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worldwartools

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As ever I've picked up a carving chisel that's got me scratching my head.
My LIMITED knowledge of such things extends to merely knowing of HERRING Bros of London, descended from W.Herring of Sheffield.
The chisel I have bought is stamped with an indistinct "initial" prior to "HERRING" over LONDON. There doesn't appear to be any reference to "Bros" involved - although the "Herring" does begin to fade out by the time it reaches 'g'.
Is there a chance that there was a London based Herring firm prior period to Herring Bros, or was there a split or spin off at some point?
My gut instinct suggests to me that this chisel is about 150-160 years old (around the launch of Herring Bros) - It also reminds me a hell of a lot of a Gravel Lane period SJ Addis that I have. I believe that Thomas Herring worked for him before setting up across the street as Herring Bros.
Is anyone aware of a brief "T.Herring, London" period, perhaps ?
 

DonMc

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Your questions have prompted me to revisit what little I've been able to find/learn about the history of the Herring Brothers and their carving tools. I have a few of their tools and have to say that they are among the very best I own.

In any event, it is very difficult to say anything definitive about this history due to a relative scarcity of information. And what information I've been able to glean (both primary and secondary), is often somewhat contradictory and/or inconclusive. For example, I've been unable to find any definitive evidence that the firm of Herring Brothers predates circa 1889. It does appear that Thomas & Edwin formed a partnership and began manufacturing carving tools at 19 Gravel Lane, Southwark during the 1860's - possibly as early as 1864. But I've been unable to find firm evidence they were doing business as Herring Brothers, and the partnership appears to have ended about 1869. Interestingly, they also had offices at 12 & 14 Rue Daval, Paris.

After that, it becomes difficult to determine exactly what Thomas and Edwin were doing. Census records for Thomas list him as a carving tool maker in 1871, an edge tool maker in 1881, and a tool maker in 1891 and 1901 ("own account"). Census records for Edwin list him as a tool maker in 1871, a black smith in 1881, a tool smith in 1891 and an engineers' tool smith in 1911. Unfortunately, there seems to be very few London trade directories available for this period, but a careful look at the 1882 and 1884 directories elicited no listings for either brother or a Herring Brothers firm. So it is possible that one or another of them may have been manufacturing and marking carving tools during this time, but I've not found positive evidence to support this.

Incidentally, there was also a London firm of Herring & Dobie which may have begun during the 1860's but failed November 14, 1873. The principals of that firm were Edward Herring and Thomas Meldrum Dobie. It is tempting to think that the one partner may actually have been Edwin, but I'm inclined to doubt this. So think it unrelated to Thomas, Edwin or the Herring Brothers firm.

As I've already indicated, I've been unable to find any positive evidence for the existence of the Herring Brothers firm before 1889. Which may be due, in part, to the scarcity of directories available at present. In any event, the firm continued until at least 1915 (based on the latest directory available to me), but the only principal I've been able to identify is Thomas Samuel Herring, who I believe is the son of Thomas and Harriet (Addis) Herring.

Hope this helps a little.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR
 

worldwartools

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Hi Don and thanks for your detailed input on this subject. This original post has had quite a few reads but only one response, so maybe the desired information is, as you suggest, nigh on impossible to source. I still think somebody out there will have a clearer stamped version of this 'Herring' incarnation and might yet shed further light on the situation.
Thanks again for your help
Jon
 

worldwartools

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I've just read one account of the Herring story which identifies Herring and Dobie being at 19 Gravel Lane, so they might be another contender, although this still doesn't explain the illegible initial stamped before "Herring" on my chisel.
 

DonMc

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I had seen that account, which is why I had suggested in my previous post that the Herring & Dobie partnership may have possibly have begun as early as 1864. After your response, I've tried to do some follow-up searching which hasn't helped answer your original question. But I thought it might be of some interest.

For one thing, it does appear that Edwin Herring was in partnership with Thomas Meldrum Dobie. (The earliest mention of their bankruptcy I've found has it as Edwin rather than Edward.) They were doing business as Dobie and Herring, making edge tools at No 13 St. George's Street, East, when they were declared bankrupt 14 November 1873. The question remains, however, when the partnership began, as the account you refer to indicates a date as early as 1864. That may be, but I've found some evidence which raises some questions about that.

