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Alfred F. GENTON & Julius R. KESSLER


Q. Why is this page here?

A. It is the first of a series of cameo pages about people who somehow became involved in my personal LONGMORE line.

Q. But who were they?

A. One day my cousin, Keith LONGMORE, told me that his late father, William LONGMORE (1900 - 1966), served his coppersmithing apprenticeship with a firm of Birmingham ship and railway lamp makers called Genton & Kessler.

Q. So what is so special about that?

A. Genton was Swiss, Kessler was Austrian, and allegedly one of them was interned as an alien during World War I and subsequently died in internment. My cousin had no documentmentation that would confirm this story and his father's apprenticeship papers do not appear to have survived , but he nevertheless asked me to find out what I could. So here is the story of Genton & Kessler, their forerunners and their families as far as I have been able to ascertain.

Well, the beginnings - maybe!


Prior to 1866, Reuben TURNER (c1813 - 1877) and Henry BAYNTON (c1824 - 1889) had been partners in a Birmingham manufacturing business. What they were manufacturing and exactly where, I am not sure. However, in 1866 this partnership came to an end and Henry BAYNTON continued on his own. The Dissolution Notice in the London Gazette reads as follows:-

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Reuben Turner and Henry Baynton, carrying on the trade or business of Manufacturers, at Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, under the style or firm of Turner and Baynton, was this day dissolved by mutual consent. The business will henceforth be carried on by the said Henry Baynton alone, who will pay and receive all debts owing by and to the said partnership. Witness our hands this 3rd day of April, 1866.

Reuben Turner.
Henry Baynton.

The following year (1867) this entry appeared in the Post Office Directory (later Kellys) of Birmingham:-

Bingley Works, Broad Street - Henry Bayton, railway stores contractor

A file in the Public Record Office at Kew (ref: RAIL 795/508) dated September 1876 confirms that Henry BAYNTON was still operating his business from Bingley Works and had a contract to supply the London & Yorkshire Railway. Around this time it appears he was also supplying the London, Chatham & Dover Railway as this item from a 2005 railway antiques catalogue shows:-

A London Chatham & Dover Railway 3-aspect HANDLAMP. The body, stamped "LC&DR No.1314", bears a brass rectangular plate "S.R.A.G.1314", and an oval brass maker^#39;s plate "H. Baynton Manufacturer. Bingley Works Birmingham". The reducing-cone is also stamped "LC&DR.No.1314" with its correct "LCDR" vessel; brass/ceramic burner; reflector; fluted cap and all glasses. Repainted.

By 1881, Henry BAYNTON was living with his family about a mile away from his Bingley Works premises at 36 Wheeleys Road, Edgbaston, and his son was also working in the business. The Census record (reference RG11/2957 Folio 64 Page 8) reads as follows:-

  Henry BAYNTON   Head   M   57     Railway Stores Controller   Kidderminster, WOR
  Charlotte BAYNTON   Wife   M     57     Bradford On Avon, WIL
  Henry S. BAYNTON   Son   U  25     Clerk to the above   Wolverhampton, STS
  Annie EVANS   Serv   U     36   Cook   Ellrdine, SAL
  Mary PODMORE   Serv   U     23   Housemaid   Birmingham, WAR

An 1888 Trade Directory lists his business as follows:-

Henry BAYNTON - Railway lamp maker at 35 Broad Street, Birmingham

Sadly, however, Henry died the following year at the age of 65. His death is registered in the December Quarter of 1889 in Kings Norton Registration District - he most probably died at home - with the reference Volume 6c, Page 255 in the G.R.O. Deaths Index.

It seems likely that J.H. & K. PLAYER took over the business shortly after Henry's death and they have the following entry in Peck's Trade Directory for Birmingham for 1896/7:-

Bingley Works - J.H. & K. PLAYER - electrical appliances, fog horns, railway & ships lamps, & ships logs.

