17 Apr 2021


February 21, 2013 - Filed under: Arts and Crafts — Mandy

Birmingham Guild of Handicraft was an Arts and Crafts organisation operating in Birmingham, England. Its motto was ‘By Hammer and Hand’.

It began as a loose part of the Birmingham Kyrle Society, then became a more fully formed group within the Kyrle Society in 1890, under the leadership of the silversmith and architect Arthur Stansfield Dixon (1856–1929) and with the lawyer Montague Fordham as first director, in Vittoria Street School for jewellers and silversmiths. In 1895 the Guild set up as an independent workshop and limited company with the guidance of Edward R. Taylor who was an important figure in the history of Birmingham School of Art. William Kenrick local MP and Arts and Crafts enthusiast became a director. The Guild’s first address was at Kyrle Hall, Sheep Street, the same studios later being taken over by John Paul Cooper. In 1898 the Guild moved to 44-5 Great Charles Street. The Guild produced furniture and metalware, taking special advantage of the switch to electric lighting and the consequent need for new light fittings. Arthur Dixon was the chief designer and head of metalwork workshop. Other members were A E Jones and Thomas Birkett. Bernard Sleigh was a teacher at the Guild.

The Guild also produced fine books under the ‘Press of the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, Limited’ and a periodical titled The Quest. The Quest began in November 1895 and aimed to appear three times a year, but was short-lived. William Morris was a contributor. Those involved with the Press were Ernest Treglown, A.J. Gaskin, and C.M. Gere. Charles Carr and Mary Newill were book illustrators for the Guild. The Press was still active in 1919, when it published Memorials: The Work of the Architect and Craftsman in the Design and Execution of War Memorials.

The Guild ran a London showroom, headed by Martin Muir, at 7 Newman Street, Oxford Square.

The Guild was modelled on Charles Robert Ashbee’s 1888 Guild and School of Handicraft, and it found itself in similar financial difficulties due to high running-costs and lack of money-making ventures. Due to commercial pressures there was a merger with E & R Gittins in 1905 which brought Llewelyn Roberts in to the organisation. In 1919 there was a further merger with Hart, Son & Pearl. The name was still shown until 1950 in directories as “The Birmingham Guild Ltd., Architectural & Decorative Metalworkers”, the addresses being Grosvenor Road West and Sherbourne St. B16.

February 20, 2013 - Filed under: C.R. ASHBEE — Mandy

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942) was an architect, writer and designer of Arts & Crafts Furniture.

A philanthropist and social reformer, he founded the Guild of Handicraft School, an Arts and Crafts commune in line with the co-operative socialism of William Morris. As well as a skilled metalworker, Ashbee was also an accomplished cabinetmaker, working with Baillie Scott among others.

Jewellery, communes and Arts & Crafts Furniture

Ashbee was born into a progressive household. While at King’s College, Cambridge, he became strongly influenced by William Morris and John Ruskin. Following a tenure with the architect George Frederick Bodley, he decided to found a co-operative combining art with education and, in 1888, the Guild and School of Handicraft was opened. The concept was simple: To set high standards of craftsmanship, combining the independence of the traditional craftsman with the ethics of the trade shop.

Initially sited in the East End of London, the Guild expanded rapidly. It specialised in jewellery, enamel, furniture design and metalwork – which often features in Ashbee’s antique cabinets and writing desks.

antique chests with Grand designs

Producing such designs as miniature antique chests with solid silver handles, the Guild gained a following of wealthy patrons, eventually opening a retail outlet in Mayfair. One of Ashbee’s most important commissions was a suite of furniture made for the Grand Duke of Hessen, Darmstadt, to designs by M.H. Baillie Scott.

By 1902, the School was suffering heavy competition in London, and Ashbee decided to move to Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. But the Arts & Crafts furniture market was by this time saturated, and the Guild folded in 1907. Ashbee turned to architectural design, building and furnishing properties in the UK and abroad. He eventually settled in Jerusalem, where he stayed until his death.

Those in Lancashire wanting to see antique marquetry furniture by C.R Ashbee can visit the Cheltenham museum, where one of his antique desks is on display. Its Arts & Crafts tulip motifs are considered to be works of art. The V & A also has a large collection of works by C.R. Ashbee and the Guild.

February 18, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Cheval Mirrors — Mandy

A cheval mirror is a full-length mirror encased in a decorative frame that is attached to a large supporting base by a set of swivel screws. The supporting base consists of two vertical bars held up by a pair of feet. This base is also called a horse, or “cheval” in French, and it allows the mirror to stand freely, while the swivel screws allow the angle of the mirror to be adjusted. A cheval mirror is typically made of woods like oak, mahogany or walnut.

The cheval mirror, also called cheval glass, was first made in the 1700s. Originally known as a dressing mirror, it was created for use in bedrooms and dressing rooms, as the adjustable angle allowed one to see one’s dress from head to toe. By the end of the eighteenth century, the cheval mirror was very popular, and all of the era’s leading furniture designers had developed their own cheval mirror design, featuring different decorative frames and carved wood embellishments. But, as furniture design evolved, mirrors were mounted on armoires and wardrobes in an effort to save space, and the cheval mirror lost some of its popularity.


