Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,512 pages of information and 233,943 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

R. and J. Beck

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June 1901.
July 1901.
May 1903.
c1906. Rosenheim designed microscope .
September 1912.
1926. Beck Baby London Microscope.
1927. Achromatic Object Glasses.
1928. Beck Pathological Microscope.
1928. Beck Spectroscopes.

of 69 Mortimer Street, London, W1. Telephone: Museum 9696. Cables: "Objective, Wesdo, London"

R and J Beck was a renowned British optical company based in London.

1843 Richard Beck started work as an apprentice for a famous optical instrument maker, James Smith.

1847 Formation of the partnership Smith and Beck

1851 James Smith and Richard Beck exhibited at the 1851 exhibition[1]

1851 Richard's brother Joseph joined the firm; Richard and Joseph were sons of Richard Low Beck, nephew of Joseph Jackson Lister, pioneer of improved microscope lenses.

1852 Listed as "Smith and Beck, opticians and microscope ma., 6 Coleman Street, City" [2]

1853 "The optical factory of the firm was opened at Holloway in 1853, appropriately named the Lister Works, and it clearly followed the Quaker tradition. The microscopist Thomas Hudson recorded in his diary a visit to the works in May 1854, finding it 'a model optical manufactory having a Steam Engine working Lathes &c this is a most complete establishment having a Library and Reading and Refreshment Room' (Turner, Frederick Thomas Hudson's microscopical diary, 198)."[3]

1854 the company was named Smith, Beck and Beck.

1857 Joseph Beck went into partnership with Smith and Beck.

1861 Employing 40 men, and 35 boys and girls [4]

1865 Smith retired; the company became R. and J. Beck.

1876 Robert Kemp, of the firm of R. and J. Beck, of Lister Works, Holloway, in the county of Middlesex, and of Cornhill, in the city of London, has given the like notice in respect of the invention of "improvements in microscopes"[5]

1884 Listed under Opticians and under Philosophical Instrument Makers as Beck, R and J., 68 Cornhill Street. Manufactory, Lister Works, Holloway Road, N. [6]

1910 Exhibited microscopes and the Spinthariscope, invented by Sir William Crookes to demonstrate "radium energy"[7]

WWI Produced a wide range of optical products: microscopes, telescopes, trench periscopes for army officers, eye test glasses for opticians (optometer lenses), other optical equipment, and last not least camera lenses and some cameras.

Best known in the camera area are some cameras of the brand Ensign which bear lenses branded as "Beck Ensign".

T. E. Lawrence, better known as 'Lawrence of Arabia', used a plate camera made by Beck.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Microscopes and Accessories, Spectroscopes, Photographic Lenses, Opaque Projectors, Sound Recording Apparatus, Optical Units, Lenses, Prisms, Flats in Glass, Quartz, Iceland Spar and Flurospar, Magnifiers, Specialised Optical Instruments. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1084) [8]

Bby 1950 located at 69 Mortimer Street, London, W1

By 1960s - part of the Griffin and George group of companies at Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, England

By 1968 was a subsidiary of Ealing Corporation of USA[9]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Great Exhibition: Official Catalogue: Class X.: James Smith and Richard Beck
  2. 1852 Post Office London Directory (Small Edition)
  3. Biography of Joseph Jackson Lister, ODNB
  4. 1861 Census
  5. London gazette 7 Nov 1876
  6. 1884 Business Directory of London
  7. The Times, Dec 21, 1910
  8. 1947 British Industries Fair p26
  9. The Times, Oct 15, 1968
  • Camerapedia [1]