If you’re a carver, woodworker, or interested in the history of edge-tools you will recognize some or all of the names in the title of this post. “ADDIS” in one form or another was imprinted on edge-tools produced in England, primarily woodcarving tools, for well over a century. Many of the carving tools made by members of the Addis family survive and are sought out and used by professional and amateur carvers. The Herring Brothers may be less well known but edge-tools with their imprint are as well regarded as any produced by the Addis family. Indeed, one of the Herring brothers moved from Sheffield to London to apprentice with Samuel Joseph Addis. Ward & Payne is known as a Sheffield edge-tool manufacturer that employed one member of the Addis family and bought the rights to use the name of another member after his death.
There are many reasons why we might choose to use historic tools today. Carving tools made in England in the nineteenth century have the reputation of being the best ever made, superior to tools available today. There is a romance and nostalgia about tools used by prior generations of carvers whose names are often found stamped on their handles – wishfully thinking some of the skill of a bygone master will rub off on us. But I own and have used carving tools from all the nineteenth-century makers as well as most manufacturers making carving tools today and find a properly shaped and sharpened modern tool works as well as its historic counterpart whatever the metallurgical differences between them may be. There are real, factual differences however that would warrant seeking out historic tools, but the main reason I started acquiring them was the pricing. Carving gouges continue to be labor-intensive to make and as a result are expensive. This is often an impediment to someone starting out in the field or to someone who might want to try woodcarving but is unsure if they will enjoy it and wish to continue with the practice. Used or second-hand tools, for which both historic and contemporary tools qualify, are (with some exceptions) typically less expensive than new tools – often by half.
But when, after many years, you have built up a sizable collection of old tools, the historian in you wants to know more. Who were these makers? What years did their working careers span? Are there other makers I don’t know about because I have never found one of their marked tools? What were the “prize medals” we see imprinted on tools from several makers awarded for? And why so many different imprint versions, especially in the case of S. J. Addis (1811-1871) who seems to have purchased a new stamp every several years to imprint his tools?
Several studies of the Addis family, which also touch on the family’s connection with Ward & Payne and the Herring brothers, have been web published and they inform the captions for the following illustrations. The links are here:
Addis History and Carving Tool Imprint Overview by Gary P. Laroff.
Addis: A Famous Name in Carving Tools by Geoffrey Tweedale
More Addis Questions by Don McConnell
Gary P. Laroff published his overview in 2006 and I know from correspondence with him that he has gathered additional information since then including previously unrecorded imprints.
Though I had not known it before I read Laroff’s overview, I was not surprised to find the Addis family of edge-tool makers worked in Deptford, a district in south-east London that from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries was a Royal Dockyard town. It was in Deptford that Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) family had settled and where he may have worked in ship carving before catapulting to fame with encouragement from the connoisseur and diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706). Historically, carving tool makers would be best served working in proximity to the end users of their products. A close working relationship between the carvers and tool makers was useful and necessary in London from late seventeenth into the eighteenth century when intense technical demands were placed on woodcarvers, particularly in the case of the Gibbons shop. With carving tool makers and carvers living and working within blocks of one another, experimentation with new shapes and sizes of tools could happen in real-time
The histories concerning the Addis family as edge-tool makers take us back not much earlier than 1792 when Samuel Addis (1768-1832) is recorded working in Church Street, Deptford. It is uncertain if earlier generations of the Addis family worked in the trade or how long the family had been in Deptford prior to this time. Late nineteenth century advertisements proclaim the Addis family tradition of edge-tool making was “Established in 1717” but there is no published evidence for this.
It is undeniable, however, that forging, hardening, and tempering carving tools is an exacting Art and Mystery and a trade whose secrets were handed down through generations. Whenever the Addis family began their tradition of making carving tools it is cannot be a coincidence that the most successful dynasty of carving tool makers hail from Deptford, the parish that launched the career of the “Glorious Grinling Gibbons”.
The following images are a collection of imprints on carving tools made by Joseph James Addis (1792-1858) and his son Samuel Joseph Addis (1811-1871).
Up next – James Bacon Addis (1829-1889).
15 thoughts on “The Addis Family, the Herring Brothers, and Ward & Payne”
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I have another of those J.B. ADDIS JUNr gouges, as well as several S.J. ADDIS gouges with imprints that aren’t listed in your article that date from the Gravel Lane period to the Worship St. period.
