Rundell and Bridge Silver

Philip Rundell (1746-1827) built up one of Britain's most important and successful silver manufacturing businesses, employing some of the most eminent craftsmen of his day. Both new and old silver, jewelry, objects of virtue and watches made up his vast stock at his London shop at number 32 on Ludgate Hill. By the 1820's, he headed a vast enterprise with agencies in Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Baghdad, Constantinople, Bombay, Calcutta, and various cities in South America. His success was as much due to the endeavors of his main partner, John Bridge (1755-1834) as to Rundell's own ruthless character and the beauty and quality of his merchandise.

Rundel & Bridge Shop front

Rundell was born in Bath, where he served an apprenticeship as a jeweler before going to London in about 1767. There he found employment at 32 Ludgate Hill, as a shopman at Theed and Pickett, a firm of jewelers and goldsmiths. Rundell was taken into partnership in 1772. Following the death of Theed's daughter, Rundell took the opportunity to purchase sole ownership of the business in 1785-86. Soon after he took his colleague, John Bridge into partnership.

John Bridge was introduced to the notice of King George III through his cousin. As a local man with an understanding of agricultural, the cousin was called upon to entertain the King while His Majesty was recuperating at Weymouth after his first serious illness in 1788-1789. The farmer mentioned his cousin who was a partner in a London firm of goldsmiths. Upon George III's return to London in 1789, he sent for John Bridge whose demeanor and work so pleased the whole Royal Family that the new firm of Rundell and Bridge was appointed as 'Jewelers and Goldsmiths to the King'. John Bridge took every opportunity to cultivate the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York's interest in plate. The two brothers and other members of the royal family also granted the firm royal warrants.

   

Pair of George IV ormolu ewers

In about the year 1803, the Prince of Wales discussed the manufacture of a service of silver-gilt plate of sufficient size and importance for use on State occasions. Rundell, Bridge and Rundell were able to build a new showroom in 1806. The Prince of Wales State plate was shown in an exhibit held for three days of every week during the spring of 1807. Invitation was by ticket only. "All the Rich, the great and Noble of the Land" flocked to see the display of the Grand Service. Their carriages blocked Ludgate Hill until seven o'clock each evening. This service with many additions would have been the service used at the Regency Fete in 1811. The viewing of the Prince of Wales personal taste displayed in the Grand Service did much to establish the Regency Style.

In 1805, Rundell took his nephew, Edmund Waller Rundell into partnership, whereupon the business was restyled Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. By this time they were one of the main manufacturers of quality silver plate, not only retailing their own wares but also pieces by other leading craftsmen, most notably Benjamin Smith, Digby Scott, and Benjamin Smith Jr.

Philip Rundell finally persuaded the gifted master silversmith, Paul Storr (1771-1844) to join the firm in 1807. The following year he took on the sculptor, William Theed (1764-1817) who had previously worked as a modeler for Wedgwood. When Theed died, Rundell took on another leading sculptor, John Flaxman (1755-1826). Unlike Theed, Flaxman was never a partner but was employed as the firm's designer and made models for the most important pieces, most notably 'The Shield of Achilles', (in the British Royal Collection) which was created for George IV's Coronation Banquet.

Paul Storr cup
Duke of York basket

The Royal Family's patronage of Rundell, Bridge and Rundell can best be summed up with a few notes on major transactions. In the period 1812 to 1816, the Prince Regent ordered a dozen silver-gilt ice-pails in the style of the Warwick Vase. Princess Charlotte was granted the sum of 10,000 pounds for jewelry by Parliament at her marriage in 1816. She purchased a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves, a diamond fastener for her manteau, a diamond cestus, ear-rings, and an armlet of great value, with a superb set of pearls from Rundell, Bridge & Co. The Duke of York with his own penchant for plate eventually owed Rundell, Bridge and Rundell so much money that he signed over the mining rights to Nova Scotia to settle his debt with them.

   

It was not until after Paul Storr had left the firm in 1819 that Philip Rundell entered his own mark, thus work which bears his stamp is relatively rare since Rundell retired soon after, in 1823. He died four years later leaving a phenomenal personal fortune of around £1,500,000 to his nephew, Joseph Nield, (who in turn bequeathed his wealth to Queen Victoria). Rundell's workshop continued operating up until the death of John Bridge in 1834. Thereafter the firm continued to commission silver from other manufacturers until it finally closed in 1843.

John Bridge Silver-gilt Tureen



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