Buttons from the J.R. Gaunt and Son Pattern Book Archive

Buttons from the J.R. Gaunt and Son Pattern Book Archive

J.R. Gaunt & Son

The firm of J.R. Gaunt & Son was established in 1884 when john Richard Gaunt and his eldest son, Charles Frederick, left their employment with the long established London military buttonmakers Firmin & Sons to set up on their own. The firm, originally based at the intersection of Clifford Street and Furnace Lane in the Birmingham district of Lozells, prospered and began to supply badges and buttons to uniformed organisations all over the World. By 1895 the business had moved to the city's Warstone Parade; four years later it was incorporated as a limited company and by 1905 had opened a London office in Conduit Street. After the First World War they purchased a number of other insignia manufacturers, including in 1924 Jennens & Co Ltd, the prestigious family firm of royal button and military ornament makers founded in London in the early years of the 19th century and whose buttons were made at the Jennens-owned Deritend Button Works. With the acquisition of the Jennens business Gaunts moved their London base to Warwick Street.

During the 1950s J.R. Gaunt & Sons Ltd donated to the Royal Military Museum at Sandhurst (from 1960 the National Army Museum) a large quantity of buttons and badges from its Birmingham works. It should be stressed that these items are distinct from the militaria collection formed by Alderman C.F. Gaunt, which remains the property of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The collection included approximately fifty ledgers containing examples of buttons made by companies which J.R. Gaunt absorbed during the 1920s, including the aforementioned Jennens & Co Ltd, Bent & Parker Ltd and Twigg & Co Ltd, the last-named originating with the button-making business started by Charles Twigg near St Paul's Square, Birmingham, in 1790.

The National Army Museum has retained the military buttons from these ledgers and, having failed to find another museum willing to take on the remainder, is now offering them for sale in the following 71 lots. The vast majority of the buttons offered in this sale are for livery worn by household servants of virtually all the nobility and most titled families of Great Britain and Ireland. Additionally, there are some early and extremely rare buttons of the Royal Navy, long-vanished hunts, shipping companies and those worn at Royal Court, which, taken together, form an interesting study of the social history of this country for the century from 1820-1920.