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Sampson Mordan Silver Pen & Pencil "Combo"

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Pencils79 of 111A few trays of gold and silver!Sampson Mordan Victorian silver pencil set
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Posted 5 years ago


(51 items)

This Victorian solid silver dip pen & pencil combination is from my collection of pre-20th century English writing & drawing equipment. As a professional artist & illustrator; I fairly frequently use items from my collection in the execution of my artworks, and this is one of those. So I am a user as well as being an avid collector.


Length 3 3/4 inches closed. Weight 21g. This extremely valuable silver pen/pencil holder “combo” is marked for the maker - S. Mordan & Co. It is in “fine” condition. At the pencil holder end it has a screw-threaded cedar pencil in place. The operating slide is split with a 'geared' single sliding ring (move to the centre, give a slight twist and slide out the other end). It was supplied to, and retailed by Mappin & Webb, Silversmiths and Jewellers by Royal Appointment. This item is listed (as Item No.693a) on page 18 of the Mordan catalogue for 1898 (a full copy of which I have in my Studio Archive).


Sampson Mordan, (Senior) was born in England in 1790. He apprenticed and then was assistant to Joseph Bramah (1748-1814), famous inventor of patent locks*, and an associate of Michael Faraday. *The world famous Bramah Lock
Mordan established his own business in partnership with John Isaac Hawkins at City Rd. London in 1815. 20th December 1822, they patented a metal pencil with an internal mechanism for propelling the graphite lead shaft forward during use so that it was "ever-pointed". Most of these pencils are operated by a mechanism that allows the pencil to be propelled out of the casing by pulling on the opposite end. When closed, only the case could be seen. They entered, at the assay office; the first silver mark (S.MORDAN) for sterling silver pencils: 20th June 1823.
Mordan then bought out Hawkins and entered into a business partnership with Gabriel Riddle, a wealthy stationer, in late 1823. Mordan entered another silver mark (S.MORDAN & COS PATENT and SMGR) for pencils with his partner Gabriel Riddle 30th April 1824. Mordan and Riddle set up business at 22 City Road, London, England. It was here that S. Mordan & Co. were first listed as "patent ever-pointed” pencil and portable pen manufacturers. The partnership between S. Mordan and G. Riddle was dissolved on 20th December 1836. The Company continued to be run solely by Mordan until his death in 1843. After his death, his two sons; Sampson (Junior) and Augustus continued the business, building on their fathers success and reputation; excelling in quality silver and gold pencils, pens, novelties and other exquisite items; supplying silver articles to fine retailers including Asprey & Sons, The Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co. Ltd, Mappin & Webb, Leuchars, Thornhill etc.

Sampson Mordan & Co. products can be approximately dated by the following marks:

S MORDAN & COS PATENT and SM GR - 1823 to 1837
S MORDAN & CO MAKERS - 1845 to 1860s
S MORDAN & CO - 1860s - 1941.

The Mordan London factory was destroyed in a German Luftwaffe air raid in 1941 and never reopened. The Sampson Mordan name is continued under the aegis of the Yard-O-Lead Company that still make exquisite handmade pencils today, in Birmingham, England.


A Mappin & Webb box contains the Sampson Mordan combination pen and pencil. As mentioned above; Mordan supplied all the top retailers, mostly in London. The address inside is 2 Queen Victoria Street London E.C. In 1870 the Mappin & Webb building was designed by renowned architect John Belcher, in the Gothic style popular at the time. It was situate on the corner of Queen Victoria Street and Poultry until it was controversially demolished in 1994. The Mordan combination pen and pencil has been dated from the period 1870-1899.
Founded in 1774 by Jonathan Mappin, Mappin & Webb is one of the UK's leading retailers of fine jewellery and silverware. Today, it is renowned for combining timeless craftsmanship with superior quality and contemporary design to produce exquisite jewellery, elegant silverware, watches and glassware. Jonathan Mappin opened his first small silversmith workshop in Sheffield in 1774 and the following year the Mappin mark was entered at the assay office. Over the next fifteen years Jonathan Mappin's reputation for producing high quality silver spread throughout Sheffield. From these humble beginnings the business grew steadily and soon the next generation were expanding the business further. The first store to be opened in London was in 1849 at 17 Fore Street and was soon followed by stores in Moorgate and King William Street. In 1858; following rapid expansion of the Sheffield factory, John Newton Mappin invited his brother-in-law, George Webb to join him in the business. The first association of Mappin & Webb was forged. Mappin & Webb's reputation spread as the business became a leading name within its field. A testament to its success came in 1897 with the granting of Royal Warrants. Today Mappin & Webb is silversmith to Her Majesty the Queen and to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

This has been a very brief “history” of Sampson Mordan & Co, and also Mappin & Webb. I will try to post some more of the myriads of information and research I hold, if I can figure how to do it in an interesting way. (Probably in “bites” linked to actual items in my collections).


  1. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    This has been re-posted (thanks Hunter) on recovery following deletion. All comments wellcome! :)
  2. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks scandinavian_pieces and BELLIN68 :)
  3. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Many thanks Manikin for the "love". Spotted your posted "Gumby"....British Monty Python had a character of the same name...they must have stolen it because they didn't appear until the 60's!
  4. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks to vetraio50 for the "love it" and all the research and helpful comments on some of my other posts. :)
  5. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Gabriel Riddle info: As promised I have extracted a little more information on this man, but it has been hard going, there seems to be little written down about him:
    Gabriel Riddle was a wealthy stationer who entered into business with the famous Silversmith Sampson Mordan in late 1823 after Mordan had bought out his previous business partner; John Isaac Hawkins. Mordan and Riddle entered their Registered Makers Mark on 30th April, 1824, so "SMGR" was born (also S. Mordan & Cos Patent) and they used premises at 22 Castle Street, City Road, London. England. Their partnership was dissolved on 20th December 1836. It is unknown why they parted company and went their separate ways.

    The important reference that is "Culme's London Directory" suggests that Gabriel Riddle was out of business by 1851. Riddle was a fine "Silversmith" and sold silver pens, pencils and all manner of other high quality novelty silverware. Presumably he took away all the methods, tips, tricks and contacts he had garnered whilst he was in partnership with Mordan. The fact that he was still in the "SMGR" partnership until 20th Dec 1836 and defunct by 1851 usually allows items bearing his mark to be dated within this timeframe

    Gabriel Riddle was a London "Maker"; so any Riddle item should bear the London Assay mark of a "Leopards Head", along with the “Lion Passant” for Sterling Silver and a stylised date letter in a specifically shaped “date cartouche” for the year. That is if the item has any Hallmarks, often they did not; just bearing a high quality "Makers Mark" or name of which Gabriel Riddle was one (Marking his Sterling Silver items “G.RIDDLE. MAKER. LONDON. or G.RIDDLE. PATENTEE. LONDON. or G.RIDDLE. MAKER & PATENTEE or combination thereof, or similar).

    As far as I am aware, little is known about Riddles’ personal life, and that includes details of his demise.
  6. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks to vetraio50, BELLIN68, Kathycat, AR8Jason, Manikin, Hedgewalker, inky and officialfuel.

  7. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    No, Hems, thank you for sharing them with us!

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