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Baxter's Appentices

For many years apprenticeship was a vital part of industry.  For a master craftsman the Master, acquiring an apprentice would be a considerable responsibility. They’d be expected to sign a legal contract with the young person’s parents who would pay a premium to the Master to take the young person into their own home, and they would provide food, lodging and clothing and to pass on their knowledge of their trade or craft.  However, there was one obvious benefit for the Master, cheap labour. 

Apprentices usually began between the ages of 12 and 15 but sometimes as young as 7. The contract their parents signed bound them to the Master for usually 7 years, although it could be as many as 9 years. Two copies of any indenture were normally made, one of which was kept by the parents (or parish) on behalf of the apprentice, and the other by the Master. The wavy edge on one side of most indentures was designed to act as a guarantee that the two copies were created as part of a single legal agreement.

The young person was considered “indentured” or bound to their Master.  If they ran away, their parents would be required to pay the cost of the lost labour to the Master. Any dispute would have to be settled by a Magistrate and the apprenticeship could only be cancelled by mutual consent. An apprentice could work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Abraham Le Blond he was apprenticed to William Newman in 1833 when he was 14 year old for a sum of Forty Pounds (approx. £4,700 in todays money). According to his indenture 'he would not commit fornication ' or get married, play cards or dice or frequent taverns or playhouses.

We now know that Baxter advertised for an apprentice as early as 1829. Interesting to note that Baxter heads the advertisement to 'Parents and Guardians'. He would have to house, feed and clothe all his apprentices which alone must have been quite a commitment. In later years, at least 1836 onwards we see Baxter advertising

23rd May 1829 - Baxter advertises for an apprentice in the Literary Gazette

23rd May 1829 - Baxter advertises for an apprentice in the Literary Gazette

for 'Out-Door Apprentices' giving all the benefits to the apprentice and Master BUT the apprentice would live with friends or family. Generally this type of apprentice, which wasn't new, meant that the Master might charge a vastly reduced or zero premium. Although you can see the benefits for Baxter of not having to house, clothe and feed his apprentices, which would have numbered at least eight in 1837, it is said that this type of apprenticeship led to a lower standard of apprentice and 'more cases of theft from their Master and crime in general'

George Baxter looking for apprentices 1st May 1830

Four further advertisements all from The Literary Gazette, unless stated, where Baxter is looking for Apprentices. Top left 1st May 1830. Top right, one apprentice appears to have been employed as another advert shortly after on 17th May 1830 requires only one apprentice, from The Sussex Advertiser.

George Baxter looking for apprentices 17th May 1830

Bottom left 16th July 1836 and bottom right 16th September 1837. It is strange to think that some of our known apprentices could have answered these exact adverts. Baxter advertises for a 'clever assistant' as against an out-door 'apprentice', subtle difference?

George Baxter looking for apprentices 1836
George Baxter looking for apprentices 1837

Alfred Reynolds - Born in 1818 (1) and stated by Courtney Lewis as probably Baxter's first apprentice. This I feel is unlikely as, as stated above, I have now discovered that Baxter was advertising for apprentices from as earlier as 1829. He left Baxter about 1843 and joined Gregory and Collins, two other Baxter ex-apprentices, who by 1844, had become Gregory, Collins & Reynolds. By 1846 Gregory had left and they became Collins & Reynolds (or sometimes stated as Reynolds & Collins). In 1848, along with F W M Collins, he patented a method of colour printing on pottery (2) . Later that year, again along with Collins, he was made Bankrupt and appears to have come out of same the following June (3) possibly helped by the fact that Herbert Minton (of Minton Pottery fame) purchased their patent, or at least an interest in it (4) in 1849 (5). The company was sold to another ex-apprentice G C Leighton and Reynolds went to work for Minton's Pottery works in Stoke on Trent. According to the Ceramic Art of Great Britain by Lewitt 1878 Minton was heavily involved with Reynolds & Collins experimentation, supplying enamelling colours to them after they had submitted some trials to him. It also states that Minton joined the pair in taking out the patent, although his name is not on it so I feel most probably more encouraged than joined.

