Arthur Price of England
Arthur Price of England (Est. 1902- ) When the family-owned, British manufacturer and distributor of cutlery and giftware, currently based in Sheffield, and now known as Arthur Price of England, was established by its namesake in 1902, Price (1865-1936) had already spent twenty years working for flatware companies in the Birmingham area of England.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Sheffield was home to knife and blade manufacturing in the UK and turn-of-the-century Birmingham was the home of spoon and fork making. The two trades used different materials and processes and it wasn’t until after World War II that the two elements came together.
Arthur left school at fourteen and first worked for various ‘toy smith’ companies which helped him learn his craft. Soon Price began working for the flatware companies and mastered the skills required for the flatware trade. Simultaneously, he slowly accumulated second-hand machinery to start his own enterprise. Dedicated and ambitious, he made his own tools and dies at home after finishing his 12-hour factory shifts. The Price family’s front room became Arthur’s workshop.
His very first factory was at 16 ½ Gem Street in the Aston area of Birmingham. He employed 12 people including his eldest daughter, Maud, who was the company’s secretary from 1905 until the outbreak of World War I. The factory had no electricity, and used a small gas engine to cast the nickel silver ingots used for making cutlery.
According to Price’s great grandson, Simon, who, with his son James, now runs the company from their UK Headquarters in Lichfield, Staffordshire, “Competition was stiff, with 20 other flatware companies operating in Birmingham [but] my great grandfather’s business acumen and hard work paid off, and he was soon able to acquire a series of larger premises to house his new equipment.
“By 1911, the business was prospering and all the products produced were being exported overseas. [The company was] the first … to make spoons and forks of chromium plate, the forerunner of Stainless Steel…”
At first, the Company was called, A. Price & Co. Ltd. In 1911, Price moved the company to a small factory at Conybere Street where it began to cast its own nickel silver ingots. At the outset of World War I, he moved the company again; this time to Vauxhall Street, Birmingham where the company continued to make only spoons and forks for the Commonwealth market.
The company continued to grow during the 1930s depression despite fire breaking out in the Gem Street factory in 1934. Arthur died in 1936 leaving the company to his two sons, Arthur, Jr. and Frederick.
The breakout of World War II in 1939 led to a huge drop in the demand for cutlery. To make matters worse, Arthur Junior died in 1942 from cancer.
Midway through the war, Frederick negotiated a contract with the British Ministry of Aircraft Production to manufacture hot brass pressings which formed the body of incendiary bombs. This contract saved the company as not only had demand for cutlery dropped but the Ministry of Labour was threatening to close the factory and release what was left of its workforce.
The war that threatened the company’s existence now offered it a life line. Arthur Price & Co. Ltd. continued to make munitions for the rest of the war which would help the firm find its exalted reputation in the years to come.
After the World War II ended, cutlery production started again and very quickly in the post-war years, demand outstripped supply. Cutlers sacrificed quality and sold anything, but Arthur Price & Co. was determined to buck this trend and insisted on returning to its pre-war standard of only selling the finest spoons and forks.
During the late 1940s, Arthur Price & Co. acquired an even larger flatware factory in Sheffield and in the years that followed the company became the largest manufacturer of Stainless Steel flatware in the Britain.
Fred continued to run the business successfully until the early 60’s when his son John took over. One of John’s first moves was to acquire a manufacturing facility in Sheffield so the company could now start to sell cutlery.
In 1964, John re-named the company Arthur Price of England to demonstrate the company’s expertise as an English cutlery manufacturer. In the years that followed, the Arthur Price of England brand grew steadily. A notable achievement was designing and making cutlery for Concorde aircraft in 1976.
In 1977, the company was granted the Royal Warrant by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen in recognition for being a top quality supplier to Her Majesty’s Household. In 1982, the firm ended its long association with Birmingham and relocated to its headquarters Lichfield, Staffordshire and the company’s entire cutlery manufacturing operations moved to Sheffield.
From its beginnings in 1902 through the mid-1980s, the company only manufactured classic, English flatware mostly in the traditional “parish” patterns. While this was a very limited product range, it successfully sustained the company for more than eighty years.
During the 1980s the market was changing. The company then began adding to its product lines. The process of product development continued well into the 21st Century with the introduction of classic silver tableware and gifts.
In 1988 the company was granted its second Royal Warrant, this time to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Also in 1988, Arthur Price of England purchased Charles Kirkby, a cutlery cabinet manufacturer also based in Sheffield.
In 1992, the company introduced its first cutlery line not manufactured in the UK. There was a huge growth in the amount of products imported from the Far East and Arthur Price International launched its Far Eastern manufacturing lines alongside its UK made collections.
In 1993, Price bought A. Deeley (Cutlery Manufacturers) Ltd., another cutlery manufacturer in Sheffield. Over time, Price combined all its cutlery manufacturing operations into the former A. Deeley factory.
In 1994, Arthur Price bought its major UK competitor, George Butler, which significantly increased its market share in the UK. As part of this deal, Arthur Price also became the sole distributor in the UK of the leading French cutlery brand, Guy Degrenne.
By 1997, Arthur Price had launched its first contemporary cutlery designs. The company’s move into contemporary design took another step forward in 2000 when it linked up with interior designer, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
Laurence designed a range of cutlery patterns (the first designer cutlery) that started a trend of using famous designers in housewares and tabletop designs that many companies have since employed. Arthur Price’s relationship with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is ongoing and now includes a range of china mugs and the Let Them Eat Cake collection.
In 2001, Arthur Price began working with one of the world’s most famous photographers, Lord Patrick Lichfield, to design and launch the Lichfield Photograph Frame Collection. This also continued Arthur Price’s Royal connections as Lord Lichfield is the Queen’s cousin.
Another famous name, Jean-Christophe Novelli also teamed up with Arthur Price to create a branded range of kitchenware called Novelli by Arthur Price, featuring Christophe’s invention, the Versi-Tool, which was unsuccessful launch and is no longer available.
In 2010, Arthur Price launched a new range of cutlery produced in collaboration with renowned cookery and lifestyle writer and designer Sophie Conran. The Rivelin design is a successful, diverse selection of tableware accessories.
Earlier, in 2008, an entry level brand, Arthur Price Kitchen (APK), was launched and the lines included thirty-piece cutlery sets that had an additional six teaspoons to cover items that tend to go missing. As well as cutlery sets, APK also features accessories such as cheese knives and a collection of ceramic pieces.
Arthur Price also continues to produce cutlery for luxury interior designer Clive Christian. The Arthur Price of England collection of fine English cutlery also features seven designs available in sterling silver. Each piece of sterling silver hollow handle cutlery is hand made to order in Sheffield.
In 2012, the company launched a range of children’s gifts based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s children’s character the Gruffalo.
At Arthur Price of England, the passion for producing luxury cutlery and silverware remains at the very heart of the brand. Through five Price family generations, it still insists on handcrafting each individual piece.
“It goes hand in hand with a family tradition that prizes quality design and craftsmanship above all else. And this will always endure,” says Simon Price.