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Black Country History Web Site
Black Country History is a searchable website which allows users to find information about documents, maps, photographs, art works, objects and more held by archives and museums services within the Black Country.
The eight partners involved in this website are:
Dudley Archives and Local History Service
Dudley Museums Service
Sandwell Community History and Archives Service
Sandwell Museums Service
Walsall Local History Centre
Walsall Museums Service
Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies
Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service
Contact information for accessibility help
Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service
Wolverhampton Art Gallery
T W Camm, Stained Glass Artist, Smethwick
- Ref No: BS-C
- Repository: Sandwell Community History and Archives Service
- Date: 1866 - 1958
- Creator: T W Camm
- Description: BS-C/1 Ledgers (1866-1904, 1904-1927, 1867-1904) BS-C/2 Cash books (1866-1929) BS-C/3 Wages books (1867-1872, 1876-1879, 1878-1882, 18901960) BS-C/4 Diaries (1867, 1892) BS-C/5 Account books (1870-1880) BS-C/6 Letter books, indexed (1875-1892, 1889--1904, 1903, 1904, 1903-1906, 1905, 1906-1908, 1906, 1907--1937) BS-C/7 Invoice books alias day books 1876-1882, 1899-1959, 1897-1927) BS-C/8 Stock books (1879) BS-C/9 Petty cash books, also sundries cash books (1879, 1880, 1888-1897,1914-1952) BS-C/10 Order books (1888-1891, 1902-1910, 1904-1927) BS-C/11 Design books (1888-1899, n.d.) BS-C/12 Estimating books (1909--1914, 1915,1914-1922, n.d.[?1920's], 1933-[?1959]) BS-C/13 Time books (1918-1936) BS-C/14 Works despatch books (1924-1931) BS-C/15 Consignment note books (1925-1949) BS-C/16 Address books . See also BS-C 19/7 (n.d.) BS-C/17 Note books used for sketches and jottings. All except BS-C 17/3 marked 'T.W. Camm' (1877, 1883-1885, 1889, 1898, 1911) BS-C/18 Publications (1889, 1921, n.d., 1878-1880, ?1890's ) BS-C/19 Miscellaneous items (1866, 1868-1871, 1869-1903, 1871-1884, 1872-1887, 1874-1883, 1876-1882, 1885-c1893, 1888-1898, 1889, 1895, n.d., 1889-?c.1920, 1875, 1878-1888, 1880, 1883-1890's, 1936, ?1937, n.d., ?1937, 1879, 1889, 1911) BS-C/CD Cartoons, designs and drawings (c.1890 - c.1950) BS-C/GN Glass photographs (c.1890 - c.1950)
- Admin History: Thomas William Camm was born in 1839 in Spon Lane, West Bromwich, the eldest son of a cordwainer from Drayton Bassett near Tamworth. At an early age he began working for Chance Brothers & Co., glass manufacturers of Smethwick, where he caught the attention of Sebastian Evans of the Ornamental Department. He worked for Evans in that department until about 1865 when it closed down.
At this point, with his two brothers who had also worked in the glass industry, he set up his own business of Camm Brothers. The business began in Brewery Street, Smethwick, but about ten years later moved into premises in the High Street, on the corner of Regents Street. It was primarily concerned with the manufacture of stained glass but also produced other ecclesiastical decoration such as wall paintings and memorial tablets.
The business was successful and expanded rapidly. The 1871 Census describes Thomas William as "employing eight men and seven apprentices" but by 1881 he was "employing 19 men and 13 boys". The brothers' father, Thomas, was taken into the business as a fret lead glazier.
In 1882 the business was purchased by R.W. Winfield of Birmingham, who had had a financial interest for some time. The Camm brothers remained as employees, Thomas William being in charge of its stained glass department. During his time there he produced windows which include two John Bunyan memorial windows at Elstow Abbey Church near Bedford, and a window commemorating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee made for Malvern Priory Church, Worcestershire.
However, by 1888 he was again working independently, this time as T.W. Camm. His brothers continued working for Winfields until 1893, when they set up their own business as Camm & Co. The similarity in the name of the two firms seems to have caused much confusion and Thomas William was driven to print on an advertising leaflet "No connexion whatever with any firm of similar name now in existence".
In 1862 Thomas William married Charlotte Middleton, from a family of prominent local Methodists. He was an enthusiastic Methodist himself, having become a local preacher in 1859 at the age of 20 and remaining closely involved in the Methodist church in various capacities until the end of his life.
Thomas William and Charlotte produced a large family of children, beginning in 1865 with Adeline and ending in 1883 with Mabel. Three of his children joined him in the business: Florence, born 1874; Robert, born in 1878 and Walter Herbert, born 1881. All three studied at the Birmingham School of Art, Florence especially achieving success there.
Thomas William died in 1912 but his business was carried on under the same name by his three children. After the death of their father the Camms developed a style of their work according to the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement in which they had been trained.
Productions from the Camm studio had by this time a long history of winning worldwide acclaim. They won medals in Paris (1878), Sydney (1879) and Turin (1911). Some of the windows exhibited in Turin are now on show in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
In about 1915 they had the good fortune to attract the attention of a prominent American architect, Ralph Adams Cram. The window which achieved this was the St Kenelm window in the Church at Romsley, Clent (Worcestershire). Cram was an enthusiastic admirer of the Camms' work. In an article called "The Revival in Stained Glass", appearing in the 'The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art' in 1918, he wrote "...at the present moment a large number of artists in England are producing work of most singular beauty and perfection. Amongst these I have no hesitation in placing Mr. Camm easily as the first". As a consequence of this admiration the Camms were commissioned to make stained glass windows for several locations in the U.S.A.
The First World War precipitated a number of commissions for stained glass windows as memorials to the fallen. Amongst the most beautiful is the window in Meriden Church, near Coventry. Walter Camm served in the army during the war but Robert did not, probably being too old to be called up.
Of the three Camms, Florence was the most talented at drawing and she seems to have produced most of the art work. Walter's talents appear to have lain in design. He was often responsible for the overall layout of a window. Robert's contribution is less obvious but it has been suggested that his work lay chiefly in the technical and administrative aspects of the business.
Very few of Thomas William's children married. Most of them lived together in a house called "Rookwoods" in Harborne Road, Warley, during the latter part of their lives. Late in life Walter married the family's housekeeper, Charlotte Harris, but neither Florence nor Robert married.
Of the three Camm artists Robert was the first to die, in 1954. After a four-year illness Florence died in 1960, at which point the firm appears to have closed down. As the three Camms did most of the work themselves, with little paid assistance, it is understandable that Walter should not have been able to carry on alone. He died in 1967.
The last major commission undertaken by the firm was the window for the Warwickshire Regimental Chapel in St Mary's Church, Warwick. It is a magnificent window, at least 40 feet high, and shows Christ in glory with bands of angels.
The Studio in the High Street, where the business was carried on, was let to business tenants and later sold. It was compulsorily purchased by Sandwell Council and demolished in 1988. There is now  a shop on the site.
- Extent: 24 boxes, 700 cartoons, 900 glass negatives
- Level: Fonds
- Related Material: Florence Camm: Negotiating Success, a dissertation submitted by Elaine Williams as part of the requirement for an MA in the History of Art, University of Birmingham, September 2009 [Local Studies]
- For more information contact: Sandwell Archives