“It was like working in a Dickensian museum”

Frank Bartles

By Diana.Stannard1
Wednesday, 27 March, 2019, 12:49
Leah's Yard, off Cambridge steet, was typical of the enclosed areas where craftsmen had their workshops.

I was very interested in your article about Leah's Yard in The Star, Saturday, March 23rd edition, as not only did I work in Leah's Yard but I actually worked for Henry Leah as a holloware stamper and knew Philip Drury, mentioned in your article.

Henry Leah's, or Cambridge Stamping Works as it was known, were stampers to the trade and sold parts to silversmiths all over the country.

The dies we used numbered in their thousands, one of the largest collections anywhere, in three shops, two storeys high, ranging from the smallest candlestick parts on top down to 36" fish dishes which it is said were made from the armour plating taken from battleships.

All these were cleaned and oiled every year.

In fact, contrary to belief, the workshops were not dusty or dirty.

Leah's prided itself as having one of the cleanest factories in the trade when I first started age 15 in 1960.

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Before starting work I swept all those cobbled forecourts and the factory floor.

In fact, John Leah, who was the director, used to scrub all the benches and floorboards until they were white.

It was like working in a Dickensian museum with oil paintings of all past Leah's, telephones with wind-up handles that were actually used, and we used to have our dinner around an open fire in genuine Windsor chairs.

Happy memories.

PS You have a photo in your archives taken in 1976 of the yard.

I'm the one outside the office door holding a silver salver.