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British Industrial History

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George Rowney and Co

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Makers of artists' colours, of 10 and 11 Percy Street, London, W1. (1922)

of 10-11 Percy Street, London, W1. Telephone: Museum 6220-1. Cables: "George Rowney, London." (1929)

Manufactories at Diana Place, Euston and Malden Pencil Works, London NW1. (1928)

1783 Business established when Richard Rowney and Thomas Rowney moved to central London and opened a premises selling perfumes and wig powder. As the wearing of wigs soon became unfashionable (an event for which George IV was blamed as he discarded his own wig), the Rowney’s re-focused themselves and concentrated upon producing artists colours.

1789 The company began manufacturing artists’ materials.

1801 Dissolution of the Copartnership between Thomas and Richard Rowney , of No. 95, Holborn-Hills in the City of London , Wholesale Perfumers and Merchants; the Business was carried on by Richard Rowney only.[1]

c.1801 Thomas Rowney went into a short-lived partnership with the artist, Thomas Robert Guest (1754-1818), preparing artists’ colours, called Guest and Rowney, at 81/82 Pall Mall. Guest took out a patent in 1801 for boxes to contain articles for drawing and painting, with a new arrangement of the palette of colours.

c.1802 The partnership, as Guest & Rowney, colour preparers at 82 Pall Mall, was dissolved; the lease and stock-in-trade, including colours, colour boxes, drawing desks, sketchbooks, drawing boards, drawing paper, portfolios, pencils and crayons, were offered at auction.

Following this, Thomas Rowney entered into a new partnership with his brother, Richard until 1806 or later, presumably as T. & R. Rowney

The company relocated many times during the 19th and 20th centuries and achieved many improvements in the manufacture and production of oil and watercolour throughout this time. Notable achievements included supplying famous artists such as John Constable and J. M. W. Turner. Turner became a family friend for whom the company was appointed official lithographers.

1806 Thomas’s son, George Rowney (1792-1870), was apprenticed to his father for seven years.

By about 1809 Thomas was trading independently from Bartlett’s Building, Holborn.

1813 Dissolution of the partnership of Thomas Rowny with Thomas Mash, as Rowney & Mash at Bartlett’s Buildings.

1813 George married Esther Forster (d.1865) in November 1813

From 1815 George was in partnership, as Rowney & Forster, with his wife's brother, Richard Forster, varnish maker. Rowney & Forster were "Superfine Colour Preparers and Varnish Makers", of 14 Oxford St.

c.1816-17 of 51 Rathbone Place.

1819 Rowney & Forster entered into the additional business of lithographic printers, advertising new publications in lithography.

1831 Forster retired; the business was trading as fancy stationers and watercolour manufacturers.

1832 The business became George Rowney and Co

1833 James Glover, of Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, Haberdasher and Perfumer, assigned all his estate and effects unto Samuel Hicham Block, of Newgate Street, in the City of London, Worsted manufacturer, George Rowney, of Rathbone-Place, in the County of Middlesex, Fancy Stationer, and John Hatch, of No. 97, Fleet-Street, in the said City of London, Commercial Traveller, as Trustees[2]

1844 The business became Rowney, Dillon & Rowney when Charles White Dillon joined the business as a travelling salesman but he seems to have not brought in sufficient business.

1848 Charles Dillon became bankrupt. The partnership was continued as George Rowney & Co by George Rowney, (and his sons) George Edward Rowney, and Frederick William Rowney, as Artists' Colourmen and Stationers, Dealers and Chapmen.[3]

1854 George Edward Rowney (1816-64) retired from the Partnership with George Rowney and Frederick William Rowney, of No. 51, Rathbone-place, and No. 10, Percy-street, in the county of Middlesex, Artists' Colourmen, under the firm of George Rowney and Company, as from the 1st day of January, 1854[4]

1871 Frederick William Rowney (1821-1902) was the surviving partner of the firm of George Rowney and Frederick William Rowney, of 52, Rathbone-place, and 25 Oxford-street, both in the county of Middlesex, Artists' Colour Makers[5]

1914 George Rowney and Co: principals were Arthur Rowney and Walter George Rowney.

1916 Five firms, including Winsor and Newton, George Rowney and Co, Reeves and Sons, James Newman and C. Roberson, acting together as Associated Colour Merchants, signed an agreement in 1916 with J. Barcham Green and Son to produce a range of papers, watermarked ‘A.C.M.’ and the words ‘Watercolour Paper England’.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Blacklead and Coloured Pencils, Propelling Pencils, Artists' Colours, Pastels; Sable and Hog-Hair Brushes; Colour Boxes; Waterproof Inks; Tracing and Carbon Papers and Artists' Materials. (Stand No. K.76) [6]

1924 The business became a limited company with four directors, Walter George Rowney as managing director, Noel Montague Rowney (1884-1963), R.D.B. Woods and F.P. Dorritzi, possibly Frank Phillips Dorizzi (1879-1948).

1932 Walter George Rowney’s son, Thomas Hugh Rowney (1910-2003), entered the business, becoming a director in 1935 and managing director in 1946.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Black Lead, Coloured and Copying Pencils, Propelling Pencils, Artists' Oil and Water Colours, Tracing Paper, Drawing Boards, T. Squares, Artists' Pastels, Tempera Colours, Poster and Showcard Colours, Sable, Camel and Hog Hair Brushes. (Stand No. R.116) [7]

Before WWII they had two factories in London, but when permission to expand these sites was denied they made plans to move out of the capital.

1963 Rowney was the first manufacturer in Europe to introduce an artist’s acrylic colour - Cryla was widely used by artists in the United Kingdom throughout the 1960s and 70s and heralded a new era in art practice which became known as Pop Art. Two of the most well known proponents, Peter Blake and Bridget Riley, used Rowney Cryla acrylics extensively during this period.

The business had passed through generations of Rowney children; Tom Rowney was now at the helm. Tom worked as Managing Director for over 30 years but as he had no family following him in the business, he looked for a buyer.

1967 Rowney moved their factory and offices to Bracknell.

1968 Morgan Crucible Co, a conglomerate, bought the George Rowney Co and managed its operations for a number of years.

1969 The company made its final move from London to Bracknell where the company’s UK head office is still located in the Southern Industrial Estate.

1983 The company was re-sold to the Daler-Board Co (1983 also being Rowney’s bi-centennial year).


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London Gazette 29 Sept 1801
  2. London Gazette 9 August 1833
  3. London Gazette 26 Dec 1848
  4. London Gazette 9 Oct 1855
  5. London Gazette 3 Feb 1871
  6. 1922 British Industries Fair Page 68
  7. 1929 British Industries Fair Page 145
  • [1] Bracknell Forest Heritage Website
  • [2] Daler-Rowney Website
  • National Portrait Gallery, London [3]