Robert Welch was a name that cropped up a lot in my childhood, although little did I know that he was an icon of British design. He is best known for his work in cutlery (silverware) and fine kitchen knives, so it’s with great glee that I visit his “flagship” store in the stunning Cotswolds village of Chipping Campden.
In the 1970s my grandparents retired to a tiny village nearby, called Broad Campden, which offered a pub, a phone box and a post box as its main amenities. Oh, and a small church and a Quaker hall. We’d visit there often as kids and on special occasions I’d get to go on a solo visit – as the eldest of four, being “sans siblings” was a rare treat. Surrounded by green rolling hills, with fields bordered by stone walls that can take years to build yet last for centuries, and lots of sheep, this was an idyllic place to be during school breaks.
Robert Welch’s main studio was just a few miles away so it was inevitable we’d end up in the shop from time to time. My mother had a “thing” for their salt and pepper pots, which were cast iron and weighed a ton. As I recall, they weren’t that good at grinding but I’m tickled when I see the exact same mills being displayed as part of an exhibit.
At its heart, the Robert Welch Studio is all about metal work. There are some fascinating displays that show the many stages of craft required to make say a sharp-bladed knife or a spoon. It had never really occurred to me before that so much work went into their creation, but as any good cook knows, having an amazing set of knives is as vital as a writer having pen and paper.
If you visit, you’ll be tempted to buy everything from silverware to pots and pans, and even the updated version of his signature salt and pepper grinders, which I succumbed to. I guess it’s in my genes.