Antiques Column with Michael Dowse: Stainless steel wedding gift of choice

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In 1913, Harry Brearley working in a research laboratory in Sheffield discovered ‘rustless’ steel and became credited as its inventor.

Originally stainless steel was developed for use in the military, or for medical equipment and industrial tools but in 1934 it was first advertised for domestic use at the Ideal Home Exhibition and it was Old Hall which had the biggest and best display stand.

William Wiggin, son of James the founder of Old Hall, had been experimenting with stainless steel tableware for some time, making the first stainless steel teapot in 1930.

However, gaining support for the products from retailers was difficult and the Ideal Home Exhibition was the final stage in trying to get trade and the public onboard with his new venture.

The appointment of Robert Welch as design consultant in 1955 led to changing fortunes for Old Hall. Welch was not only a specialist in stainless steel production design trained at the Royal College of Art but had also qualified as a silversmith and his skills as such were evident in his designs.

Welch’s work was seen as ‘British contemporary’ and earned him three Design Council awards. His notable designs included the hollow ware for P&O’s Oriana cruise liner as well as Old Hall candlesticks and the Alveston cutlery range which won him one of the awards in 1965.

The height of popularity for Old Hall was the 1960s when it was considered a shining example of first- rate modern British craftsmanship. During these golden years saw Old Hall was found in most homes and was possibly one of the most common wedding presents received by happy couples across Britain.