Japanware Tin Plate Cup, Williamson & Sons Providence
This impressive japanned, tin plate cup, was made by W.B.
Williamson and Sons to show at a trade exhibition in the
1870s. It is said to be a replica of the original Football
Association Cup. The original cup was stolen from a Jewellery
shop in Aston, Birmingham and was never found.
W.B. Williamson & Sons and the Worcester Providence Works.
William Blizard Williamson arrived in Worcester with his family
in the early 1850s. He started a small business in Lowesmoor,
manufacturing a wide range of articles in sheet steel and tinplate.
The Providence Works
In 1858, Williamson built a new factory called The Providence
Works, situated in the Blockhouse, a poor industrial part of
the city. They made all sorts of items ranging from everyday
products such as trunks, hatboxes and cutlery trays to fine
showpieces. The company¹s specialities included ballot boxes
and judge’s wig boxes.
Japanning is a method of giving a high gloss finish to tin-plate
using lamp-black, turpentine, oils, pitch, resin and wax. Japanning
was a simple process mostly carried out by women and children,
whilst men were employed to cut and shape the tin. The process
imitated the shiny finish of Japanese lacquerware, which had
become very fashionable.
Experimentation and Invention
In 1878, W.B. Williamson died, leaving the Providence Works
to his sons William and George. They could see the wonderful
potential of using tin for storing products and keeping them
During the 1800s, William developed the 'lever lid' tin, still
the standard container used for products such as paint, custard
powder and treacle. George invented the 'cutter lid tin' for
cigarettes and tobacco. The cutter lid allowed tobacco to be
kept fresh for longer than had previously been possible. The
idea was patented, bringing in vast business for Williamson,
as well as for tobacco makers W.D. & H.O. Wills, to whom Williamson
was sole supplier.
In 1890, William left the business and George formed a limited
company called G.H. Williamson and Sons Ltd. George died in
1918 and was succeeded by his son, George Evan Williamson. A
new product was needed to revive the company as the patents
for the 'cutter lid tin' had expired. On a visit to America,
G.E. Williamson on seeing the potential of using mass production
techniques, set up a new canning factory in Worcester.
During the late 1920s, several independent tin-plate manufacturers
joined together in order to fight off competition from overseas.
They called themselves Metal Box and in 1930, were joined by
G.E. Williamson who became their director. He was to bring with
him enough capital to develop a brand new open-top canning factory.
This factory, which still produces millions of cans today, was
built at Perry Wood in Worcester in 1931.
What Happened to the Providence Works?
From 1930 until the 1960s, the Providence Works continued to
produce special lines such as large biscuit tins, five-gallon
drums, and other aluminum products and components. The most
famous product was a series of decorated domestic tinware, known
as "Worcester Ware". In 1963, the factory closed and was partly
demolished to be replaced by the Telephone Exchange.
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