Guild of Handicraft
This is one of the more famous names in the world of silversmithing and one that still continues to this very day.
The Guild of Handicraft was started in 1888 by C R Ashbee and this part of that great Arts and Craft movement is the last survivor of Ashbee's vision. C R Ashbee originally set up his 'School of Handicraft' at Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, in 1891 it moved to Essex House on the Mile End Road and in 1898 converted into a limited liability company, opening showrooms at 16a Brook Street and 67a Bond Street in the West End of London.
In 1902 Ashbee moved the Guild, including some fifty craftsmen covering many trades and their families, lock, stock and barrel, to Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. The name 'Essex House' was retained and there was great hope for the future of the Guild. Ashbee's great experiment, however, was not a commercial success and in 1908 the company was voluntarily wound up because of its debts.
This, however was not the end of the Guild. Of all the lines that the former company produced, its metalwork, and especially its silver production, was always the most well received by the public, with this in mind, a group of workers stayed on at Essex House and a new business, still retaining the name Guild of Handicraft was formed, its partners were; George Henry Hart, John Kirsten Baily, George Edward Horwood and William Mark.
This partnership was short lived and lasted just four years and was dissolved at the end of 1912. Undeterred, George Hart soldiered (or soldered) on alone at Essex House. He was granted his Freedom by the Goldsmiths' Company in 1929 and made a Liveryman in 1933. George Hart died on the 21st October 1973.
George Hart ran his business in a special way, everything that came out of his workshop was hand crafted, with the exception of an ancient hand roller, there was no machinery, everything was produced by the skill of his own hands.
These skills have been passed down from generation to generation, firstly to George's son, Henry, and then to his son, David, who in turn taught his son, William and nephew, Julian along with Derek Elliott. It is these four that work in the business today. The workshops are what can only be described as a time capsule, everthing is just the way it was in George's time.Photos courtesy of Andy TaylorMarks entered at the London Assay Office:
CR above A in shield. Entered 29th January 1896.
G of H Ltd in oblong. Entered 14th December 1900.
G of H in oblong. Entered 22nd July 1908.
G of H in oblong. Entered 5th December 1912.
Link to the website of Hart, Gold & Silversmiths (Guild of Handicraft): http://www.hartsilversmiths.co.uk/html/home.html