The Read families, related by the Cutlery Trade (not all were cutlers) attended St Werburgh’s Church (Church of Ireland) at this time and records of their baptisms are still extant. This was also the time that the Read cutlers produced most of their surgical instruments, many of which are held by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (see separate chapter). As with all cutlers, they moved with the times producing cutlery in the styles of the period. In 1808 Thomas Read became Thomas Read and Company. Testimonials as to the excellence of the Read families’ products reached a second zenith when in 1817 the firm of John Read’s business was granted the title of High Sheriff knife and sword cutler. In 1821, Thomas Read was granted a Royal Charter by King George IV to supply cutlery and surgical instruments to the Royal Household and to his Majesty’s forces in Ireland.
The present, faster-moving society has resurrected many former patterns and has produced convenience cutlery—disposable plastic or cheap Taiwanese wares made in one piece for the dishwasher. The ‘designer trend’ in table cutlery has, however, increasingly gathered momentum. There are bespoke makers such as Michael Bolton and his widow Mary, John Paul Cooper, Leslie Durbin (mentored by Ramsden), David Mellor and many other contemporary goldsmiths, including Continental cutlery makers, producing boldly designed and aesthetically pleasing sets of cutlery to grace our dining tables. Custom makers of folding knives have also stepped across the functional line—not that we are likely to see many carbonitride-coated ceramic, or Damascus-steel blades hafted with meteoric iron, fossilized bog oak or other exotic materials outside of collectors’ vitrines.
With the appearance of these artistically-designed table pieces merging cutlery with flatware, plus the re-introduction of lapidarian materials for knife blades after nearly 4,000 years, the style of table and other eating cutlery has come a full circle, with the added fork and folding knife; a suitable benchmark to finish this history except that the Read family should have the last word.
Although College Green premises closed for business as indeed did a shop in Little Charlotte street in Portsmouth,UK, the Parliament Street premises remained open for business for much longer. Jack Read-Cowle was the last of the Read family to own the business and he was interviewed by Éamon Mac Thomáis (author of Priceless Me Jewel and darlin’ Dublin) After Jack died, the business closed and the shop was shut and ceased to trade.