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Benham & Froud (1855-1893)

Benham & Froud

London; metalworkers and wooden coalbox makers (fl.c.1855-c.1893)

Benham & Froud were primarily known as brass and copper manufacturers at Chandos Works, 40-42 Chandos Street, Charing Cross. They exhibited at the 1855 Paris and 1862 London exhibitions. A catalogue of 1874 gave their specialities as ‘art metal and wood work’.  They exhibited a set of wrought iron grills in the Medieval Court, 1862 London International Exhibition, which were designed by the architect Norman Shaw (illus. Meyer (2006) p. 116).

The Furniture Gazette, 23 September 1876, illustrated an example of a coal basket and skuttle made by the firm but editorial was critical of the poor design of their work. This might have been because not all their goods were manufactured by the firm.An advertisement in The Furniture Gazette, 3 February 1877, mentioned Chinese gongs specially chosen by their agents in Hong Kong. An advertisement in The Furniture Gazette, 1 January 1886 noted the firm, Benham & Froud (Ltd), was the original designer and introducer of wooden coal boxes.

Christopher Dresser designed for Benham and Froud from 1873 to 1893 and they supplied the Art Furnishers’ Alliance 1880-1883. The ‘Marlborough’, one of the Dresser-designed coal boxes, illus. The Furniture Gazette, 1 October 1886. 

Advertisement for wooden coal box designed by Christopher Dresser

Benham & Froud advertisement published in The Furniture Gazette, 1 October 1886, vol XXIV, p. 1 

The same article mentioned another new coal box design of the firm including the ‘Richmond’, which had an ornamental panel of metal marquetry which was a process invented by Mr Laws, a director of the firm. Other products utilised patented elements. In addition to coal boxes & fire furniture, Dresser is also known to have designed jardinieres, made by Benham & Froud, of brass, patinated copper and copper alloys (illustrated Donnelly (2021), p. 96 & 98).  C. L. Eastlake, S. J. Nicholl and O. W. Davis also designed for the firm. 

Augustus Benham died at 57 years of age on 5 January 1884 at his home, Amberley House in Bromley.  His obituary in The Furniture Gazette, 12 January & 14 June 1884, mentioned his interest in Sunday School work in United Kingdom and Europe and that he had served as Hon. Secretary of the Sunday School Union for 27 years.  He left a personal estate of over £40,000 [The Furniture Gazette, 12 January & 14 June 1884].

The firm continued under the same name after Benham’s death. The Furniture Gazette, 1 January 1886, recorded their telegraphic address of ‘Benfro, London’. The 1 October 1886 edition announced a new catalogue featuring art metal and woodwork for ecclesiastical purposes and the 1 April 1887 publication recorded Benham & Froud supplying a brass eagle lectern in the Baroness Burdett Coutt’s Church, Pimlico. Another catalogue was published in 1887 and the firm exhibited eagle & angel brass lecterns at the Manchester Ecclesiastical Exhibition, 1888 (illus. The Furniture Gazette, 1 November 1888). Their lecterns were also displayed at an ecclesiastical art exhibition, held in St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’ Halls, Norwich [The Furniture Gazette, 1 July 1889]. 

The Furniture Gazette, 15 December 1889, illustrated examples of extending pedestal and floor lamps with a patent ratchet to offer ease in altering the height and a dual burner. Noted also were an artistic jardinière, wood coal boxes in white enamel and gold, rosewood, mahogany or walnut.  The same publication announced that the firm was awarded a gold medal at the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, 1888-1889. 

Sources: Gere & Whiteway, Nineteenth-Century Design. From Pugin to Mackintosh (1993); Meyer, Great Exhibitions. London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia. 1851-1900 (2006); Donnelly, Christopher Dresser – Design Pioneer (2021).