- Filed under: Antique Chests — Mandy

A bachelor’s chest is a small, shallow and relatively low chest, English in origin, containing three to four drawers, usually graduated; in the first models, which date from the late 17th century, the top was hinged, and could fold out to become a writing surface, supported by runners or lopers, later varieties, in the 18th century, had a brushing slide just underneath the top , a pull-out surface for writing or laying out of clothing; usually made of walnut, oak or mahogany; bun feet were most common on the early chests  but were replaced by the more fashionable bracket feet as the century progressed.  Although the term came to mean any small chest of drawers, originally the bachelor’s chest was a multi-purpose piece of furniture, perfect for a single gentleman occupying a small bachelor’s pad.



February 14, 2013 - Filed under: James Shoolbred — Mandy

The name of James Shoolbred & Co is highly respected among admirers of Aesthetic Movement furniture in Preston and Cumbria. Their antique desks, Victorian dining chairs and antique marquetry furniture were produced for wealthy households up to 1931. A particularly fine example of James Shoolbred antique marquetry furniture – an ornate piano by designer Henry Batley – is on display at the V & A museum, London.

Established in the 1820s, James Shoolbred’s Tottenham Court Road company began life as a drapers. It began supplying textiles to the furniture trade, and expanded into the stores either side, branching into interior design. By the 1870s, the company was designing and manufacturing its own furniture.

antique chests and Victorian dining chairs – spreading the word

A major factor of James Shoolbred’s success was their detailed catalogues, which were published from around 1873. Configured to showcase the company’s designs beyond the confines of London, they made Shoolbred an overnight success. Today, dealers in Cumbria selling Victorian dining chairs and other Shoolbred staples find these catalogues invaluable in identifying, dating and valuing the pieces.

In the 1880s the firm moved to larger premises. Imaginatively laid out, with detailed room schemes showing off the company’s latest furniture and textile designs, it became an unmitigated success.

Cataloguing the history of antique dining tables in Cumbria

Although James Shoolbred & Co specialised in furniture of the Aesthetic Movement they encompassed all the fashionable trends of the time, from the motifs and patterns of Japanese design in their antique marquetry furniture, to Art Nouveau and gothic influences in their antique desks and Victorian dining chairs.

Many of the Edwardian and Victorian dining chairs and antique cabinets in Preston showrooms are “in the style of” James Shoolbred & Co. Their catalogues were so detailed they acted as virtual pattern books, with furniture makers across the world copying their designs to prove they were abreast of London fashion. Today, these catalogues are a valuable research tool for antiques historians in Preston, who can see how antique desks, for example, adapted to various Revival movements as they appeared.


February 2, 2013 - Filed under: Games/Card Tables — Mandy

This was the firm of John Collard Vickery, an important and sucessful player in the retail side of the gold and silversmithing business in the early 20th century.

Collard and his then partner, Arthur Thomas Hobbs, bought up the long established business of William Griggs, a stationer and bookseller at 183, Regent Street in c.1890 and expanded the stock to include jewellery, dressing cases, gold and silver lines.

The partnership with Hobbs was a short lived one and was dissolved in 1891. Now on his own, Vickery went from strength to strength expanding the Regent Street premises to include, at first, No.181 and then No.179 by the year 1900. He went on to obtain the royal warrants of HM the King, HM the Queen, HM Queen Alexandra, TRH the Prince and Princess of Wales, HM the King of Portugal, HM the King of Spain, TM the King and Queen of Denmark, HM the Queen of Norway, HM the King of Sweden and the Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig Holstein.

A move further up Regent Street to No’s 145/147, in 1925, was forced by the expiration of the leases on the original premises. The move along with the depression in the 1920’s and Vickery’s advancing years all contributed to the firm being declared bankrupt in 1930.

John Collard Vickery died aged 75 on the 19th August 1930, what was left of the business fell into the hands of James Walker Ltd.

John Culme in his ‘Directory of Gold & Silversmiths’ relates a nice story regarding Vickery: Shortly before his death, the late G. S. Saunders of James Walker Ltd., told me that J. C. Vickery’s business reached the height of its success before the First World War. Vickery, who would travel each day from Streatham to Regent Street in his own carriage, stopped his coachman one day in order to examine a leaf on the drive outside his house. Stepping down from the vehicle he picked up the leaf to pin to it a note. As he continued his journey his gardeners were astonished to read ‘ Why has this leaf been here for two days?’

John Collard Vickery entered his first mark at the London Assay Office on the 25th April 1899. This was followed by further entries on the 2nd May 1899, 22nd May 1901 (Three sizes), 14th April 1902 (Two sizes) and on the 26th June 1903 (Two sizes). All are ‘J.C.V.’ in an oblong punch, some with clipped corners.


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