The Golden Hammer Sign

Royal Crest and HammerIt is believed that the Company has always traded under hanging sign of The Golden Hammer, the trade symbol befitting the Ironmongery trade that the company followed. Certainly there is a reference to it in the latter half of the 1700s in a Devonshire Dialect Poem that was printed in the Golden Hammer publication (see poem).

In more modern times the symbol has appeared on notepaper and brochures, but the real item was always hung outside the Company premises. The first and oldest image I have found dates from around 1890. Here you can make out the Hammer hung below the Royal Crest which was displayed at the Ironmongery Shop at 190 High Street, Exeter.

Shop front, 190 High StreetIt came about in 1908 that the Company were ordered by the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association to remove the Royal Coat of Arms (as Victoria had long since passed on). The Company removed the crest to which the Hammer was attached on the 5th February 1908, the Golden Hammer was re – affixed to the face of the building as seen in the next image which dates from around 1932. It was about this time G & K were appointed AGA Agents (see advert in the window).

My father recalls that just after Hugo Holladay joined the Company in 1898 the hammer fell from its bracket; John Gould King then told him that this had happened once before, soon after he had come to Exeter in 1868, due to the great age of the Sign.

At Waterbeer St FoundryIn 1933 the Ironmongers shop at 190 High Street was closed and the Hammer was re-located onto the Waterbeer Street Foundry Premises, 4, 5 & 6 Waterbeer Street. This still from the film my father took shows it at this location in 1935 (see Film).

At the Tan Lane FoundryIn 1936 a Notice of Compulsory Acquisition of the land on which the Waterbeer Street Foundry stood was served on the Company by Exeter City Council. This action and its subsequent effects are covered elsewhere in some depth on this site (see The Workplace) but it resulted in the construction of a new Foundry Premises in Tan Lane, Exeter and the Hammer was re hung on these premises in August 1939, as can be seen in this image.

1952 Royal Show at Stover Park, Newton AbbotOne might be forgiven for thinking that the Hammer remained hung at Tan Lane for the following forty or more years until the closure and subsequent demolition of the Foundry, but no, it would appear that even Golden Hammers deserve a break from ‘hanging around’ and a careful look at this image taken at the Royal Show at Stover Park near Newton Abbot in July 1952 shows the Hammer proudly hung on display with the Foundry Products the company had gained a deserved reputation for.  Maybe the soon to be crowned Queen, Princess Elizabeth, caught a glimpse of the same symbol when she visited the Showground, the same Hammer that had proudly hung in High Street under the Coat of Arms bestowed upon the company by her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Replica at North St ShowroomIn 1957 the lease on the showroom at Central Station ran out and with no prospect of renewal. Fortunately alternative premises were secured and a new Showroom opened in 1958 at the 19 North Street premises.
An aluminium replica of the original Hammer was cast and hung outside the North Street Showrooms. It remains there to this day, the premises being part of the Garton King Appliance business, the successors to our once family-owned undertaking.

On the closure of the Tan Lane Foundry in 1981 the original Hammer, that is the one Henry Holladay described as being of very hard wood – probably oak with a tin capping, was given into the care of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Queen Street, Exeter where it hangs on display for all to see. Actually this is not strictly true as it was ‘let out’ to accompany me at a Presentation and Talk I gave to the Exeter Civic Society on the 16th September 2010 at the Central Library, Exeter on the History of Garton & King. Here it can be seen laid out (below left) and hung in the Museum (below right).

The original on display     The original at Exeter Museum

July 2021
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