It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that companies started to produce decorated truncheons and tipstaves to a standard pattern, and on a commercial scale, with the names of Parker and Field being associated with producing many fine specimens.
William Parker, Gun Maker
William Parker was born to Thomas and Elizabeth in 1772, at Croscombe in Somerset. Nothing is known of his early years, but in 1792 the name William Parker appears in a Holborn rate book for the address of 233 High Holborn. This address had until the latter part of the eighteenth century been occupied by a John Field and his father–in–law John Clarke. Alongside his name in the rate book was that of ‘Widow Field’, a jeweller. At this time William was aged only 20 years and it is not fully understood under what pretext he started at this address. It is probable that he had been working at the location as an apprentice silversmith, as a business had operated there under the names of ‘Field & Clarke, silversmiths’ between the years 1784 and 1793.
The process of the name changing from Field and Clarke to William Parker started when John Field died around 1790. Entries with his name are recorded in the Holborn rate books from 1783 until 1790. In 1791 his name is still listed, but underlined and the word ‘Widw’ inserted. Records suggest John Clarke survived until at least May 1793, but it is probable he died around this time.
John Field’s marriage to Sarah Clarke had resulted in one surviving child, also called John born circa 1779 in the County of Middlesex. Following the death of John the elder William Parker married his widow Sarah on the 1 July 1792. It is not unusual for a new business to trade under an established name and this probably accounts for the name Field surviving in various forms for a few more years. Entries in trade directories confirm that by 1796-1797 William was operating under his own name as a sole trader, a situation that would continue until his death in 1841.
John Field the younger is often referred to as William’s ‘son-in-law’, but was in fact his step-son. In the nineteenth century the term ‘in-law’ meant related by marriage, but also extended to children, which is not the case now, when we would use the term step-son. William and Sarah appear to have had no other children, but John did marry and went on to have seven children of his own, three boys and four girls. The two eldest boys, John William Parker Field and William Shakespeare Field were to follow their father and grandfather’s trade as gun makers.
As a gun maker William Parker was a well known for producing a range of weapons from standard issue items to fine duelling pistols. He later started to produce truncheons and other articles such as handcuffs, swords and rattles.
When William died on 28 June 1841, his will (proved at London on 25 August of that year) contained the following passage:
‘I appoint the said John Field John William Parker Field and William Shakespear Field Executors and Trustees of this my Will and I declare that it is my particular wish desire and intention that as early as possible after my decease my said executors shall for their mutual benefit engage in carry on and continue my said business of Gun Maker under the name style or firm of ‘W Parker Field & Sons’
Parker Field & Sons
When William Parker died it was his wish the family business would continue. While his will was specific in suggesting a future name for the business the ‘W’ does not seem to have been adopted; truncheons and tipstaves are only found with the name ‘Parker Field’, and on some later pieces only ‘Field’.
The company continued to operate from its Holborn address until the name finally disappears from the rate book at Michaelmas in 1877 with the entry ‘Field John Will Parker Left at Michl Last 6/10/77’. By this time the father John and brother William had both died (John in 1850 and William in 1875) leaving John W. P. Field as the only survivor, and he would also be dead within the next two years. After leaving 233 High Holborn the firm relocated first to Leman Street and later to an address in Tavistock Street.
The business did continue, even after John’s death, but it has always been the common view that as 1887 was the year the company name disappeared from all trade books it was therefore the time it ceased to exist. In recent years this assertion has been challenged following the discovery of a trade advert published in the 1901 edition of the Constabulary Almanac. The existence of this advert raises a number of interesting questions but sadly with few answers.
Details found on truncheons
|233 High Holborn
233 High Holborn
59 Leman St
122 Leman St
22 Tavistock St
PARKER 233 HOLBORN
FIELD 233 HOLBORN
FIELD 59 LEMAN ST. E
FIELD 22 TAVISTOCK ST. W.C
Details found on tipstaves
Tipstaves are marked with either of the following stamps:
PARKER FIELD & SONS / 233 HOLBORN LONDON
PARKER FIELD & SONS / LONDON