Leslie Durbin 1913 – 2005
Leslie Durbin was one of the finest silversmiths of the twentieth century and was apprenticed to master silversmith Omar Ramsden from 1929-1938. After the death of Ramsden (1939) and Alwyn Carr (1940), not to mention H.G.Murphy in 1939 it was natural that Durbin should become the leading silversmith in England.
Leslie Durbin studied at Central School of Arts and Crafts between 1926 -1929 whilst H.G.Murphy was the Principal there. In fact Murphy encouraged him to take up a travelling Goldsmith’s Company scholarship which took him through France and Italy to Germany and to Hungary and Sweden. He served in the RAF from 1940 until he was recalled and commissioned to design and make a sword to be presented to the Russian people to commemorate the siege of Stalingrad.
Durbin is best known for having made the Sword of Stalingrad, which was presented by Winston Churchill to the soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the allied conference on war strategy held in Tehran in 1943. It was inscribed “To the steel-hearted citizens of Stalingrad, the gift of King George VI in token of the homage of the British people”.
He also designed the reverse of the pound coin in the 1980’s representing the four parts of the United Kingdom but was disappointed when his design for the Millennium £5 coin was rejected due to its Christian symbolism.
Leslie Durbin retained a keen interest in the natural world, particularly animals from whom he perhaps derived some of the inspiration for his work, as he often used imagery of animals in his chasing. He also used fish to adorn his pieces including silver candlesticks, and a beautiful seahorse brooch which sold at auction in 2009.
His work is extremely diverse with many high quality pieces every bit as desirable as those by Omar Ramsden and one would expect Durbin’s work to become ever more popular. Leslie Durbin’s silver is much sought after but very rare and one comes across it less frequently than pieces by Ramsden.