John Ashford & Son Ltd

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John Ashford & Son Ltd.

John Ashford started his business in 1842 in Lionel Street as a gilt toy maker. In those days 'toys' were defined as being 'small articles worn or carried about the person' i.e. buttons, shoe buckles, vinaigrettes, cufflinks, patch boxes and the like.

Joseph Aitken was born in 1854 in Hulme, Manchester and walked to Birmingham when he was 12, initially staying with `Uncle' William Aitken who was a milkman and who lived in Well Street, Hockley (off Great Hampton Street) on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter. After spending some time living in Leamington Spa with a friend of William's, Jospeh returned to Birmingham and found employment with John Ashford, by then a manufacturing jeweller, of 79 Spencer Street. He was certainly working there in 1875 when he married a work colleague, Charlotte Bunting.

In 1905 he bought the firm from John Ashford Junior (the 'son' in the Company's title), financing the purchase with a 10,000 loan from a friend. This was a great deal of money in those days but Joseph paid it back within five years.

In the same year the firm was incorporated into a Limited Company and in 1912 it moved into its new factory at 16/18 Great Hampton Street specialising in enamelled work and men's jewellery. At this time it was one of several medium to large scale jewellery and metalworking factories in the Jewellery Quarter. The factory itself was designed by Arthur McKewan in 1911 and is a fine example of Birmingham Arts and Crafts style.

Ashfords ceased manufacturing on 28th February 1980 and sold its manufacturing capacity and stock to Joseph Smith & Son Ltd., Silversmiths, and finally went into Voluntary Liquidation in 1984.

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