Good to hear of another J. B. Addis Junr gouge, not many around. S. J. Addis used many variant markings, and I’m not sure why he needed to so frequently modify his imprint. I have, and have seen, other imprints not shown here. Perhaps they will all be illustrated in an article or book format at some point.
I have just started to research the Herring family in Sheffield. John Herring (born 1855) lived in my house in 1891. It would be great to get in touch and see if you have any further information about the family!
How interesting! John Herring and his descendants were highly respected edge tool makers in Sheffield well into the 20th century. They did not produce carving tools so I don’t know as much about the John Herring family as I do the Herrings who went to London and became carving tool makers. Ancestry.com is one place to start researching John Herring and there are other sites dedicated to the study of Sheffield edge tool manufactures. Plus you can visit the local archives, something we don’t have access to!
I have the Finsbury in a smaller hook type profile, and the Gravel lane in a large spoon type…but one I cannot ID is any history on D or C Maiers working with JB Addis and sons..I have one that has both stamps. The mystety continues…
I know of no connection between the Addis family and Maier. The best information on Maiers is this from another edge tool historian: “A 1928 catalogue from the Charles Maiers & Sons company gives their address as 59 Sixteenth Ave., Newark, NJ. The catalog featured fishtail gouges, which mostly seemed similar to London pattern carving tools. It also indicates the company was established in 1884. Charles was born in 1855, in Germany, & arrived in the U.S. in 1882. However, census records indicate the family was in PA until, at least, Jan. 1885. So they may have started there, or acquired an existing company in Newark. I’ve found Newark directory listings for Charles Maiers, tool makers, as early as 1891 & as late as 1928.”
It’s possible that some tools marked C. Maier were made in Pennsylvania.
So I wonder if the one I have with both JB addis and Maiers is rebranded later on..hmm Thanks!!
It is fairly well documented that a number of American tool makers also imported tools and added their stamps.
In the toolbox belong to the sculptor Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935) he had at least one tool inscribed: Herring Bro London. It is a wooden handled steel? chisel. He was in London once in his life as far as I know, it was on his way to America from France. He departed France in 1905 and arrived in Boston in 1906, staying in London long enough to participate in an exhibition (and possibly exchange a tool or two).
I have herring and Addis tools for carving. What are they worth? How’s do I find out?
I have a collection of woodworking tools that were handed down to me from my grandfather who was a woodworker that migrated to the United States in the early 1900s i’ve had these tools for about 30 years and I’ve never bothered to look at them since I’m not a woodworker, recently we decided to start cleaning out our house now that we’re retired and the kids are all moved out that’s when I started to dig through the tools that were left me and found out there was quite a collection of 40 some hand carving tools that were S.J. ADDIS. Reading the article on dating the tools by the foundry stamp I thought it was interesting that I found four of the carving tools do you have the stamp S.J. ADDIS London with the Compass and square following the name. The main reason I’m posting this is to see if anybody would be interested in purchasing these tools it’s a lot sale not individually but I’m willing to let them go for a very fair price. Please contact me if you are interested. Thanks
Hi Chris, Thank you for your blog posts. I’ve learned a lot. I am currently trying to build a set of tools for wood sculpture and dream of finding a comprehensive set of Addis tools for sale. But I have found a few and one is a large gouge stamped “J. B. ADDIS & SONS” and on the reverse “9 PRIZE MEDALS” and a couple of dates below that. However, it is also stamped “ENGLAND 8” (with the 8 rotated 90 degrees) which is evidently a sweep number, so a possible counter-example to your comment above that the sweep numbers were not stamped during the “9 PRIZE MEDALS” period. Possibly the “ENGLAND 8” were added later. Also, this gouge looks very deep to me for my concept of #8 so possibly the stamped 8 might refer to an earlier numbering system than the later Sheffield list.
A friend of mine was recently in touch with me about selling his collection of carving tools. Mostly Addis with some Maiers. I haven’t seen them yet but plan to, he’s about 18 miles from me. I’m not sure how many there are or how he wishes to sell them or a price. Anyone interested can contact me through my gmail.
Yes, there are variations upon variations of makers stamps. We’re still collecting them. Since carving tools were not hardened all the way to the handle, the shanks can continue to be marked. There are many tools with the mark of the hardware store that sold them. I’ve also seen owners marks stamped on the metal. I have a couple of tools with sweep marks that I’m certain were done later. In some cases the a sweep number was stamped on the handle. One is stamped “6” but isn’t a six sweep on any London sweep guide.