Since 1975, manufacturers and designers of silver plated perfume bottles, boxes, fragrances, silver and jewellery, photoframes and antique replicas of sculptural forms.
gift ideas

Back in 1975, appearing briefly in what was known as “The Top Twenty”, there was a song called "First Impressions" by The Impressions. It was playing in my workshop in the estuary town of Exmouth in Devon, England. It seemed to be the perfect description of my business. Everything I made was a copy of a beautiful old thing; each piece was a "first impression".


The workshop was in a derelict house at the corner of Anne Street. This was just off Union Street, where I lived, predictably alone, at number 4, a tiny end-terrace house I'd made habitable; and whose concrete rendered surface I had painted with masonry paint until it was a tasteful shade of antique pink. After a day’s labour, whenever I got home, before I crossed the threshold, I braced myself to endure the chirpy optimism of my own bright yellow front door where the word "CHAMPION" was emblazoned; an old enamel advertising sign I'd fixed up there, that used to do service for Champion Spark Plugs.  The staircase of the "workshop" had been ripped out by the local authority to keep anyone from taking over the place.  In retrospect this was a sound idea. My workshop, once I'd cleared out the remains of that staircase, taken out the torn-off doors and uprooted floorboards, was bigger than my house and in better condition. If it had not been for the inconvenience of gaining access to the first floor with a length of rope I might well have moved in. The workshop rent was a mere £2 per week.

In the interests of my business, and in order to eat, I supported myself by delivering bread in the morning for Skinner’s Bakery; delivering antiques for Bob Barwell Antiques, opposite, whenever he needed me to; and exchanging LPs for sign writing services required by the local record store which I think was called Ocean Records. The LP with "Your Song" by Elton John, along with an album by Poco, I recall, was a fair swap for a design for a few business cards. I designed a carrier bag for "Clouds Boutique" on The Parade. The design was an old bi-plane writing the word "Clouds" upon a cream sky; the effort of which had resulted in the contraption falling to the ground in a tail-spin. Much of the bag was in flames. It was great. The girlfriend of the proprietor thought that it was depressing however, and she had negative premonitions; so they wouldn't go ahead with the design. They still loved me though. I remember waking one morning after staying with them all in Aylesbeare, and that very same Linda with the premonitions, woke me up with a cup of tea. She was standing there in a bra and a pair of smallish bright red pants; not see-through unfortunately. Drinking that tea was a difficult experience so soon after the ravages of adolescence, but it never matched my disappointment at her refusal of my design for that inspired paper carrier bag. But I digress......

The business actually started out in a coal shed on the Ramslye Estate in Tunbridge Wells back in 1968.  My father was a bad plumber. The arrival of plastic pipes back then was the equivalent of a new computer operating system arriving today.  It was the end of the old plumbers who had learned how to work with the metal lead (plumbum in Latin) which was, metaphorically, the pre-Windows "DOS" original.  My father, George, had spent the six years from when he was 18 until he was 24 in Bizerta, Sicily, North Africa and Monte Cassino. In such retreats, and probably there behind bars with other Prisoners of War, he learned foreign languages and those card tricks he taught me as a boy, which I have yet to put to use. There he mastered enough Italian to order ice cream cones from Di Mashio, when the unusually converted van of Silvio Di Mashio sounded its klaxon in our Ramslye neighbourhood. Di Mashio is probably the best name ever owned by such an Italian ice cream artificer.

My father, not yet a plumber, had determined after The War, never to pay income tax; and he never did.  He proudly produced accounts for The Inland Revenue on the back of a "Players Navy Cut" cigarette packet and laughed in their faces.  He endured several spells in jail for not paying his National Insurance stamps.  He bravely told the judge "I'm ready. I've got my small-kit."  My mother says that one week he brought home ten bob to manage on (that is 50pence) worth maybe £5 now.  He never would have paid tax anyway because, in truth, I don't think his income ever passed the personal allowance threshold.  He probably would have been entitled to some type of social service assistance, but was too proud, too stupid or too intimidated to ask for it.

One day around 1963 he decided to make lead garden ornaments. He cast the metal into the backs of old fireplaces, old brass tureens and car hub-caps.  I used to help him in the summer holidays.  He was certainly ingenious.  When the moulds broke or wore away, he'd just go and look for some more at Benson's scrap yard.  One day, in 1968, instead of money, he came home with some rubber moulds, and a bag of some cream coloured plaster.  I was recuperating; I'd just fallen off of a roof while I was window cleaning.  I was about eighteen years old.  He enthused about the moulds and mixed up some of the plaster and poured out some of it into a few of them.  He mixed it a bit thin and the surplus water rose to the top and left a bubbly surface on the back of the casting which you could see under this water; the surface appearing a little like my mother's ginger beer "plant". Never non-plussed, and wanting to show he knew all about plaster casting, my father said "It's just the juice".  The fundamental difference between my father and me is that I chose to go the library, and there I found a book that advertised the marvellous company called Alec Tiranti. So with a few of their pamphlets I learned how to make moulds from Vinamould and some of the primitive silicone rubbers available back then.  I've made a living from things pulled from moulds ever since.  First Impressions.

I registered the name "First Impressions" back in 1976 under the UK Business Names Registrations Act.  Since that time I've come upon many companies who have used the name. Model agencies and printers and so on.  The Internet "dotcom" domain name must have been one of the first to go. I know that adding another "f" to the name to become www.ffirstimpressions.com will be understood as a proof of my sincere capitulation before those of my betters, who came before.

The double ff capitalisation has a long history.  In Tudor times, it was used instead of the capital "F". Click here to see Elizabethan secretary hand engrossed by Derran Charlton of The de Vere Society. The double ff has been circled in red. You may also see the double ff doing service on Stradivarius violins.  One of these "f" holes is illustrated here. The name "ffrench" is the surname of distinguished gentry of Irish descent. That double ff resonates with the gentry we serve, who still christen their otherwise innocent children "Algernon" and "Romilly", to assert an independence free from the strictures of the spell checker. The use of the double ff is as noble now as it always has been. Type Richard ffrench on Amazon, and see.  We are in good company.

We manufacture and design gifts for “the gentry”, that is, cultured people with large outgoings looking for gifts at a low price that might yet secure their reputations. Each piece is a “first impression”, that is, a copy as exact as possible taken from antique sculptural forms.