Alfred Reynolds apprentice of George Baxter colour printer

Alfred Reynolds in 1879 - Photo courtesy of The Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS) Journal no. 5, 1994

Some, if not all of Baxter's apprentices are documented, some only known by name but research has brought about some interesting new information. Some went on to 'better' things:

The famous designer A W Pugin took an interest and some items, designed by Pugin, manufactured by Minton by the Reynolds (and Collins) patent were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 (5). In the Internet there are innumerate references to Pugin designed Minton tiles printed by Collins and Reynolds process and the earliest use of the tiles can be found in the Smoke Room at The Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).

The Ceramic Art of Great Britain also states that in the Paris Exhibition of 1855 Alfred Reynolds, described as the Inventor and Manager of Mintons, obtained a first-class certificate "And here it should be remarked that Messrs. Minton took every opportunity of bringing before the Jury the merits of those in their employ, whom they considered deserving of distinction for the service they had rendered to them." Reynolds died in 1891(1).

A six page article was written by Rev John Reynolds (any relation?) entitled "Alfred Reynolds and the Block Process" for the 1994 issue of the TACS Journal and at the time of writing is still currently available from the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society.

Obviously Alfred Reynolds is a lot more important to the history of general colour printing than we had previously thought. Please see the story of Gregory Collins & Reynolds for more information. 

Charles Gregory - Apprenticed to Baxter in April 1836 for 7 years. In 1843, with his co apprentice, he started Gregory & Collins, by 1844 joined by another, Reynolds, to become Gregory Collins & Reynolds. He removes himself from their partnership in 1846 (6) and appears to have worked under the name of Gregory & Co before, by June 1849 working for Kronheim & Co. In 1849 he was a witness against Baxter's Patent renewal application, initially he stated that he stayed 4 months after his term but had left because Baxter gave him scant wages. In his evidence he then stated he was now earning good wages, which seems to have swung the case in Baxter's favour. Please see the story of Gregory Collins & Reynolds for more information.

Frederick William Michael Collins - is described elsewhere as a 'pupil' of Baxter but must have been an apprentice. In 1843 he started Gregory & Collins (later Gregory Collins & Reynolds) with other ex-apprentices. Courtney Lewis didn't have any details on Collins, including his full name and Wakeman & Bridson thought that he could have been the Collins of colour printers W B Collins or Collins & Co of the 1850-1860 period (7). The London Gazette of 11th December 1846 shows his name fully in the dissolution of their partnership with Gregory. He continued his partnership with Reynolds and in 1848, along with Reynolds, patented a method of colour printing on pottery (2). Later that year he was made Bankrupt, again along with Reynolds but nothing can be found of him after that. Please see Reynolds entry above and the story of Gregory Collins & Reynolds​ for more information.

Harrison Weir aged about 50 - George Baxter Apprentice

Harrison Weir aged about 50

Harrison Weir- a native of Baxter's home town of Lewes. It was most probably his father's connection with Baxter's father's that brought about his apprenticeship in 1837 (when aged 13). He had always shown skills as an artist and it wasn't surprising that his father would have felt this apprenticeship would have been ideal but we believe Harrison was disappointed that he was mainly employed printing from the plates and at some stage tried to get released but was unsuccessful. In 1842 he was drawing and engraving the blocks for the Illustrated London News from their first issue and worked for them right through till 1900. He exhibited his first painting in 1845 and went on to become a highly regarded animal painter. He is also known for starting the National Cat Club and organising the first Cat Show at Crystal Palace in July 1871.

Along with other ex-apprentices he opposed Baxter patent renewal in 1849, possibly to assist his friend G C Leighton with whom he collaborated in later years. 

If he was apprenticed in 1837 and was working for the ILN in 1842 he could not have completed his full 7 year apprenticeship. It has been widely quoted that he broke his term but it is noted that he was a very moral man and I feel this is unlikely, perhaps his early work for the ILN was done in his spare time in the last months of his apprenticeship, which might explain that his early work was unsigned.  “Men and Women of the Time” by Victor Plarr was written in 1899 so while Weir was still alive and is likely to have been sourced directly from Weir himself. In it he asserts:


“He was articled to Mr. George Baxter to learn designing on wood, colour-printing, and wood-engraving. This proving quite a different kind of work to what it was represented,  he used means  to have his articles cancelled, but having in vain endeavoured to get released from his engagement, he of necessity served his time; thus seven years of his life, as far as the work of an artist is concerned, were entirely wasted, and therefore he, in his profession is self-taught.” Many thanks to John Smithson for assisting me in writing this brief biography. He is in process of writing a book about Harrison Weir's life and his website, and lot more information about Weir can found here

