Robert Pringle & Sons Manufacturing Jewellers And Goldsmiths
The enchanting illustration above shows the industrious nature of the Pringle family. At first glance we see a double fronted manufacturing premises fitted out with an elegant showroom on the ground floor. The signage reads as follows 42 ROBERT PRINGLE & SONS 40. The impressive facade only gives us a glimpse of the extent of the premises. The next two buildings on the right (numbers 38 & 36 Clerkenwell Road) were also owned by the firm.
This imposing double fronted building was known as Wilderness Works, 40 - 42 Clerkenwell Road.
As one gazes at this drawing one begins to wonder “How far do the business premises extend towards the next factory in the background?” “Are the bridges in this location because both factories are being used by the same family firm?" The answer is "yes".
Follow the vertical lines of the building until you reach the Dutch gables at the top and cast your eyes to the back of the premises. Here you will see the two bridges which connect the Great Sutton Street building to the Clerkenwell Road factory.
20 GREAT SUTTON STREET
The signage on the shop reads as follows: 20 R. PRINGLE & SONS 20.
The beginnings of this manufacturing dynasty started when Robert Pringle was apprenticed to a jeweller in Perth, Scotland, at the age of thirteen years. After completing his apprenticeship he travelled to London in 1820 where he found work in the jewellery trade
Robert Pringle & Sons was to become one of the most successful jewellery concerns in England.
9 AMWELL STREET CLERKENWELL LONDON
In 1835 Robert Pringle established a workshop as a manufacturing jeweller at a private house located at 9 Amwell Street, Clerkenwell. At various points in time he employed between six and twelve men in this location.
ROBERT PRINGLE & SONS CATALOGUES
Photo - BBC
The image above shows a small collection of Robert Pringle & Sons catalogues.
The catalogues show detailed drawings of a wide variety of luxury items from jewellery to pocket watches.
The ornately embellished locket shown below showcases the high quality work for which this maker is known.
ROBERT PRINGLE LOCKET
19 GREAT PERCY STREET CLERKENWELL WC
This elegant property was the private residence of Robert Pringle (II) in 1862.
21 WILDERNESS ROW PRIOR TO REDEVELOPMENT
By 1868, Pringle had moved to open a shop at 21 Wilderness Row. His son, also named Robert, was working for his father. Robert (II) was trained in all aspects of the jewellery trade and so on the passing of his father in 1875 Robert (II) was more than capable of running the firm.
By 1881, 21 Wilderness Row had become 42 Clerkenwell Road. The premises were rebuilt and named as the Wilderness Works. The subsequent decades saw a massive redevelopment of the business which expanded to incorporate 36-42 Clerkenwell Road and 17-20 Great Sutton Street, as depicted in the first image.
Some firms, indeed, are already experiencing this increased demand, and having occasion to visit the premises of Messrs. R. Pringle and Co., of Clerkenwell Road, E.C., we had a practical means of judging what an increase all round in this direction would mean.
On the occasion of our visit the firm were very busy making small Hall-marked silver articles, such as cups, children's mugs, serviette suspenders, small spoons, etc. ; and as they make everything throughout from the rough, even to refining and assaying the metals used, one may judge of the effect of any large and sudden influx of trade, notwithstanding a very large staff of workers.
Wilderness Works is now, in fact, becoming recognised in the trade as a kind of refuge for the destitute in the way of getting difficult jobs done which cannot be done elsewhere, and Messrs. Pringle have the reputation of being able to make everything in metal work from a silver brooch to a warming pan that can be manu- factured in London, Birmingham, or Sheffield. They, at all events, are not afraid of the change likely to be, or alreadv brought about by the abolition of plate duties, and are quite prepared, if necessary, to give up the electro-plate altogether, in favour of the solid ware.
This wholesale business was involved in "all branches of the trade–gold, silver and gem jewellery making ; gilding, plating, refining, assaying, electro-plate manufactory, and silver-plate making, carried on under one roof, and in the most orderly and scientific manner possible".
Robert Pringle & his sons were able to provide all these services in one large premises.
ROBERT PRINGLE LOCKET
By 1890 the company produced an increasingly wide variety of luxury products which included richly ornamented lockets, timepieces, fancy silver goods and silver mounted glassware.
As you would expect the lockets were embellished with romantic imagery. The wonderful piece shown above is ornamented with forget-me-not flowers and acanthus leaves. Forget-me-not flowers symbolise everlasting love and deep respect. Acanthus leaves represent everlasting life.
Robert Pringle (II) was joined by his sons, James & Robert Pringle (III) in the company bullion / refinery department. His other sons specialised in different departments. William Pringle was in charge of the silversmith department. Edwin Andrew Pringle was a horologist.
When Robert Pringle (II) took his eldest son (Robert III) into partnership the firm was restyled as Robert Pringle & Sons.
In 1907 Robert Pringle (II) died, and Robert Pringle (III) was joined in partnership by his brothers William, James and Edwin.
THE MARK OF ROBERT PRINGLE & SONS
Under the mark of the maker are the two gold purity marks denoting 9 carat gold. The anchor mark represents Birmingham Assay Office. The date letter lower case q in this font & cartouche is for 1915.
ADVERTISEMENT SHOWING RESTYLED COMPANY NAME
The business became a limited liability company, Robert Pringle & Sons (London) Limited, on 1 Jan 1931. The company is still in business today, but have long since moved away from the precious metal trade and are now an engineering firm.
1934 WILDERNESS CATALOGUE
Their 200 page 1934 Wilderness Catalogue depicts a range as diverse as you could imagine. Jewellery, including gem rings, cigarette cases, lighters, dressing sets, candlesticks, tankards, watches and clocks are portrayed by artists' illustrations.
The page shown above is described as follows:
The Gem Rings illustrated in this list represent only a selection from the large variety of patterns stocked. Many of the designs shown on this and the following pages are available at various prices according to the size and quality of the stones.
The stones are carefully matched and well mounted. It is not claimed that in all cases they are perfect but the general standard is good. Where special quotations are required it is usually possible to submit loose stones and sketches.
In addition to the ordinary stock, a limited selection of second-hand stones re-mounted in modern styles is available.
The prices quoted in this list are correct at the time of compilation, but, owing to market fluctuations, they are liable to variation.
This applies especially to the cheaper rings.
Timeline of registered names:
Robert Pringle 1835 – c. 1882
Robert Pringle & Co – 1882 – 1899
Robert Pringle & Sons – 1899 – 1931
Robert Pringle & Sons (London) Ltd – 1931
In 1961 the firm was described as Wholesale Jewellers, Watch and Clock Importers, Silversmiths and Electro-Platers, Wholesale Opticians, Tool And Material Dealers, Gold and Silver Refiners.
By 1983 the company was styled as Robert Pringle (Engineers) Ltd.
The firm is still engaged in the engineering business at the time of writing this post.
1835 — Amwell street, Clerkenwell
1868 – 21 Wilderness Row
1881 — 42 Clerkenwell Road which was re- named Wilderness Works
The Watchmaker & Jeweller, Silversmith & Optician
Islington Local History Centre