The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Gold beating

 

The process of hammering gold into extremely thin sheets (‘gold leaf’).

 

Status Extinct
Craft category Precious metals
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees 0
Current no. of skilled craftspeople 0
Current total no. of craftspeople 0

History

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Foreign competition: The UK monumental mason market (the biggest market) was swamped with imported Chinese leaf, cheaper than it was possible to supply UK-beaten gold.
  • Foreign competition: Gold beating is essentially a hands-on craft and labour is significantly cheaper in China.
  • Recruitment issues: W. Habbersley Meadows Ltd., the last UK gold beater, tried for some years to recruit an apprentice some years before but found that no-one was willing to take on the long learning process and stick at it.
  • Market issues: The market for gold leaf has declined in recent years. Pub signs were one of the largest users of gold leaf but many pubs have either closed or have had a makeover (the makeovers don’t tend to include gold pub signs, or notices painted in gold on windows by signwriters). Gravestones, another market, have got smaller and so fewer have gold text. The monumental mason market has also declined.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • W. Habberley Meadows Ltd.: based in Birmingham. The last gold beaters in the UK, stopped beating several years ago rendering the craft extinct in the UK. Today, Habberley Meadows supply gold leaf but do not beat it themselves.

 

Other information

 

References