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.
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.
Merrow Associates was started by Richard Young, who is a former Royal College of Art student who later studied at the Royal Art Academy Copenhagen under Professor Ole Wanscher. Richard Young is obsessed by quality and the kind of meticulous detailing typical of Scandinavian furniture of the 1950s. He uses beautifully finished glossy surfaces – a juxtaposition of rosewood, steel and glass – as substitutes for patina and marquetry. He trained as a cabinet maker, another reason why materials feature high in his design priorities. Distribution was restricted to specialist retailers. Heal`s and Harrods. Although the firms idiom is essentially traditional modern classic they prefer to call it, Merrow Associates has proved that British workmanship, properly directed, matches Scandinavian
Shapland & Petter was a Devonshire company whose Arts & Crafts furniture is at last receiving the recognition it deserves. Critics have argued that their furniture was machine manufactured, and thus does not qualify for the title of Arts & Crafts. However, their machines were used in combination with exquisite hand-tooled skills, and no-one who has seen one of Shapland & Petter’s finely carved Victorian dining chairs can doubt the craftsmanship of their work.
The Shapland and Petter factory was established by cabinetmaker Henry Shapland (1823 – 1909), following a trip to America in 1848. While there, he saw an ingenious new machine which he realised could be used for cabinetmaking. Upon his return to Barnstaple, he reproduced the machine from notes he’d made and set up business in a mill. He later met Henry Petter, an accountant, and together they achieved rapid success. In 1888 the mill burned down. Undeterred, they moved to larger premises. The same factory now produces high-quality joinery.
Hand-tooled or machine-made? Antique cabinets that were both
Furniture by Shapland and Petter, such as their antique dining chairs , is highly collectable by Arts & Crafts furniture enthusiasts, despite breaking the “rules” of the movement. Looking at the detailed carving on a Shapland and Petter antique chest today, it is hard to imagine it being produced in what was, for its time, one of the most cutting-edge factories in Britain.
The new factory was arranged in blocks, with a production line of up to 350 employees, which ran from the saw mills to the finishing sheds. However, keen as they were to adopt labour-saving devices, the men also saw the need for traditional craftsmanship. They imported American machine tools that were backed by an army of skilled cabinetmakers, carvers, designers and polishers.
From Victorian dining chairs to antique bookcases, Shapland and Petter furniture is defined its detailed carving. Those employed for this task underwent a 7-year apprenticeship, using up to 100 tools for the most elaborate designs. The factory was soon producing furniture and interiors to order, for banks, hotels, private homes and even Pullman railway carriages. Notable commissions included the London Guildhall, Edgar Wallace ‘s home, and the mansion house at Tapeley Park.
From Antique marquetry furniture to the Art Nouveau period
Shapland & Petter antiques range from simple rustic Arts & Crafts furniture to intricate antique marquetry furniture, embellished with the fluid organic designs of the Art Nouveau movement. Their antique cabinets often made use of finely detailed lead glass panels and delicate fruitwood inlays; however, many of these intricately crafted pieces were mass-produced standards.
There were hundreds of these available in their pattern book, inspired by the leading Arts & Crafts furniture designers but with their own unique stamp of individuality. Collectors of Glasgow School Arts & Crafts furniture will recognise familiar motifs like the Glasgow Rose and Baillie Scott’s “twin doves,” while those familiar with C. R. Ashbee antique marquetry furniture will also show many similarities.
Shapland and Petter both died in 1909. However, their factory continued to produce fine furniture for a number of years, often for public commissions. Today, Cumbrian enthusiasts can see Shapland and Petter’s stunning Art Nouveau and antique marquetry furniture on display across the British Isles.
J.S. Henry were wholesale manufacturers in Old Street, London, of light, ornamental furniture from about 1880, and Art Nouveau pieces of mahogany and satinwood with decorative inlays in the 1890s. Their beautiful pieces were retailed through a Paris agent at the 1900 Centennial Exhibition, where they won two silver medals. At the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society in 1903 the company showed designs by George Walton and W.A.S. Benson. G.M. Ellwood (1875 – c.1960) was their most prolific designer, and although they used designs by C.F.A. Voysey, E.G. Punnett and W.J. Neatby, few designers were named.
A Spindle, in furniture or architecture, is an cylindrically symmetric shaft, usually made of wood. Spindles are usually made of a single piece of wood and typically has decoration (also axially symmetric) fashioned by hand or by a lathe. The spindle was common at least as early as the 17th century in Western Europe as an element of chair and table legs, stretchers, candlesticks, balusters, and other pieces of cabinetry. By definition, the axis of a spindle is straight; hence, for example, a spindle-legged chair is a straight-legged design, even though cylindrical symmetry allows decoration of elaborate notches or bulbs, so long as the cylindrical symmetry is preserved.
The spindle leg design is characteristic of many Victorian and earlier Nursing chairs, exposed wood armchairs and a variety of cabinets and tables. In French furniture, the spindle leg may be found on Fauteuils,” chairs, a variety of tables and other pieces.
Charles Tozer was a retailer of high quality revivalist furniture although seems to have specialised in walnut pieces in the early 18th century style and was established at 25 Brook Street London from the early 20th century and traded into the 1960s.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was one of the most significant figures in the history of Arts & Crafts Furniture, and a major influence on the Art Nouveau movement. A talented architect, designer and artist, he was central to the development of the Glasgow Style of design. He had few clients, yet his distinctive stained glass panels elegant Victorian dining chairs are known the world over.
