were carried on by the employes and guests of Messrs. Walker and Hall, of the Electro Works, Sheffield, last week, in honour of the coming of age of the eldest son of the senior partner, Lieut.-Colonel J. E. Bingham, J.P., of the firm. The festivities appeal to us inasmuch as Mr. Walker was the first to introduce electroplating as a commercial pursuit into Sheffield.
Mr. Darwin, in proposing continued success to the firm, pointed this out. Among other things, he said, having been connected with Walker and Hall for over 30 years, it had been considered an opportune moment to give a resume of the rise and progress of the firm, who might claim to be almost the originators, and certainly Mr. Walker was the first to introduce practical electroplating as a commercial pursuit in Sheffield. Mr. Walker, the founder of the firm, was engaged to assist the late Mr. Wright, an apprentice of old Dr. Shearman, and who subsequently became the successful inventor of electroplating. Frequently since his retirement from business, Mr. Walker had explained to him the many difficulties he had to encounter during his early business career, for when he began electroplating he had everything to do by himself–all had to be created. Mr. Walker was not only the first successful practical plater, but he was also the actual inventor of that part which had since become perhaps one of the largest branches in the electroplate trade. The process was never patented, it being regarded as so capable of imitation that Mr. Walker was satisfied to keep the thing simply a secret within his own place. The system only leaked out to the world by degrees, and there were still many firms who were obliged to use a coating of copper between the article and the silver. The business was begun in what was known as the "boil shop." Being only a poor man, Mr. Walker felt the necessity of capital and also the lack of commercial knowledge. These were combined in Mr. Hall, the late and most respected uncle of their present proprietors. This excellent gentleman joined Mr. Walker, and the firm had soon to increase their premises by adding those previously occupied by the late Dr. Knight, and it was in this very house that the inventor of electroplating and Mr. Walker first met. There, in addition to plating for all the manufacturers in Sheffield and others, they began to make spoons and forks, and thus they succeeded in establishing a business which was a credit to themselves and an honour to their memory. In 1856 Mr. Hall introduced his nephew, Mr. John E. Bingham, who was then a young man very similar in appearance and manner to his son, whose majority they were that day celebrating. Mr. Bingham promptly gave evidence of energy and foresight, and when he eventually got the reins into his own hands, one of the first things he did was to persuade his then principals to adopt a corporate mark, one that would secure and more firmly establish the good name for sterling quality which was always, and was to-day, their determination to maintain. That mark was the well-known and universally-distributed flag, attached as it was to articles of their manufacture in every part of the known world, and one that was recognised everywhere as denoting a standard of high quality. In the words of a factory wag–
The flag that's braved a thousand storms
The battle and the breeze,
Is very often to be found
On "Coffees " and on "Teas."
The next step was the production of cutlery in steel, electroplate, and silver, followed by the manufacture of hollow-ware, and, subsequently, a department for the production of plated Britannia metal goods. After supplying the merchants of Sheffield for some time, Mr. Bingham decided to get into direct communication with the London merchants for foreign trade, and to reach the country jewellers and cutlers, in order not only to display their designs, but to maintain their workmanship and prove the quality of their wares by being able to impress their trade mark, the flag, upon their goods. Shortly after Mr. Walker retired, followed at a later period by Mr. Hall, both maintaining to the end a kindly feeling to their old workpeople and successors. Mr. J. E. Bingham, who was for some time sole proprietor with the business under his entire charge, was eventually joined by his brother, Mr Charles H. Bingham, who, by his industry and mechanical knowledge, had materially contributed to the general success of the business, which had grown from an affair engaging about 20 hands to a huge establishment constantly employing more than 700 workpeople. He had no doubt Walker and Hall were now the largest manufacturers of electroplated and silver goods in England. During that time the relations between masters and servants had been of the most pleasing and harmonious character, largely owing, no doubt, to the fact that almost every member of the managing staff, and many of the workpeople, had been there the whole of their working lives. The firm had always invited them to join in their festivities, the celebration that evening being the largest yet held–over 850 workpeople and wives being present. The first and smallest was held in a hotel in High-street in 1863, when they met to celebrate the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Bingham. Some years later they assembled at the Cutlers' Hall to celebrate, not only the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Bingham, but also to welcome Mr. Charles as a partner. The senior principal had been elected by the Cutlers' Company as Master Cutler on two separate occasions–an honour for which, he believed, there had been no precedent. Mr. Charles Bingham was rising into position in the company, and before long would no doubt be at its head, when he would no doubt entertain his friends, including, of course, his workpeople in that title. During his second year of office Mr. J. E. Bingham initiated the Sheffield Workmen's Handcrafts Exhibition, which was opened by His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, and Mr. Bingham had the honour of introducing the Prince to his workpeople, at the works, and afterwards of entertaining him at a dinner at which several of them were present.
The Chairman (Lieut.-Col. Bingham) in his reply referred to the introduction of this industry, and remarked that he desired there, speaking before that company, to remember those who had borne the burden of the promotion of electroplating in Sheffield–Mr. Walker and Mr. Hall–who after a useful and honoured life had gone to the rest they had so thoroughly earned, and which he hoped they would all, employer and employed alike, succeed in obtaining after the turmoil and trouble of life were past. Their trade mark, as they had been reminded, was the flag, and he trusted they would take firm grip of the staff of that flag, and rear it steadily, and hold it truly, in the cause of Walker and Hall.
Source: The Electrical Engineer - 29th November 1889