Arthur Simpson is one of the forgotten masters of English Arts & Crafts Furniture. Born in Cumbria, in 1857, he showed an early flair for wood carving, taking two apprenticeships and working in London before returning to Kendal to establish his famous Handicrafts workshop. The clean simple lines and superb workmanship of his Arts & Crafts furniture found a ready market locally. Simpson died in 1922, but the workshop continued under the guidance of his son until 1950. Many of Simpson’s finely crafted antique cabinets, chairs and chests can still be found in Cumbria today.
Arthur Simpson started his apprenticeship at the age of 14, with a Kendal cabinet maker. At the age of 18 he transferred his skills to Gillow’s of Lancaster, where he showed tremendous scope as a woodcarver. Simpson then worked under Samuel Barfield in Leicester, returning to Kendal as an ‘Architectural and General Wood Carver’.
Initially, he didn’t meet with much success. A devout Quaker, Simpson’s early work was mainly ecclesiastical in nature, similar to other neo-Gothic styles of the period. In despair he went to London, finding work with H. Faulkner Armitage of Altrincham, where he quickly discovered what the current trends were.
In 1885, Simpson returned to Kendal, this time concentrating on both the ecclesiastical and domestic market. He was so successful that he was able to move to larger premises and, by 1888, was employing several workers. It was at this time the Handicrafts workshop was established.
A Rare Pair of Oak Arts & Crafts Armchairs By Arthur Simpson
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