In a meandering rain-sodden street in old Southwark, kindred to a London alley in Dickensian times, you will find 36 Bear Lane. An unassuming entrance through a tarmacked courtyard reveals the workshop of Grant Macdonald London. Split into a variety of rooms ranging from 3D printing spaces to shop floors where apprentices and senior craftsmen alike hone their skills, it’s a workshop that blends technology with traditional craftsmanship.
It was all started in 1969 by Grant Macdonald himself at his parents’ home in Palmers Green, North London. He had only been out of college for a week and had £13 to his name. An article in the local paper, The Palmers Green and Southgate Gazette, gave a clue to his future. The banner headline read, ‘In a basement workshop a bearded college student is plotting a revolution’. As well as handmade objects, Grant intended to produce silver of a ‘clean modern design at a price that is very nice.’
Soon he was in motion, taking over silversmith Gerald Benny’s workshop, where the company remains today. Gerald Benny was the first British craftsman to hold four royal warrants simultaneously, but he was not usurped from his premises and instead moved his workshop to Berkshire, which allowed Grant to purchase the leasehold from British Rail.
Grant only had to travel a short distance over Blackfriars Bridge to find a key market for his pieces. He became the unofficial silversmith for the City’s Livery Companies, crafting commemorative pieces, gifts for visiting VIPs, and Shrieval chains and badges for City Sheriffs. His relationship with the City is so close that one of the first calls an incoming Sheriff will make will be to Grant’s workshop to peruse past pieces or to communicate a new badge style to tell their story.