Tinsmiths "lives" in the absolute centre of the small Herefordshire market town of Ledbury, close to Gloucester, Worcester, Malvern and Hereford itself. We made our home here and then literally set about building our business - from the footings to the roof and all that lies within. A visit to the shop and showroom is a tonic for the senses and we have tried to capture this in our website.
Our products cannot be characterised concisely, but as a general rule of thumb it is safe to say that they are not fashion-led, we try to stock beautiful and timeless things and we are very keen on things that function well; we don't do useless.
Tinsmiths is called Tinsmiths because it was the town's Tinsmith: the place and person you would go to for all sorts of household repairs - new handles for pots and pans or a new strut for your umbrella. The shop is the original workshop, a timber framed building that still has, on the first floor, the smith's bench.
As part of the oldest town planning in the country, Ledbury was laid out in burgage plots and Tinsmiths occupies one of these long thin piece of land. Burgage plots were a very practical idea with commercial activities on the High Street, manufacturing or services behind, living above and food production (vegetable growing and pig rearing) at the rear. When we arrived the buildings were in severe need of attention and a fairly derelict building standing behind the old tinsmiths was demolished and the new showroom designed and built by Alex Clive.
Taking into account the North-facing aspect and lack of natural light, Alex designed a building using materials that reflect rather than absorb the available light and allow as much as possible into the space. The building is adventurous both in form and in use of materials. It's stainless steel roofscape is like a fruiting body pressed between the skyline of the traditional pitched roofs of the town’s ancient buildings.
The building's defining feature is it's stainless steel shell or exoskeleton, reminiscent of something insect or reptile like, and yet more sculptural than organic. The glass façade, incorporating the main entrance, reflects the complex shapes that the surrounding timber framed buildings have settled to – no true verticals and regular patterns stretched and bent to new forms – but, as with the old buildings, there is a balance, albeit one that is hard to define. Internally, the dramatically leaning entrance façade is obvious when set against the rectilinear staircase and balcony. Alex had always envisaged a sculptural building, and although the design of the stainless steel shell evolved from a need to resolve planning issues, maximise internal space and deal with the problems imposed by restricted access to the site, the Showroom is true to that intent. The building, regardless of all the lovely furniture, lighting, textiles and artworks it holds, is well worth a visit by anyone with an interest in architecture. See Jonathan Glancy's article for the Guardian, The Miracle of Ledbury.
Opposite is a collage of images, from the very early days until now and some of the surrounding town. Inspired to come and see for yourself? It might be worth looking up forthcoming events here, like our exhibitions, via Tinsmiths Cuttings (blog) before settling on a date for your trip and please remember that we are closed (for essential maintenance!) on Sundays and Mondays.