Our History

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Collection of dies.

The Company was founded in the late 1880s as A.H. Darby Ltd. The founder,  Alfred Horatio Darby, worked in the trade as a die-sinker and even won the Apprentice Medal for die-sinking in 1883 at the age of 18. A.H.Darby were  established as a company of die-sinkers, medallists and badge-makers.

 

Trophies

W H Darby Ltd Trophy collection.

William Harold Darby joined his father’s company in 1921 at the age of 14 as an apprentice die-sinker, and learnt all aspects of the trade. In 1950 William (or Bob, as he was known), took over the company following the retirement of his father, renaming it W.H. Darby & Son Ltd (although no son was ever involved in the business.) In changing times following the war, the market for medals alone could not sustain the company, and it diversified into sports trophies.This led to substantial growth in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with competitors entering and dropping out of the market almost on a daily basis. However, a few companies became trophy specialists, leaving W.H. Darby & Son with a smaller portfolio of trophies, medals and enamel badges. The company continued in this fashion until 1983.

 

Enamel Badges

Enamel Badges featured in the W H Darby Ltd Catalogue from the 1990’s.

In 1983 the company was passed onto William’s daughter, Salie, and her husband, David, and was renamed W.H. Darby Ltd. It was the middle of the recession, leaving the company with only 8 employees and few orders. The 1980’s were spent building up the business through the manufacture of medals and enamel badges, instead of the sports trophies, as they were in sharp decline due to Chinese products at very low prices. At the end of the decade, China entered the enamel badge market in force, causing the company to look for new products and markets.

 

No.14 backplate featuring hand painted centre

Mayoral Jewel

The company identified Council insignia as a potential area for growth and took over T J Skelton Ltd, Masonic Manufacturers, to help with production of items similar in nature. This was a success, and it led to a major new market segment for the company. In 1991, W.H.Darby Ltd had the opportunity to quote for manufacturing insignia to replace those stolen by the Iraqis from the Kuwait Royal Family during the first Gulf War. The company won the order and had a foot in the market.

 

From there the company invested time and energy in the foreign insignia market and won a growing number of important orders and customers. Needing increased manufacturing resources, the company took over Vaughtons Ltd in 1994  and the next 11 years saw steady and controlled growth.

 

Handmade Civic Jewel

Handmade Civic Jewel

In March 2005, the present owners, Steve and Linda Hobbis, bought WH Darby Ltd, and it has successfully grown since then. The company has faithfully maintained the standards of quality, attention to detail and service that were set over two centuries ago, and the company has continued to grow substantially in the Bespoke Jewellery, Insignia, Medals and State Gifts sector.