Tuesday, 18 January 2011

W A S Benson (1854 - 1924)

We have all seen them around the fairs and markets and refer to them as Benson ewers, but who and when ?? In his time Mr Brass Benson was a very successful businessman and influential designer whose products were an integral part of many arts and crafts interior designs.

William Arthur Smith Benson was born in 1854 and early in his life he lived in 
Alresford, Hampshire. His father was a local magistrate and he was educated at Darch's prep school then Winchester college followed by reading classics in philosophy at New College, Oxford. He abandoned his studies to become an architect and articled to Basil Champneys from 1877 to 1880.
He had met and became friends with Burne-Jones in 1877 which led to an introduction to William Morris. In the early 1880's he had his own studio producing furniture and lighting. He produced lighting scheme for projects such as Phillip Webb's STANDEN. He exhibited widely including at the  1901 Glasgow international.

He is mainly remembered for his lighting and domestic metal ware made during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. These were retailed by the Army and Navy stores for example. Most items we see today are the myriad of domestic insulated jugs and ewers. These came in many sizes and finishes.

Of course there is far more to his art. He produced many delightful decorative tea wares and lighting schemes often with Whitefrairs Powell glass shades. He also had is own patented window glazing system and designed several domestic building.

Most of his domestic products have stamped marks although sometimes they are cunningly hidden under handles or on hinges. The lighting is often poorly marked and you will have to rely on experience or have access to period sales brochures. Here are just a few of the various marks.

Some of his hotel restaurant ware have moulded marks. 

I could fill pages and pages with details of his life and works but I could not do justice to his work. I simply have not got access to the pictures to illustrate the nature of his finer work. Luckily for you and I. someone has already done the research and produced a beautiful book full of colour pictures and reproductions of the original sales literature. When you see the scope of the lighting produced you will probably think "I've seen one  those and one of those, if only I had known". Considering some of the lighting with original shades are now in the high £100's it probably a good investment.
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