  The Arrival of Genton & Kessler  

By 1901, Kelly's Directory of Birmingham contained the following entry:-

Genton & Kessler, manufacturer of all kinds of ship & railway lamps, fog horns ship fitting & tackle, speciality of electric fittings for yachts in naval silver, nickel, plated, or gun metal, chain & cable anchors all pattern &c &c    Bingley Works, King Edward Place

However, by 1905 the partnership had been dissolved and Afred GENTON was in business on his own. The Dissolution Notice in the London Gazette of 7th March 1905 reads as follows:-

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Alfred Frederick Samuel Genton and Julius Rudolf Kessler, carrying on business as Manufacturers and General Merchants, at King Edward's-place, Birmingham, under the style or firm of "GENTON AND KESSLER", has been dissolved by mutual consent as from the 28th day of February, 1905. All debts due to and owing by the said firm will be received and paid by the said Alfred Frederick Samuel Genton, who will continue to carry on the said business on his own account.

Dated this third day of March, 1905.

ALFRED F. GENTON.
J. R. KESSLER.

  What do we know about Alfred F. Genton & his family?  

According to the 1901 Census, Alfred Frederick Samuel GENTON was born in Switzerland circa 1869. We don't know when he arrived in the United Kingdom, but it is interesting to note that the births of four of his five children were registered at Bromsgrove, even though for part of that time at least he was living in Handsworth, not yet part of Birmingham and on the opposite side of the city. Here is the Census entry (reference RG13/2710 Folio 80 Page 11) showing the family living at 44 Montague Street, Handsworth, Staffs.:-

  Alfred F. GENTON   Head   M   32     Ships lamp manuft(Employer)   Switzerland
  Jessie E. GENTON   Wife   M     23     Birmingham, WAR
  Mary M. GENTON   Dau   S     3     Bromsgrove, WOR
  Edward A. GENTON   Son   S  2       Bromsgrove, WOR
  Reginald F. GENTON   Son   S  1       Bromsgrove, WOR
  Susannah YOUNG   Serv   S     17   Dom   Bromsgrove, WOR

Here are the details of the registration of Alfred's children:-

4 Qtr 1897: Marie Madeleine GENTON
Bromsgrove Reg District - Vol 6c Page 366a
2 Qtr 1899: Edward Frederic GENTON
Bromsgrove Reg District - Vol 6c Page 377
1st Qtr1900: Reginald Frank GENTON
Bromsgrove Reg District - Vol 6c Page 394a
4 Qtr 1902: Alfred Thomas GENTON
Bromsgrove Reg District - Vol 6c Page 367
3 Qtr 1905: Charles Anthony GENTON
Kings Norton Reg. District - Vol 6c Page 446

Alfred had married Jessie Eliza WIGLEY in the December Quarter of 1896 in West Bromwich Reg. District for which the G.R.O. Index reference is Vol 6b Page 1502. Jessie was born in the June Quarter of 1877 in Birmingham Reg. District for which the G.R.O. Index reference is Vol 6d Page 244. Here's Jessie with her parents and siblings at 184 Warstone Lane, Birmingham on the 1881 Census (reference RG11/3003 Folio 93 Page 13):-

  Thomas B. WIGLEY   Head   M   36     Jeweller's Clerk(Employer)   Birmingham, WAR
  Jessie L. WIGLEY   Wife   M     35     Birmingham, WAR
  Ada M. WIGLEY   Dau       12   Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Thomas J. WIGLEY   Son    11     Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Charles A. WIGLEY   Son    9     Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Frederick W. WIGLEY   Son     7     Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Frank E. WIGLEY   Son    5     Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Jessie E. WIGLEY   Dau       3     Birmingham, WAR
  Howard F. WIGLEY   Son    1       Birmingham, WAR
  John BROWN   FinL   W  71     Retired Glass Mount Maker   Scotland
  Mary A. HUTCHINSON   Serv       17   Domestic servant   Birmingham, WAR

  And what do we know about Julius R. Kessler & his family?  

