Francis Higgins (1818 - 1908)
Francis Higgins was one of the leading silversmiths of the mid-Victorian era. Francis Higgins & Son. rose to great prominence for the quality and ingenuity of their silverware and as specialist spoon and folk makers, regarded as one of the most important firms of Victorian silversmiths specializing in this field. As a leading maker of flatware, much of Francis Higgins’ work was supplied to some of the finest retailers, including the notable Hunt and Roskell, and R & S Garrard & Co. Francis Higgins’ craftsmanship and exemplary creative ingenuity were recognized by contemporary society and art critics alike. In 1848, The Art Union praised the firm’s production as “remarkable for their elegant simplicity, or elaborate and rich workmanship; manufactured too at a price which brings them within reach of a class not absolutely wealthy. Instead of fiddles, and such matters whereupon to base his design the party in question has had to recourse to the beautiful forms of nature – the leaves and buds of the rose, and other flowering plants, which he has adapted…They may, we are informed be procured of any respectable silversmith, either in London or in the provincial towns.” (John Culme, “The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914”, 1987, p. 230). Although Francis Higgins’ business as a silversmith is presumed to have begun in 1782, it has been proposed by Culme that the firm was founded from 1817 when on 31st October, the son of Francis Higgins’, Francis Higgins’ junior, entered his first mark. After a less fruitful solo venture of his own, Francis Higgins’ junior rejoined his father as a partner around 1868, at which date the business became Francis Higgins & Son. Their partnership resulted not only in a particular concern for high quality objects, the pair also pioneered new silversmithing machinery and advanced tools, some of which were designed by Higgins junior himself. Following the death of his father in 1880, Francis Higgins junior assumed control of the business as a sole partner and soon after began to diversify the firm’s range of production. Still prized by collectors, pieces by Francis Higgins can be admired today in a number of important collections including the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum, London.