- Joellen Secondo
Updated in this version
updated bibliography, 15 July 2008
English designer. He was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and in 1877 he was articled to the architect Basil Champneys. Encouraged by William Morris, in 1880 Benson set up his own workshop in Hammersmith specializing in metalwork. Two years later he established a foundry at Chiswick, a showroom in Kensington and a new factory at Hammersmith (all in London), equipped with machinery to mass-produce a wide range of forms, such as kettles, vases, tables, dishes and firescreens. Benson’s elegant and spare designs were admired for their modernity and minimal use of ornament. He is best known for his lamps and lighting fixtures, mostly in copper and bronze, which are fitted with flat reflective surfaces (e.g. c. 1890; London, V&A). These items were displayed in S. Bing’s Maison de l’Art Nouveau, Paris, and were used in the Morris & Co. interiors at Wightwick Manor, W. Midlands (NT), and Standen, East Grinstead, W. Sussex. Many of Benson’s designs were patented, including those for jacketed vessels, which keep hot or cold liquids at a constant temperature, and for a ‘Colander’ teapot with a button mechanism for raising the tea leaves after the tea has infused. Benson sold his designs, labelled ‘Art Metal’, through his showroom on Bond Street, which opened in 1887, and at the showroom of Morris & Co., both in London.
Benson designed furniture for J. S. Henry & Co., and fireplaces and grates for the Coalbrookdale and Falkirk foundries. He designed furniture and wallpaper for Morris & Co., of which he became managing director after Morris’s death in 1896. In 1884 Benson was a founder-member of the Art Worker’s Guild, which gave birth to the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society in 1886. In 1914 he helped found the Design and Industries Association, dedicated to the improvement of industrial design. He retired in 1920.
- W. A. S. Benson, 1854–1924 (exh. cat. by M. Whiteway and P. Reeves; London, Haslam & Whiteway, 1981)
- I. Hammerton: W. A. S. Benson: Arts and Crafts Luminary and Pioneer of Modern Design (Woodbridge, 2005)