The Asprey company
was originally founded as a silk printing business by William Asprey in 1781. Based from a shop in Mitcham, Surrey, William and his son Charles (I) soon started to retail luxury goods.
In 1841, Charles formed a business partnership with his son-in-law, Francis Kennedy, a stationer based at 49 Bond Street, London. This partnership was to last until 1846, with Francis continuing on the business himself. By the end of 1847, Charles Asprey and his son Charles moved their business to 166 Bond Street, London.
Asprey entered one of their dressing cases into the Great Exhibition of 1851, receiving an ‘Honourable Mention’ for their quality of workmanship. This prestigious event earned Asprey great admiration and recognition, concreting the Asprey name to be synonymous with the utmost luxury and exclusivity.
In 1858, Asprey absorbed the highly respected firm of Edwards into their business.
Purchasing the Alfred Club at 22 Albermarle Street in 1861, Asprey expanded their premises and now had entrances to their shop on two of the most exclusive streets in London.
Asprey were awarded the gold medal for expertise for their collection of dressing cases presented at the International Exhibition of 1862. Queen Victoria was so impressed by the work of Asprey, that in the same year she awarded them with the Royal Warrant for their dressing cases, travelling bags and writing cases.
In 1872, the business name officially changed to Charles Asprey & Son, and later in 1879, to Charles Asprey & Sons, with the inclusion of Charles (II)’s sons, Charles (III) and George Edward Asprey. (See note below)
Asprey acquired the firm of Leuchars & Son in 1888, and started to share their manufactory at 8 Sherwood Street, Golden Square, London. However the actual business of Leuchars & Son remained trading from their 38 & 39 Piccadilly, London address until 1902.
In 1889, the business was renamed C & G.E Asprey, despite Charles (II) not retiring until 1891. The last name change of the nineteenth century was in 1900, where the business became known as Asprey & Co. In 1906, Asprey bought out their business competitors, and neighbours, Houghton & Gunn.
Walnut & Burr Walnut
Walnut is a hard, dense, tight- grained wood that polishes to a very smooth finish. It is a popular and attractive wood whose colour ranges from near white in the sapwood to a dark hew in the heartwood. When dried in a kiln, walnut wood tends to develop a dull brown colour, but when air-dried can become a rich purplish-brown. Because of its colour, hardness and grain, it is a prized furniture and carving wood. Walnut veneer was highly priced and the cost would reflect the ‘fanciness’ of the veneer – the more decorative, then the more expensive and desirable.
Burr walnut refers to the swirling figure present in nearly all walnut when cut and polished, and especially in the wood taken from the base of the tree where it joins the roots. However the true burr is a rare growth on the tree where hundreds of tiny branches have started to grow. Burr walnut produces some of the most complex and beautiful figuring you can find.
Walnut "burrs" were often used to make fabulous furniture. Veneer sliced from walnut burl is one of the most valuable and highly prized by cabinet makers and prestige car manufacturers and is also a favourite material for shotgun stocks.
Inlay was commonly used in the production of decorative burr walnut furniture, where pieces of coloured veneers are inlaid into the surface of the walnut, adding delicate or intricate patterns and designs. Inlays normally use various exotic veneers, but other materials such as mother-of-pearl, brass or bone were also be used.