JJBergin

Hand Engravers since 1894

Faversham Life interviews a fine craftsman in his workshop at Creek Creative

David Bedford, Gold and Silver Engraver

The letter was neatly typed on letterhead bearing the name J J Bergin, 11 Lancashire Court, New Bond Street, W1. Describing the company as ‘Heraldic, General and Machine Engravers, Saw Piercer’, the letter, dated June 1965, and signed by J N Bergin (whom he came to know as Norrie), was addressed to David Bedford, then aged 17. It was an offer of employment as an apprentice, working a 44-hour week at an hourly rate of 4s 6d (£12 per week).

Thus began the career of an outstanding practitioner of hand engraving, whose commissions have included a gold letter opener presented to Her Majesty The Queen for her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the wording inside the wedding rings of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, copied from their own handwriting, as well as countless sporting trophies and cufflinks, and in times past, long-service medals and watches. On a visit to his workshop in 2011, the Chairman of The Heritage Craft Association recorded his impressions as follows: ‘One man whose craft work exhibits excellence is hand engraver David Bedford. His skills were a joy to see. Hand engraving requires a good eye, a steady hand and a mastery of technique.’


David’s artistic talents were evident from early childhood. At school, he excelled at art, woodwork, craft and technical drawing. He left school at 14 with an A in art, and embarked on a three-year general course on art and industrial design at Canterbury Art College. ‘We did a bit of everything, graphics, life drawing and silversmithing, of which engraving was a sideline.’ Students made a few copper pots and were told they could do some engraving. ‘I just took to it,’ recalls David. ‘I thought this is something I can settle down and do.’

At the end of his course, he was told to write off to London, as that was where he would learn the basic skills. David diligently wrote to all the London engravers he could identify, and was invited for interview by Mr Bergin, hence the letter quoted above. Joining the firm in November 1965, David was put to work alongside Leslie Hunt, who became his tutor for the next four or five years. Writing in a precious small book that records the history of the company from 1894 to 2013, David says of his tutor: ‘A small rotund man with a cheerful nature, we got on famously. He said right from the start: “Forget what you’ve been taught so far. I will now show you how it should be done.”’