Marshall Enamels

The Marshall Name is synonymous with the revival of English Georgian Enamels. The family revived this art in the late 1960’s when Kenneth Marshall formed Copper Enamels (Bilston) Ltd, later to become Bilston & Battersea Enamels Ltd.

Kenneth Marshall’s two sons Ian and Brent, worked along side their father and have attained over sixty years experience between them, in the art of fine enamelling on copper and silver.

They are mentioned by name as being experts in their field in books written by Susan Benjamin the founder of Halcyon Days, the eminent authority on English Enamels.

Now after more than thirty years enamelling, Ian and Brent have decided to form a new company Marshal Enamels which will allow them to produce a truly unique product range, where they will reproduce the art and craftsmanship which they feel has been lost in recent years. Enamelling is an industry they have grown up in and cherish. Their family history and personal experience in fine enamelling is world renowned.

History of the 18th Century Georgian Enamel Box

The middle 18th century was a period of prosperity, festivity and fashion, when enamelling was an eminent fascination amongst the Bourgeois and Aristocracy alike. The nobility, wealthy gentry and rising merchant classes invested in exquisite fripperies, with the enamel hand painted snuff box being amongst the most appealing creations. It became “au necessaire” to obtain them. They were emblazoned with flowers, landscapes, harbour scenes, mythological subjects and portraits of famous people (often copied from renowned artists). Inscribing messages to convey love or friendship (known as the motto box) became “la goute” in snuff decoration.

In the 19th century, there was a decline of the enamelling Industry as a whole. The manufacturers of Bilston, Birmingham, Liverpool and Battersea once the epitome of 18th century delight, found that the economic confusion generated by the Napoleonic Wars and harshened by the effects of the industrial revolution, resulted in labour moving to larger industrial markets. The quality of the craftsmanship degenerated as makers attempted to produce the same quantities of enamels with fewer skilled workers.

By the late 1830’s, one of England’s most adored crafts had, in essence perished, failing to survive in the progressive Industrial Nation.

The Revival

In the 1960’s, Kenneth Marshall, a ceramic chemist was developing his interest in 18th century enamelling techniques. He spent years developing enamels and painting colours suitable for applying to copper, whilst being able to endure multiple firing. The work was vital as the enamels and paints used in Georgian times contained unacceptably high levels of lead and arsenic, for use in a modern working environment. In 1966, Ian returned from Norway where he trained in the techniques of enamelling, to join his father’s newly formed venture “Copper Enamels (Bilston) Ltd“.

During an antique trade fayre in London 1968, Susan Benjamin saw a small enamelled and decorated cigarette box from “Copper Enamels” on display by Harman Brothers, a silversmith of Birmingham. She visited “Copper Enamels” where the concept for the two companies to work alongside each other to revive the authentic Georgian Enamel was initiated.

By automn 1969, they were producing enamelled boxes. It was that this time that the company changed its name to “Bilston & Battersea Enamels” after the original Georgian enamels producing regions. The revival of the enamels caught the imagination of the media, who praised the work of Susan Benjamin and the Marshall family.

In 1973, Brent had joined the company, and production of enamels for both Halcyon Days and major establishments such as Cartier, Tiffany and The Metropolitan Opera ensured the continued demand for enamel boxes. The company grew steadily, throughout Harman Brothers played an important part in the development of mounts and copper components.

The Future

After the sad loss of Kenneth Marshall and the changes within Bilston & Battersea Enamels, Marshal Enamels has been formed, with the aim of keeping the product as close to the original ideals as possible, thus retaining the English craftsmanship that once made it so fashionable in the Georgian Era.

They intend to continue their prolific and historical role in the revival of 18th century Enamelling by concentrating on establishing a company that will focus entirely on quality, thus attributing and characterising the essence of each individual enamel.

Limited Editions, Special Commissions, Rare Collections and Themes are the means by which they intend to fulfil their aim. They have the skills and knowledge to produce a vast range of enamels, on both copper and silver, to the highest quality.