The renowned firm of Hennell was founded by silversmith David Hennell (1712 – 1785) in 1736.
He had been apprenticed to Edward Wood in 1728 and gained his freedom in 1735, setting up in business the following year in Gutter Lane near St. Pauls in the City of London. One of the oldest silversmithing and jewellery manufacturers in London, the business grew steadily over the coming years.
David’s son Robert joined his father in 1763, the business moved to nearby Foster Lane and they registered a joint mark. They created fashionable silverware of the highest quality for wealthy clients and received many remarkable commissions including that from Admiral Lord Nelson in 1799 for a silver tea service to be used on board HMS Victory. European Royalty frequented the business, Queen Victoria was a customer as were King George V and his wife Queen Mary.
During the 19th century the firm began branching into jewellery manufacturing, largely at the instigation of Robert’s son (also called Robert) who had joined the business. However, it was under the artistic direction of chief designer Charles Bruno during the 1920s and 30s that Hennell’s jewellery gained the recognition it deserved and in particular his Art Deco designs heralded a golden age for the firm in terms of jewellery.
The archive books contain wonderfully detailed design drawings detailing the stones and metal needed for each piece along with client names and dates all accompanied by careful costings. The names in these books attest to the fact that the rich and famous both at home and abroad appreciated the style and quality of Hennell’s work.
The business remained a family affair until the 1970s when it was sold, but their wonderful silverware and jewels stand as testament to one of London’s earliest silversmithing and jewellery manufacturing firms.