Simon Silverwood, a much respected industry figure, “true gentlemen”, and stalwart of British bakeware manufacturing, recently died aged 65 following a period of ill health. Customers and industry colleagues – many of whom became firm friends – have paid tribute to a remarkable individual.
“Simon was a lovely man and a proper gentleman. He really cared about products and where they were made, and would make anything for you if he could,” says Sarah Wood, joint md of Trevor Mottram. “Simon was always straight talking – there was no hidden agenda – and he had an amazing attitude to life.”
Stockist and friend, Andrew Bluett-Duncan, director of Art of Living cookshops talks about Simon’s “huge humanity,” recognises his strong “sense of fair play,” and his help for independents. “He often made business decisions that certainly didn’t make him rich, benefitting small customers like ourselves rather than the multiples because he valued the service that we gave,” says Andrew.
After leaving his career as a commercial artist, Simon joined Alan Silverwood Ltd, his father’s Birmingham-based manufacturing company, in 1981. This was initially to help Alan close down the business, which was struggling at the time. However, thanks to Simon’s hard work and Alan’s entrepreneurial outlook, the company’s fortunes turned around and became what it is today. Simon gained his manufacturing expertise as foreman on the factory floor, progressing to works manager before taking over from Alan at the helm.
At the time Simon joined his father, Silverwood was manufacturing and selling a diverse range of products – from school jugs and hostess trolleys, to disco lights, saucepans, and door handles. Together they moved the company forwards, evolving with the times, and established the bakeware manufacturing company we now know. Simon developed Silverwood’s legendary and innovative bakeware range, designing originals such as the spherical Christmas pudding mould, multi-size cake tin and Battenberg, as well as fine tuning classics such as the tarte maison, sponge flan and tarte tatin. His most recent design was the Game Pie series of tins (winner of the Excellence in Cookware Award 2015).
Henriette, Simon’s wife, reflects: “Simon was always an inventor. He was perceptive and took great joy in finding solutions to any problem. Difficulties were just an inspiration for his next creation. I remember one evening I happened to comment on how I’d love to be able to slide my cake out of the tin, rather than push it out. The next day, Simon was down in the factory with our tool maker, designing and developing the Eyecatcher tin.”
Without any formal engineering training, Simon’s designs were intuitive, inventive and often astonishingly clever in their simplicity. He understood that home baking is usually a celebration of family life, and thus should be both practical and full of fun. Over many years Silverwood Bakeware has found its way into homes across the UK, featuring regularly in The Great British Bake Off, and in 2013 Simon worked with Delia Smith to create the exclusive Silverwood-Delia bakeware range, at her request.
Simon didn’t compromise, cut corners or compete, focusing instead on producing quality bakeware and championing the independents. Industry colleagues will remember Simon for his joyful sense of humour as much as his creativity and integrity, and many friendships were forged out of business relationships. He was an excellent communicator, whether making presentations, explaining technical details, storytelling or talking to employees about any problems, which he would always resolve if he could. Unsurprisingly, Simon is hugely missed by his colleagues at Silverwood, where he stepped down after more than 30 years as md in March, handing over with confidence and best wishes to David Jack (a former cookshop owner and customer).
Wendy Anderson, warehouse supervisor at Silverwood comments: “Simon was a gentleman who always put others before himself. If it wasn’t for Simon, we probably would not be working today. He was always there for you if you needed him. Simon would come over to the work place and tell us jokes. He had a wicked sense of humour and was an utterly unique manager and friend.”
Fellow supplier, Ralph Humphries of Pendeford Housewares is just one of the many friends and colleagues keen to pay tribute to Simon, saying: “What an honourable gentleman and great campaigner for British-made goods. We will not see the likes again in our trade. Keep on pressing out those pans, my friend.”
Top: Simon Silverwood with Delia Smith at Spring Fair 2013.