Two important Voysey Designs

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857 to 1941) has always been one of my favourite designers of the Arts and Crafts period. He was primarily an architect and I was fortunate enough to live close to some of his houses in Buckinghamshire including his own home, The Orchard, at Chorleywood in Hertfordshire. However he also designed furniture, decorative wall-papers and metalwork. Recently I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to purchase two of his metalwork designs. These exceptionally rare and important pieces were made by makers that Voysey entrusted at the time to produce his designs.

Voysey inkwell

A Voysey designed brass inkwell marked for Jesson, Birkett & Co and dated 1904

This double inkwell was designed and exhibited by Voysey in 1903. It was illustrated in The Studio Decorative Arts, Volume 28, 1903. The illustration shows other metalwork including fire tools with stand and a fire screen made by Thomas Elsey Ltd from the Portland Metal Works in London. Also pictured is the double inkwell along with a pen tray and a kettle on a stand. It’s not made clear whether these were also made by Thomas Elsley Ltd.

Voysey inkwell

The Studio, Vol 28, 1903

In fact the inkwell was made by another metalworker that was known to work with C.F.A Voysey. Richard Llewellyn Rathbone. Rathbone was a well known figure in the Arts and Crafts world. He had trained with W.A.S Benson and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogue tells us that the double inkwell in the display was made by Rathbone & Co and cost £1 12s 6d. So how did this design come to be made by Jesson, Birkett & Co in 1904? The base of the inkwell has the Jesson, Birkett Co makers stamp and has a pen inscription for Xmas 1904. Around 1902 Rathbone sold many of his designs, including inkwell designs, to a firm called Faulkner Bronze Co. Faulkner Bronze Co was reconstituted as Jesson, Birkett & Co in 1904. It’s clear that this inkwell was made right at the start of the new firm’s existence. Jesson, Birkett & Co only existed until 1910 so this has become a rare design. The base of the inkwell has the Rathbone design number “672” which was adopted and used by Jesson, Birkett & Co. It’s known that Voysey made several adaptations of this design. Around 1900 he showed a single inkwell version with heart motifs and a pen holder to the side. I have also seen a triple inkwell version.

Voysey inkwell

A version of this important design is held by the British Museum. Similarly made by Jesson, Birkett & Co…

Voysey inkwell

A Voysey designed pair of brass door handles made by Thomas Elsley Ltd, circa 1900

These very rare handles were likely made in the late 1890’s and they are in fantastic original condition, fully stamped for Elsley. Voysey produced a number of designs, particularly for door furniture, that were produced by Thomas Elsley Ltd at the Portland Metal Works in London. Fortunately a photograph exists showing a cabinet of designs by Voysey for Elsley. The handles can be seen on the top left hand side, design number 690.

Voysey inkwell

Voysey designed metalwork by Thomas Elsley Ltd, circa 1900

A version of this important handle design is held by the Cheltenham Museum. Similarly made by Thomas Elsley…

Important pieces in totally original condition which I will be delighted to own for a short while at least.