Knox and Liberty & Co

Below is a brief paper on Knox and Liberty & Co.

Liberty & Co. (Liberty) was first set up in London in 1875.

Between c 1896 – 1900 Knox worked for Liberty indirectly as a designer for the Silver Studio.  From 1900, such was his reputation, he worked directly for Liberty firstly from the Isle of Man, and then once back in London from 1904 when employed as a teacher.

Knox worked on all areas of design for Liberty but most notably as the main designer for silver and jewellery for the “Cymric” range (1898-1906) and pewter for the “Tudric” range (1902-1906).

In the first 1899 “Cymric” catalogue the “Cymric” range was envisaged as an artistic range of silver drawing on the ancient history of Britain for its design inspiration.  There is no reference to its Celtic influence at all. Such was Knox’ influence on the range, and domination of its design style, that it later became associated with Celtic design.

Knox’s body of work for Liberty can be seen at Westminster Archive in the Liberty silver, jewellery and pewter sketch books. These three bound ledgers contain pages of small drawings of nearly all Liberty’s items at this time, with model numbers but no named designer.  They allow us to attribute about 80 per cent of the output, prior to 1906, to Knox.

Knox’s work for Liberty probably peaked in 1903. His work was part of a special exhibition “Celtic Art” at the Grafton Gallery and he was Liberty’s major contributor to the 1903 Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Most of his greatest, most radical, designs carry assay marks for 1900-1903.  After this period the popularity of the range started to decline and, correspondingly, Liberty started to remove some of the cost and quality of the range. After 1903 it is more common to see lighter more mass produced pieces of Liberty silver perhaps carrying Knox motifs, but not wholly by Knox.

Other Liberty items designed by Knox included a range of terracotta garden pottery, textile and wallpaper designs and a very few items of furniture.

Around 1906 Knox ceased to design for Liberty and the whole “Cymric” and “Tudric” ranges were in major decline, the former ultimately demised around 1908, the pewter some years later. Liberty continued to sell silver and items to Knox’s design up to around 1912, and cutlery to his design was reissued from around 1925-1939.