Julius Rudolf KESSLER was born on 1st June 1873 in Graz, Austria to A. Theodore KESSLER and C. (Catherine?) Maer RAFESBERG. After doing his military service in Austria, he came to England to improve his English, though we don't yet know what date this was. His first appearance on the Birmingham area Census is in 1901 at St Claire, Cadbury Road, Moseley (then in Worcs.) as follows (reference RG13/2807 Fo. ? Page 8):-


  Julius R. KESSLER   Head   M   27     Ship lamp manuft(Employer)   Graz, Austrian subject
  Lizzie KESSLER   Wife   M     24     WAR
  Clara M. FISHER   Serv   S     21   General domestic servant   West Bromwich, STS

With the help of some online local residents, I was able to track down the house formerly known as St Claire and now known simply as 37 Cadbury Road, Moseley. This is it:-



Julius had married Lizzie GITTENS at the Swedenborgian Church in Wretham Road, Handsworth (then in Staffordshire) on 28th May 1900 for which the G.R.O. Marriage entry is:-

2 Qtr 1900: Julius Rudolf KESSLER to Lizzie GITTENS
West Bromwich Reg District - Vol 6b Page 1598

Here's Lizzie's registration of birth:-

2 Qtr 1876: Lizzie GITTENS
Aston Reg District - Vol 6d Page 360

and here is Lizzie with her family at 27 Cromwell Street, Aston in 1881 (reference RG11/3031 Folio 48 Page 30):-

  Henry GITTINS   Head   M   36     Oil sheet maker   Coventry, WAR
  Fanny GITTINS   Wife   M     37     Derby, DBY
  Annie GITTINS   Dau       12   Scholar/font>   Birmingham, WAR
  Lillie GITTINS   Dau       10   Scholar   Birmingham, WAR
  Lizzie GITTINS   Fau       4   Scholar   Birmingham, WAR

and again in 1891 at 79 Church Street, Aston (reference RG12/2428 Folio 80 Page 24):-

  Henry GITTINS   Head   M   46     Oil sheet maker   Coventry, WAR
  Fanny GITTINS   Wife   M     47     Derby, DBY
  Annie GITTINS   Dau       22   Clerk (jewellers)   Birmingham, WAR
  Lillie GITTINS   Dau       20   Shop asst (chemists)   Birmingham, WAR
  Lizzie GITTINS   Fau       14   Scholar   Birmingham, WAR

According to trade directories, Julius moved around quite a bit. In 1905 he was still living in Moseley in a house of the same name:-

KESSLER, Julius Rudolf - St Clair, Salisbury Road, Moseley

but by 1908 he had moved to Handsworth:-

KESSLER, Julius - 6 Haughton Road, Handsworth

and by 1910 to Birchfield:-

KESSLER, Julius - 130 Birchfield Road, Birchfield

Around 1910 the family moved to Brussels where they lived for around two years until Lizzie returned to England with the children. In the 1913 and 1915 Kelly's Directries there is the following entry:-

KESSLER, Mrs - 49 Edgbaston Road, Balsall Heath

Here are the children's birth entries in the G.R.O. Index:-

2 Qtr: Hilda May KESSLER
Kings Norton Reg District - Vol 6c Page 441
4 Qtr 1903: Norman Theodore KESSLER
Kings Norton Reg District - Vol 6c Page 431

Julius served as an officer in the Austrian Army during the First World War. Afterwards he set up a business in Amsterdam where he lived with another woman until the outbreak of the Second World War. They had two children.

I am indebted to Paul Kessler, the grandson of Julius, for some of the above information.

  What of the GENTON business after Kessler left?  

Genton first appears in the Birmingham telephone directory in 1906 - Kessler never appears, neither does their partnership. The entry reads:-


A 1906 Trade Directory reads:-

GENTON, Alfred F., Ship lamp manufacturer, Bingley Works, King Edward Place

Similarly Kelly's Directory for 1908:-

Alfred F. GENTON Ship lamp manufacturer Bingley Works, King Edwards Place, Birmingham

and in the 1915 Kelly's Directory:-

GENTON, Alfred F. (Lamp Manus.) - Bingley Works, King Edward's Place, Broad Street

In 1918, Alfred had some sad personal news - the death of his eldest son in battle:-

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

Private Edward Frederick GENTON, Service Number 32768, age unknown 1st/5th Batt., Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry died 17 April 1918, Panel 68 LOOS Memorial
Enlisted: Stourbridge, Worcs
How died: Killed in action
Theatre of war: France & Flanders
Supplementary Notes: FORMERLY 8/5782, T. RES.