Geo C Leighton - Apprentice to George Baxter colour printer

George Cargill Leighton - Apprenticed to Baxter in 1836, when he was only 10 years old! Presumably for the standard 7 years but may have stayed on longer. After leaving he, most probably, initally, worked for Gregory, Collins & Reynolds but started in his own right by 1847. In 1849 he was listed as a wood engraver at 19, Lambs Conduit Street. In the same year he described himself as a colour printer at Baxter's patent renewal hearing. About this time he is said to have approached Baxter about taking a licence but the stipulations that Baxter attached to the licence were too stringent and no arrangement was made. Also around this time he took over the business of Collins & Reynolds, as they had by then become. He took in his elder brother Charles Blair Leighton and formed Leighton Bros but the singular name of G C Leighton can still be found being used up to 1856. He became printer and publisher of the London Illustrated News in 1858 (he had been printing colour prints for them since 1855). Leighton Bros was sold to Vincent Brooks Day & Son in 1885 and he died in 1895.

Alfred Crewe - was apprenticed to Baxter 20th July 1835 and worked for him for 14 years before he was given notice. Most probably after his name had been on the initial list of people opposing Baxter patent renewal in 1849? After 3 months with no work he joined Landells (where he met Birket Foster and Edmund Evans) and then worked for Vizetelly. As stated he was an original co-objector to Baxter's Patent renewal and at that time his address was stated as Thavies Inn, Holborn.

Thomas Thompson  - his name is given in the initial list of ex-apprentices that opposed Baxter's patent in 1849 where it is stated that he had 'completed an apprenticeship' with Baxter so we can assume he was apprenticed by at  least 1842, more than likely earlier. Nothing else is known about him but he probably moved to Kronheim through his ex-colleague Charles Gregory who had joined them in 1849. Like Crewe we feel it is very likely his employment would have been terminated as soon as his name was associated with the opposition to his patent renewal.

Thomas Dowlen - his name is given in the initial list of ex-apprentices that opposed Baxter's patent in 1849 where it is stated that he had 'completed an apprenticeship' with Baxter so we can assume he was apprenticed by at  least 1842, more than likely earlier. Nothing else is known about him but he probably moved to Kronheim through his ex-colleague Charles Gregory who had joined them in 1849. Like Crewe we feel it is very likely his employment would have been terminated as soon as his name was associated with the opposition to his patent renewal.

Andrew Holland - is a new name being offered as an apprentice of Baxter - he emigrated to Boston USA in 1852 and operated from various address in that town. A relative of his recently contacted us with a copy of a letter written by her Great Grandmother where she states that her father-in-law "was apprenticed to George Baxter in London Eng and came to America in the early (18)50’s. He had one of the first colour printers shops in the country.” Please see our research here - can you help confirm that he was an apprentice of Baxter?

Other names are also mentioned in 'A Guide to 19th Century Colour Printers' by Wakeman & Bridson as working for Baxter but we do not know if they were apprentices or just employees:

Otto Mayer later joined Kronheim & Co

Joshua Gleadah (or Gleader) and Sidney H Wright (Baxter's Manager) both moved to Le Blond

Charles Hall (one of Baxter block cutters) who moved to Bradshaw & Blacklock.

Clarke's 'Baxter Prints Pictorially Presented' states that Vincent Brooks Jr remembers his father purchasing Baxter's plates. He remembers, along with George Baxter Jr, collected all the plates and blocks from a warehouse in Red Lion Court off Fleet Street. He mentions that at that time they also took on the former employees of George Baxter:

Mr Hadler - a copper plate printer

Mr Bandy - Chief Pressman

Mr Dyer - who was in charge of all the special papers used to print


Basic information comes from The Story of Picture Printing and other books by CT Courtney Lewis unless stated. All other information by personal research.

1 -

2 - The Mechanics Magazine dated March 18 1848

3 - London Gazette 1st December 1848 and 11th May 1849

4 - 

5 -

6 - London Gazette of 11th September 1846

7 - A Guide to Nineteenth Century Colour Printers - Wakeman & Bridson

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