William Arthur Smith Benson
William Arthur Smith Benson was articled to the architect Basil Champneys in 1877, the year in which he met Edward Burne-Jones who in turn introduced him to William Morris. In 1880, having been taught the use of simple lathes and machinery by his maternal uncle, and encouraged by Morris he began metalwork production in North End Road, Fulham. As his business expanded Benson closely followed developments in technology, mastering all the processes of casting, turning, folding, riveting and the assemblage of endless variations of interchangeable components. He opened a showroom in Bond Street in 1887, and subsequently issued comprehensive catalogues, encompassing light fittings, fireplace accessories, plant stands and hollow-ware in silver, copper, brass, iron and polished steel, patenting many of his most successful and popular designs to protect them from the array of sub-standard copies that flooded the market.
Benson was at the forefront of electric installation in homes all over Britain advising on suitable lighting schemes and warning against DIY attempts at installation. In 1893 he completely electrified Philip Webb’s latest architectural commission, Standen, in East Grinstead, Sussex.
His metalwork and lighting designs reached iconic status, sold in galleries throughout Europe and in 1896 on the death of William Morris it was the successful businessman Benson who with his colleague Henry Carne Marillier stepped in and bought Morris & Co. He ran it alongside his won company until he resigned in 1917. Benson attracted much acclaim for his metalwork designs and manufacturing processes. The Studio Magazine of Decorative Arts, The Magazine of Art, Walter Shaw Sparrow in Hints on Household Furnishing, Walter Crane in The Bases of Design and Herman Muthesius in Das Englische Haus, were a few among the many who applauded his innovations.
Benson also worked for J. S. Henry and the Coalbrookdale and Falkirk iron foundries. He was an active founder member of the Art Workers' Guild and in 1914 founder of the Design and Industries Association. In 1920 he retired and his firm was bought by Allen-Liversedge Ltd, a lighting company.