In 1919, Alfred turned the business into a limited company:-

Alfred F. GENTON Limited incorporated (approximate date) - Number 170453

Unfortunately for genealogists, Companies House records of defunct companies are only retained for about 20 years, so the names of the other director(s) were unknown at the time that I originally wrote this article. However, in July 2012 I acquired, from a Belgian auction house, a few items of the Company's export documentation sent to a M. Jerôme Tavernier of 12 Rue St Francois, Ostend. Perhaps the most important snippet of information that we gain from these is the name of Alfred's fellow Director - Mr Erle Victor Shakespeare.

Erle Victor (born in Aston in 1866) was the second son of Charles Shakespeare, a jeweller's toolmaker, and the male Shakespeare line is easily traceable in Birmingham back to 1841 via the censuses. In 1911, Erle Victor was a general hardware merchant and manufacturer, and presumably this was how he became acquainted with Alfred F. Genton.

This change of business style is also reflected in Genton's telephone directory entries from now on. Here is the entry from 1922:-


Genton stayed at Bingley Works until 1925 as evidenced by this telephone directory entry for that year:-


The following year, 1926, the Genton business moved to Syren Works at the corner of Upper Gough Street and Washington Street, just off Holloway Head. Whilst the labels on Genton's goods and the trade directory listings referred to the address as "Syren Works, Washington Street", the entry in the telephone books for 1926 and subsequent years was a little more mundane. Here's 1926:-


It is now perhaps convenient to add images of the recently acquired export documentation as this dates from between 1929 and 1931.





It's also interesting to note that those documents are in Alfred's handwriting and bear his signature. A lucky find indeed. Incidentally, 12 Rue St Thomas is now known as Sint-Franciscusstraat 12, Oostende. Google Street View shows this short street to be very different now to what is would have been in 1930. A foghorn complete with pump and bearing the nameplate of Jerôme Tavernier was recently sold by another Belgian auction house for 300 euros!

I am indebted to Henri van Spanje of Holland for the following two photographs of a Genton lamp from the Bingley Works period that he purchased from a shop in Ghent in Belgium:-



By 1933, Kelly's Directory lists two Genton businesses:-

GENTON, Alfred F. Ltd, Ships' lamp mfrs. Syren Works Washington St, Holloway Head

and:-

GENTON, A.F. & Son , Ships' lamp mfrs. - Victoria Buildings. Harford St 19

and these identical entries appear in the 1943 Directory. The 1933 telephone directory is the first one to list the two businesses:-


Here is a picture believed to be of Syren Works, Washington Street around the turn of the 21st century:-


The lamp pictured below comes from this era and bears a plate with "Afred F. Genton Ltd, Syren Works, Washington St Birmingham 1 England." It is believed to be a ship's stern lamp, has been painted black over galvanised metal, has a brass plate with the word 'stern' embossed, and has a brass opening screw. The original reflection mirror is still in place, but sadly the lamp has been converted to electricity & and now has a bulb holder. It weighs 1.5kg.


The Harford Street premises presumably referred to A.F. Genton & Son (Hockley) Limited. A search of the current UK Postcode Directory for Victoria Buildings reveals that this description applies to numbers 44, 49 & 61 Harford Street. Two of those addresses are in use by VisionTech International Limited, a Californian distributor of CCTV equipment sited on the corner of Harford Street and Barr Street.

