Hardback160 PagesSize: 270 × 228 mm
150 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848222915Publication: April 01, 2019
Series: V&A 19th-Century Series

‘This book has an engaging and carefully considered structure […] Packed with intriguing research, these richly documented essays widen the story across the industrial and art history of Victorian Britain.’ – Philippa Glanville, The Silver Society

The Museum and the Factory

The V&A, Elkington and the Electrical Revolution

Alistair Grant and Angus Patterson


  • A fascinating untold British success story of 19th-century reproduction and global exchange which had a profound influence on the development of the V&A
  • The V&A holds the largest and most significant collection of Elkington material in the world, including the company's masterpiece The Milton Shield, bought by the V&A in 1868 and replicated by electrolysis to be shown simultaneously around the world


This book reveals a great untold story of enterprise and innovation based on the relationship between the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Elkington & Co., the renowned industrial art and design manufacturer of the 19th-century. The Birmingham-based company pioneered and patented the industrial art of electro-metallurgy to create original artworks, perfect replicas, and mass-reproduced luxury consumer goods that used electricity to ‘grow’ metal into shape at a molecular level. This technological revolution created a profound legacy, which continues to influence the way modern material culture looks and operates today.

Elkington’s syntheses of science and art into industrial manufacturing processes revolutionized the design and production, replication and reproduction of precious metalwork, metal sculpture, and ornamental art metalwork. Elkington & Co. gained huge public acclaim at the Great Exhibition of 1851. They subsequently produced artworks and luxury goods, including world-renowned sports trophies like the Wimbledon Singles Trophies, as well as luxury dining services for great steamships and railways, including tableware that sank with the Titanic.

Elkington played a crucial role in shaping and building the V&A’s permanent collection from its foundation in 1852 (following the Great Exhibition) until the First World War. The V&A’s collections in turn had a profound influence on Elkington’s output. The great success of their relationship cemented both the museum’s status as a leading cultural institution, and the E&Co ‘makers-mark’ as one of the world’s first truly multinational designer brands. Elkington’s electrical alchemy helped spark the electrical revolution that founded the modern world.

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