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James Ward Usher

James Ward Usher was born on the 1st January, 1845 in Lincoln

James Ward Usher was born on the 1st January, 1845 in Lincoln in a private house on the High Street opposite (the site is now occupied by Barclays Bank) his father’s shop on the corner of Swanpool Court facing the Cornhill (No 192).

He was the eldest son of James Usher, a jeweller and watchmaker, and the grandson of James Usher, a cabinet maker of St. Swithin’s Parish, Lincoln. In 1860, after completing his education at the Lincoln Grammar School and Totteridge Park School, Hertfordshire, James Ward Usher joined his father and the name of the business was changed to ‘Usher and Son’. His father had opened the business in 1837 and in the trim Georgian shop window had hung his own watch as he was too poor to acquire any stock.

His father moved to live at 366 High Street, Lincoln and died there on the 11th February 1882 followed by his wife on the 2nd October 1891. His father had two brothers, the Reverend Henry Usher, who was for some time the Vicar of Snitterby, and George Usher, a clock case maker who lived near Gowts Bridge.

James Ward Usher’s brother was born in 1849 and was named Alfred Henry Usher. He married Mary Esther Harrison on 5th July 1871 and for a considerable period was a farmer near Lincoln.

In 1873 James Ward Usher began improvements to the shop front and in 1874 took over control of the business from his father. In 1886 he carried out further refinements to the shop when he became the first business man in Lincoln to introduce electricity into his shop from his own generating plant. He continued to draw power from this until the establishment of the City Electricity Works in December 1898.

Usher was a successful business man purchasing stocks and shares and investing in industry both locally and nationally but he was to reap equal success from his own business as a jeweller and he became one of the main suppliers of trophies, ceremonial plate and presentation pieces in the area. It was between the 1880’s and 1890’s that he began looking for a suitable novelty that would be attractive to visitors to Lincoln. He eventually chose the ‘Lincoln Imp’ a sculptured figure in Lincoln Cathedral, having for a period of time the sole right to sell ‘Lincoln Imp’ jewellery. This alone brought him considerable business and fame to the extent that letters addressed simply to ‘The Silversmith who makes and sells the Lincoln Imp’ and one with only a sketch of the Imp that found there way to his business.

Usher produced the Lincoln Imp in the form of tie pins, cufflinks, brooches, spoons often setting the jewellery with precious stones.

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Last updated: 18 February 2011

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