I am indebted to David Fisher for visiting the site and taking the pictures below, though he tells me that there is no external evidence of its previous use by Gentons. However, from close examination of the pictures, it appears that a number of windows have been bricked up and it is quite possible that the building was in multiple use by a number of smaller manufacturing units in the past





It would appear that sometime after the end of 1946 the business ceased trading, and there are no post-1943 trade directory entries. Here are the entries from the 1946 telephone book:-


However, the Company continued to exist (as a legal enitity at any rate) until 1960 when the following Resolution appears in the London Gazette of 19th January 1960:-

ALFRED F. GENTON LIMITED

At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the abovenamed Company, duly convened, and held at King's Court, 117 Colmore Row, Birmingham 3, on the 14th day of January 1960, the subjoined Special Resolution was duly passed:
"That the Company be wound up voluntarily, and that Henry Robert Stredder of 5 St. Philip's Place, Birmingham 3 Chartered Accountant, be and he is hereby appointed Liquidator for the purposes of such winding-up."

(306) T. R. B. Field, Director.

At least by this point we have the name of one more Director! T.R.B. Field was also a Director of F & N Holdings Limited and Greenway Clive Vale & Company Limited, both put into Voluntary Liquidation around this time. Greenway Clive Vale & Company Limited was established pre-1875 when they had a lock & hinge factory in Plume Street, which was later moved to the Company's main works in Princip Street. They were also ship's brassfounders so this company and the Genton companies probably fitted in quite well together.

However, a year later the following Notice appeared in the London Gazette dated 21st February 1961:-

ALFRED F. GENTON (LIMITED)

Notice is hereby given, in pursuance of sections 290 and .341 (1) (b) of the Companies Act, 1941, that a General Meeting of the above-named Company will be held at 25-27 High Street, Solihull Warwickshire, on Thursday the 6th day of April 1961 at 3.:15 o'clock in the afternoon, for the purpose of having an account laid before .the Members showing the manner in which the winding-up has been conducted and the property of the Company disposed of, and of hearing any explanation that may be given by the Liquidator, and also of determining by Extraordinary Resolution the manner an which the books, accounts and documents of the Company and of the Liquidator shall be disposed of. A Member entitled to attend and vote at the above Meeting may appoint a proxy or proxies to attend and vote instead of him. A proxy need not be a Member of the Company.Dated this 16th day of February 1961.

(472) H. Robert Stredder, Liquidator.

The London Gazettes dated 24th September 1981 and 14th January 1982 both contained the following announcement:-

Notice is hereby given, pursuant to section 353 (3) of the Companies Act 1948, that at the expiration of three months from the date of the publication of this notice, the names of the Companies mentioned in the list hereunder will, unless cause is shown to the contrary, be struck off the Register, and the Companies will be dissolved. This list may include companies which are being removed from the Register at their own request.

LIST 0275

A. F. Genton & Son (Hockley) Limited

I would love to know more, see old catalogues, and find old Company documents. Very occasionally Genton lamps appear on eBay and in railwayana auctions and I will add photographs to this page as they come to hand.

Meanwhile, if you have any additional information about Genton & Kessler, their forerunners or successors, I would be delighted to hear from you! Please use the Forum button at the top of this page.

On a more personal note, Alfred's third son, Alfred Thomas, has a military listing in the London Gazette dated 27th October 1944 as follows:-

The undenntd. (on account of ill-health) retaining their ranks:

Flt. Us.:
15th Oct. 1944.
A. T. GENTON (88774).

  Some more unsolved mysteries/legends/myths  

In the answer to my third question at the head of this page, I mentioned the alleged death of either GENTON or KESSLER in an internment camp. This is unlikely to have been GENTON on several grounds. He was a Swiss citizen and Switzerland was a neutral country. Alfred's son died fighting for the Allies. It is unlikely that a limited company bearing his name would have appeared after his death.

But could it have been Julius KESSLER? Again the answer must be no as we know he served with the Austrian Army during World War I and survived to set up a business in Amsterdam afterwards. The origin of this myth remains a mystery.

  Where do we go from here?  

As I now live in Crete, this type of research is not easy! On the ground, someone might like to follow David Fisher's example and search out and photograph any of the other aforementioned residences.

Further research needs to be done about Alfred F. Genton's descendants in the hope of finding a living relative who can shed some more light on the various business activities.