Watherston & Brogden, Jewellers

Extract from “Nineteenth Century Silver” by John Culme

Chapter 3: The Exhibition: Showmen and Craftsmen

(This extract was discoverd by Anne Brogden, for which many thanks)

One such firm specialising in this work, in addition to small articles of silver and jewellery, was that of James H. Watherston and John Brogden of London. Long-known for their good workmanship, the firm excelled themselves for the Great Exhibition by producing a 'gold enamelled and jewelled vase. The group surmounting the cover represents the United Kingdom as symbolised by the figures of Britannia, Scotia, and Hibernia; around the edge of the cup are four heads emblematical of the four quarters of the globe, in all of which Great Britain possesses colonies. Below these are festoons of diamonds, representing the rose, shamrock, and thistle; and, surmounting the body of the vase, are relievos, which express the ancient progenitors of the British nation; other appropriate devices are introduced. Still lower are two figures of Fame, crowning England's most renowned warriors, poets, and men of science; while, on the lower part of the cup, as an expression of British character, are the figures of Truth, Prudence, Industry, and Fortitude. The vase weighs ninety-five ounces, and is richly decorated with diamonds, pearls, rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, and emeralds, relieved by a cinque-cento ornamental ground, in enamel' (The Art Journal’s illustrated catalogue, p. 281).

'The gentlemen by whom this vase was exhibited have for many years held a distinguished position as practical executants of every class of jewellers' work. Their establishment was originally founded by Mr. John Brogden, who held the important and honourable office of Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company; and the business, after passing through two generations, maintains in its fullest integrity the reputation he originally acquired for it. The circumstances connected with the production of the beautiful vase now before our readers are of an interesting nature. Mr. Alfred Brown, its designer, had been in his youth most kindly assisted by Mr. Watherston, who had contributed to place him in the position which he now so honourably fills in the establishment of Messrs. Hunt & Roskell. In his studies at the Royal Academy, Mr. Brown succeeded in gaining all the honorary medals. An occasion presented itself in the Great Exhibition of 1851, when the exercise of the artist's talents appeared likely to render an essential service to his old friend and patron, and with praiseworthy feeling he immediately offered to testify his gratitude to Mr. Watherston by devoting his best energies to his service. He accordingly designed the vase' (Wyatt, Industrial Arts, vol. I, plate 66).

The John Brogden of Watherston & Brogden had been apprenticed to another small worker in gold and silver, James W. Garland in 1831. As the working partner in the firm, he entered his mark at the Goldsmiths' Hall on 10th December 1848 from premises at 16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. After Watherston's retirement from the business, Brogden continued manufacturing gold and other jewellery and small items of silver. He won a silver medal for work shown at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Of Brogden's jewellery, W. G. Deeley, a working jeweller of Birmingham, wrote that 'he has shown to the world a class of goods unequalled, and the manner in which he has treated the different ancient styles is something wonderful. The enamelling is remarkable for the colours displayed and its general finish; any one could easily spend an hour or so at this case in examining the different things, as they are alike pleasing, and at the same time very interesting. Attached to each of the articles are small tickets explaining the history of the things imitated. Thanks are due to this gentleman for his thoughtfulness in doing so' (Reports by Artisans, vol. II, p. 45). Brogden's business eventually moved to Grand Hotel Buildings, Trafalgar Square [should read Charing Cross according to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery], and closed during the 1880s [1885 according to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery].

Rev James Brogden is thought to be the son of John Brogden of Watherston & Brogden. There is also an older brother, John. See An Unpopular Vicar, The Reverend James Brogden.

Created 06/12/2004 MCB
Updated 8/4/2007 MCB
Updated 30/01/2021 IJB