Derry’s only surviving original and truly splendid Victorian shop is Faller The Jeweller of 12 Strand Road, Derry. Three generations later Faller is still growing and is reknowned for beautiful jewellery proudly made in Derry.
In 1876 William Faller, a native of Schönwald, in the Black Forest region of Germany, moved to Ireland at the age of 16. Having completed a 3 year apprenticeship in clock making before leaving home he joined his older half brother Stephen in Athlone selling clocks around the countryside. Two years later Wilheim, (now known as William) moved on to Derry to set up a similar trade and just seven years later in 1883, he opened his first shop at 25 Ferryquay Street, Derry. Making full use of the rail network to sell clocks in the city’s hinterland, particularly in Donegal, where there were no other watch or clockmakers, his business prospered.
In 1902 William took a ground lease on land overlooking the River Foyle at 12 Strand Road and commissioned a purpose built jewellery store complete with high ceilings to allow plenty of natural light to enter. The Architect was Edward Toye, designer of St Columb’s College, the spire at St Eugene’s and the St Patrick’s church at Pennyburn. Retaining all its original architectural features Faller’s remains a magnificent example of an elegant high-class Victorian Jewellers. Inside, the craftsmanship of the polished mahogany counters, which took a carpenter from Moville five months to carve, and the wonderfully ornate plasterwork of the ceilings, are worth seeing. There is also a fine reverse hand-painted mirror depicting the waterfall in the village of Schonach ,not far from his native home in Schönwald, Germany.
William’s youngest son Stephen entered the family business in 1923 at the age of 15 and learned watch, clock and jewellery making and repairing. In 1938 he also qualified as an optician. He took over the family business when his father died in 1940 and his wife Maeve joined the business full-time in 1961.The business and shop survived through the challenging times of the post war shortages and the later ” Troubles” and prospered. In 1983 , one hundred years since the business was established the archway next door, previously the entrance to the Victoria Market, was purchased and the shop increased in size.
Their son, Noel who joined the family business in 1971 is in charge now and he has been expanding the firm’s design and manufacturing side. Faller began with time pieces but over the years that emphasis had changed. In 2007 he decided to phase out watch retailing completely to increase the focus on jewellery designed and made by Faller. Five full-time goldsmiths in the upstairs workshops specialise in exclusive hand-made silver, gold and platinum items.
The splendid Faller shop and workshops are, like the teapot, important assets for the city.