Mackintosh was apprenticed to architects Honeyman and Keppie in 1889, also studying at the Glasgow School of Art. His first major architectural commission was the Glasgow Herald Building (1894), which showed amazing innovation and maturity.
Mackintosh believed that designers and architects should have freedom of expression, and began experimenting with design, aided by his friends Herbert MacNair and Frances and Margaret Macdonald (who he later married). Dubbed the Spook School, they established the Glasgow Style.
In 1896 Mackintosh, was awarded a major commission to design a new wing for the Glasgow School of Art. Constructed in two stages, it was Mackintosh’s most important work, containing baronial Scottish, rustic Japanese and many other elements. The Library is a complex geometry of timber posts and beams, complemented by dark slender antique bookcases and elegantly pierced chairs.
Mackintosh’s best-known works were for Catherine Cranston, who commissioned him for her tearooms between 1896 and 1917. He was allowed complete freedom of expression, providing everything from the light fittings to the cutlery. The dramatic high-backed Victorian dining chairs, so prized by Lancashire collectors, are still copied by designers today.
Another important commission was Hill House, for publisher Walter Blackie. However, Mackintosh had only a few patrons, his ethic of total design making him unpopular with clients. His last public commission was a Glasgow school, in 1906. Further work followed, but it was largely met with indifference.
Mackintosh moved to London, where he began working in a bold new abstract style. However, it largely went unnoticed. Today, of course, his genius is recognised, and in Cumbria his antique dining tables and elegant chairs sell for many thousands of pounds.
The market for sporting memorabilia is one of the most diverse areas of the antiques market. This is not just because the range of sports covered – from boxing to bowls – but also due to the vast spread of objects – from fishing tackle to football trophies.
Almost every pastime you can think of is represented in the memorabilia market and numerous sectors of the antiques industry have their own sporting sub-sector: silver, ceramics, paintings, works of art and books, to name but a few.
The items that command the most attention are those that relate to either the early history of a particular sport, or an iconic player, special match or competition.
SO WHAT DO WE COLLECT………………………………..
So vast is the field that most collectors focus on one area. There are those who collect all memorabilia relating to their chosen sport, but there are also people who collect items only relating to their favourite team. Others favour particular items like match programmes or cigarette cards.
Most buying is based on an emotional connection to the sport but some elements of the market are based on decorative appeal. The former may well include people who pay out for pieces of sporting equipment – a football shirt worn by a club legend or a cricket ball used to hit the winning runs in a famous Ashes series – while the latter could involve items with serious wall-power such as a carved wood fishing trophy or an Olympic poster.
Silver King Man brought £6600 in Bonhams Chester in 2005
Dunlop Man brought £900 also in the same sale
Golf Demonstrates the selectivity that exists:
For instance, a decade ago, standard early 20th century hickory-shafted golf clubs were the dependable stalwart of the saleroom, selling in sets for the equivalent of £20 to £30 each. These clubs are now fetching between £8 and £12 each, and the number of clubs that find buyers at auction is significantly lower.
The same is true of the early balls – the pre-1850 feather balls or ‘featheries’ and the first gutta percha balls made in a myriad of different patent designs. Vendors of balls that could often command five-figure sums in the 1990s are now having to settle for four-figure returns instead.
However, the flip-side of this means that, for buyers, especially new collectors, there are now plenty of relative bargains to be had.
Above: a bent neck putter from c.1890s used by Willie Park Junior. The club, with its longer than standard 4.5in hosel, was the kind used by Park in numerous Opens, including when he was runner-up in 1898. With a label written and signed by the club-maker Ben Sayers Junior, it sold for £3300 at Bonhams Chester in June 2010.
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Founder of the English Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris was one of the most influential figures of Victorian art and design. A pre-Raphaelite artist, writer and textile designer, his name is synonymous with the beautiful Arts and Crafts furniture , textiles and artworks which flourish in England today.
Born in Walthamstow, Essex, in 1834, William Morris had a privileged upbringing, being educated at Marlborough School before attending Oxford University. Originally intending to study theology, he migrated to the arts after becoming drawn to socialism. Wanting to embed socialist ideologies into his work, he abandoned painting for architecture and design, associating with artists of the pre-Raphaelite movement. This had a profound influence on his artistic designs.
In 1861 Morris founded Britain’s first design company, which became Morris and Co. Together with his pre-Raphaelite associates he transformed the staid world of Victorian design, introducing new concepts in style and colour. Inspired by Mediaeval art, he eschewed the machine-made regularity of Victorian mass-production; instead each piece was handcrafted to reflect the individuality of the craftsman.
The company produced Arts and Crafts furniture, textiles, tiles, stained glass and wallpaper, embellished with organic forms such as vines, fruit trees, birds and Celtic animals. Each member of the company worked in a specific area of expertise; for example furniture such as Victorian antique dining chairs and cabinets was designed by Philip Webb, who also made tiles and metal ware. Jane Burden, the beautiful pre-Raphaelite model who became Morris’ wife, was taught to fashion embroideries by her husband.
In later years, the company opened new premises at Merton Abbey Mills, where their famous tapestries were woven. A prolific writer, Morris also founded the Kelmscott Press, which produced traditionally crafted, beautifully illuminated versions of classic works.
William Morris died in 1896. A staunch socialist to the last, it seems strange that his beautifully crafted works were too costly for the common man. However, he had an enormous impact on Victorian design in general. Today, arts and crafts pieces such as antique marquetry furniture are accessible to all