Specifically, I've tried to learn a little more about Thomas Meldrum Dobie. According to birth records he was born 12 March 1828 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. His Father and Mother were David and Mary Dobie. He married Anne McKenzie Scott in Edinburgh in 1859, and, according to the 1861 census, they were living in Kinglassie, Fife, Glenwood, with a 1 year old daughter Jacobina Katherine. Thomas is listed as a woolen manufacturer. Then in an 1866 Fife & Kinross directory, T. & W. Dobie (Thomas Meldrum and his brother William) are listed as woolen manufacturers (blankets & tweeds) in the Rothes Wool Mills, Leslie. Finally, there is a listing of a sequestration (seizing the assets) of the David Dobie & Sons firm, woolen manufacturers, on 10 August, 1869. The principals of the firm being being listed as Thomas Meldrum and William Dobie.

Thomas first shows up in a London census in 1871. In it, he is listed as Thos. Meldrum Dobie, a lodger, married, but none of his family appear to be living with him. Additionally, he's listed as a yeast merchant. I can't say with absolute certainty, but I believe all of this raises some questions about when the partnership began. I'm leaning toward a theory that the partnership may have been very short, possibly starting in late 1871 and declared bankrupt by late 1873. He may have been involved in both woolen and edge tool manufacturing at the same time, but his being in London without his family in 1871 suggests to me that he had moved there ahead of his family in order to get established. So, I have some doubt about the Herring and Dobie partnership predating 1871.

Just to follow up, by 1881 Thomas M. Dobie is listed as an advertising agent in London, and is living with his wife Annie, and daughters, Jacobina K. and Mary M. Apparently his wife has died by the 1891 census, but his daughters are still living with him, and he listed as an advertising contractor. In the 1901 census, he's living with a housekeeper and is listed as a retired advertising contractor.

Incidentally, if I had to hazard a guess, it would be that your carving tool was made by Thomas Herring. I'm basing that on his always being listed as some kind of tool maker (rather than a more specific activity such as tool forger) in the census records. But, I'm also hoping someone will come up with more information regarding the activities of the London Herring edge tool makers.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR
 

Robert F.

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As ever I've picked up a carving chisel that's got me scratching my head.
My LIMITED knowledge of such things extends to merely knowing of HERRING Bros of London, descended from W.Herring of Sheffield.
The chisel I have bought is stamped with an indistinct "initial" prior to "HERRING" over LONDON. There doesn't appear to be any reference to "Bros" involved - although the "Herring" does begin to fade out by the time it reaches 'g'.
Is there a chance that there was a London based Herring firm prior period to Herring Bros, or was there a split or spin off at some point?
My gut instinct suggests to me that this chisel is about 150-160 years old (around the launch of Herring Bros) - It also reminds me a hell of a lot of a Gravel Lane period SJ Addis that I have. I believe that Thomas Herring worked for him before setting up across the street as Herring Bros.
Is anyone aware of a brief "T.Herring, London" period, perhaps ?
I have a small spoon chisel with a bolster. All I can read of the marking is “& T Herring” over London. No other marks. I am guessing there must be an E for brother Edwin before the &. It does not say Brothers. Maybe this is when the brothers were working together from 1864-69? I am new to the group. I am fascinated with carving tool history. I read in you material of a chisel similarly marked as mine except that one had a blurred T and no &. Just thought I would throw this observation in the pot.

Robert Hornback

1600211787918.jpeg
 

clogs

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Vamos, Crete, GREECE.......
you guy's over the water's have done an amazing job getting this information....
DonMc, guess you have one of those tools, which started this quest off.......
best of luck.....
I was always told if you want to know about your own country try asking a foreigner.....hahaha.....
Funny, when I lived in LA I knew more about the place than most but thats not so hard in Tinzel town.....
 

johnnyb

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last weekend I saw a set of identical tools about 8 all marked herring. the dealer said they were leather workers tools. almost like a palm spoon gouge but flat at the end with a vee notch.
I've got a little used set of herring bros carving tools over stamped with Giovanni tiranti! obviously a set made for tirantis(still a London sculpture materials/tools seller) absolutely beautifully made and forged so delicately.
 

Nigel Burden

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I have a new, old stock 11/2" single iron plane blade stamped J Herring & Son England with a Herring logo above the wording. Unfortunately I can't seem to pick out the wording and logo to photograph it, even though it's clear, although not heavily engraved on the blade.

Nigel.
 

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