S.W. Silver

Stephen Winkworth Silver & Co appear to have started life in 1838 as Clothiers with premises in London and Liverpool.

Four years later they expanded with an outlet at Bishopsgate, London and increased the size of their Liverpool premises. They also opened workshops at Commercial Road East, London. It is probable that around this date they started to concentrate on supplying clothing and furniture for the traveller. As they were already forging strong connections in the East through supplying the military and emigrants, they were ideally placed to import India rubber as a business alongside their clothing and furniture. The European discovery of the qualities of Gutta Percha in this year were also to have a dramatic effect on S.W. Silver's business.

In the London Illustrated News of July 29, 1848 they described their 'Emmigration Outfitting being exclusively at No. 4 Bishoshopsgate Within' while 'Naval and Military Officers, Midshipmen, Cadets, Civilians, Ladies, &c. are outfitted as heretofore at the Cabin-Passenger Outfitting Warehouse, Nos. 66 and 67, Cornhill, London and St. George's Crescent, Liverpool. They capitalised on the need for immigration to Australia and New Zealand and the discovery of Australian gold in 1851 must have further increased their business. They boasted that they had a 'representative in every Australian Colony, to whom they ship Clothing monthly' and as they had 'a large interest to maintain in those Colonies' that they could supply 'a comfortable Outfit, including Bedding, for Male or Female Emigrants from Four Pounds (net) upwards or less (Two Pounds if needful)' to make emigrating easier. In 1861 Silver advertised in the London Commercial Directory that they could supply 'Furniture for Camp, Barrack, Cabin, and Colonial Use, embracing every variety of Cabinet Work, Canteens, Trunks, Portmanteaus etc'. Their cabinet making is good quality and they cast their flush brass campaign handles with their details, as illustrated. We are fortunate in that they marked most of their goods with their details, a fact that they had pleasure in pointing out was necessary in an advert in The Daily News in 1856. SW Silver chests typically have these flush handles to the sides of their chest to allow for lifting, a detail not known of other makers. Most campaign chests from the mid 19th century onwards tended to have packing case cupboards which would prohibit the use of any other type of handle. Aside from marking the handles, they also fixed pressed brass plates with their details to their furniture. They were the only English furniture company to participate in the New Zealand Exhibition in 1865, a fact not unnoticed by the judges who wrote in their Reports and Awards 'The suitability of some exhibits of furniture, where lightness, portability, and convenience are required, is particularly noticeable in some chairs, which, although fit for luxuriantly furnished apartments in point of appearance, can yet be folded and removed with all the readiness of a camp stool'. By 1875 the company had an 'Explorer's Room' at their Cornhill premises. They had also expanded to take in 4 Sun Court, Cornhill where they had an 'office of the Colonies'.

SW Silver produced waterproofed clothing alongside their other requisites for travellers. This expanded to using rubber in making insulating wire and cable with the company so successful that in 1852 they took the step to move north across the Thames to Woolwich Reach. Their factory became so large (covering about 15 acres) and employed so many local people (approximately 2,800) that the area became known as Silvertown. Twelve years later Charles Hancock sold his Gutta Percha Company to SW Silver and the factory was renamed the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works & Co. Ltd. By 1900 they had branches in Liverpool, Bradford, Birmingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin. As well as the works at Silvertown there was also a factory in France at Persan-Beaumont.

It was probably the addition of Hancock, with his strong knowledge of Gutta Percha that led SW Silver into the sports market. Although they are known to have made tennis and squash balls, they're chiefly known for their golf balls. They started the production of golf balls under the brand name Silvertown in 1888. To start the balls were given a number to identify it, such as the Silvertown No. 4. Later, names such as the Silvertown Snippet, Silviator, Sovereign, Stoughton, Granton and Lynx were used. Perhaps their most recognizable balls are the Silver King range produced from about 1910.

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