Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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George Rowney and Co

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Makers of artists' colours, of 10 and 11 Percy Street, London, W1. (1922)

of 10-11 Percy Street, London, W1. Telephone: Museum 6220-1. Cables: "George Rowney, London." (1929)

1783 The Rowney company was established when Richard and Thomas Rowney moved to central London and opened a premises selling perfumes and wig powder. As the wearing of wigs soon became unfashionable (an event for which George IV was blamed as he discarded his own wig), the Rowney’s re-focused themselves and concentrated upon producing artists colour.

1789 George Rowney and Co began manufacturing artists’ materials. Notable achievements included supplying such famous artists as Constable and Turner. Turner was indeed a family friend for whom the company became the appointed official lithographers.

The Rowney company relocated many times during the 19th and 20th centuries and achieved many improvements in the manufacture and production of oil and watercolour throughout this time.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Blacklead and Coloured Pencils, Propelling Pencils, Artists' Colours, Pastels; Sable and Hog-Hair Brushes; Colour Boxes; Waterproof Inks; Tracing and Carbon Papers and Artists' Materials. (Stand No. K.76) [1]

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Black Lead, Coloured and Copying Pencils, Propelling Pencils, Artists' Oil and Water Colours, Tracing Paper, Drawing Boards, T. Squares, Artists' Pastels, Tempera Colours, Poster and Showcard Colours, Sable, Camel and Hog Hair Brushes. (Stand No. R.116) [2]

Before WWII they had two factories in London, but when permission to expand these sites was denied they made plans to move out of the capital.

1963 Rowney was the first manufacturer in Europe to introduce an artist’s acrylic colour - Cryla was widely used by artists in the United Kingdom throughout the 1960s and 70s and heralded a new era in art practice which became known as Pop Art. Two of the most well known proponents, Peter Blake and Bridget Riley, used Rowney Cryla acrylics extensively during this period.

The business had passed through generations of Rowney children; Tom Rowney was now at the helm. Tom worked as Managing Director for over 30 years but as he had no family following him in the business, he looked for a buyer.

1968 Morgan Crucible Co, a conglomerate, bought the George Rowney Co and managed its operations for a number of years.

1969 The company made its final move from London to Bracknell where the company’s UK head office is still located in the Southern Industrial Estate.

1983 The company was re-sold to the Daler-Board Co (1983 also being Rowney’s bi-centennial year).


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Bracknell Forest Heritage Website
  • [2] Daler-Rowney Website