domingo, 15 de fevereiro de 2009

Victorian Family Business

I am sure that there is an impression with the general public, that the age of mass produced furniture was started after the Second Great War and factory produced furniture is the only means of getting cheap furniture into a family home. Clearly it has the effect of simplifying taste and creating marketing trends, for the one main advantage that the factory has is marketing and on a mass scale through television and magazines. It is this market and the new industrial revolution that started around the beginning of 1800, that created huge family run businesses during the 1800's and the firm of Gillows, started in the previous century.

Robert Gillow (1704-1772) was born in Singleton, Lancashire.

He was the originator of the Lancaster-based firm of Gillows that made high status furniture from the West Indies mahogany imported through that port. He was succeeded in the business by sons Richard and Robert.

Robert Gillow came to Lancaster to start a career as a cabinet maker. His father was allegedly imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for his part in the Jacobite rebellion, and Robert Gillow may have remained in Lancaster in order to be close to him during his detention.

Robert Gillow’s fascination for carpentry began during a stint as a ship’s carpenter. He travelled to the West Indies and brought back one of the first recorded shipments of mahogany into the UK. Supplies of mahogany (supplemented with copious amounts of rum) soon began to flow between Gillow and his West Indian suppliers and in return, Gillow exported some of the finest furniture ever crafted. He was later joined by this three sons and the business expanded rapidly. In 1881, the Gillow's moved to North Road and developed a factory in the St Leonardgate area. They were previously based at Castle Hill.

Towns like Shefield produced great entrepreneurs and these developed over the decades with the family staying in the business, one such family was that of Joseph Appleyard the first, of Halifax (1777 to 1839), whose sons then subsequently joined with another Shefield family firm, that of William Johnstone & Sons, to form Johnstone & Appleyards Ltd, in 1879. The baptismal records show Joseph I as a joiner and then a cabinet maker after 1819. After spending some of his early life at sea, it is claimed as a result of him getting press ganged whilst at Hull Docks, Joseph combined farming with cabinet making in order to sustain his family, of twelve offspring ( my father was one of eleven), six of whom survived.

The three sons of the family all then became involved in the business and presumably ( not always the case; my great grand father put my grand father into an apprenticeship with another firm of cabinet makers and he joined his father after he completed the apprenticeship) where taught by their father in cabinetry. The eldest son George I (1814 to 1886) spent his life in conisborough, where the Census Returns describe him as a cabinet maker, farmer, draper, grocer, undertaker and furniture remover ( much like my great grandfather, George Hill ) for sure he was unable to support his wife and five children with cabinet making but still made himself finacialy stable; the Census of 1851 shows him having moved house to one that could accomodate himself, his wife, off spring, a 14 year old female servant and two journeymen. In 1861 he was listed as cabinet maker, employing three men, two of whom lived with him, and a farmer of 20 acres empolying there one man; one of his living in daughters was listed as an upholsteress. The following Census Reorts of 1871 and 1881, show him continuing in the same vain but with joinery work and the farm then having 50 acres and being managed by his son. a widower in 1881, he was then able to pay for two live in servants, one male and one female, and having two men and a boy working for him, as well at this time his son George II, the third generation, had his own business and was classed as a Master cabinet maker, employing four men and three apprentices.William Appleyard, the youngest son of Joseph I was also involved in cabinet making before deciding to emigrate to the Antipodes shortly after 1854, where he had 5 children with his wife, Hannah.

Joseph Appleyard & Sons of Rotherham

The principle firm of appleyards, was origionally started by Joseph I and his fourth son, Joseph ( who also spent his life in Conisborough and married a local lady, Ann Tyas, in 1847) who had three sons of which all became involved in cabinet making. Upon the death of Joseph II, the trade paid tribute to him for his business skills and aptitude in cabinet making:

....he comenced his business about 45 yeras ago, and soon gained for himself the reputation of the best of cabinet furniture in the district, including the radius of Sheffield and Doncas, and, even at the remote period, those towns contained his best customers. Strangers....have marveled when they have been told that such and such examples of art cabinet workmanship were made in Conisborough.....

Initially Joseph II had started specialising in long case clocks.. which were - considered an essential to the newly married couple as the matrimonial bed !!! and no residence with pretentions to repectability was without one....

The finished clock cases were then transported by road to the movement makers and their habit of inscribing only their name on the dial rather led to the anonimity of the case maker ( as one that has made clock cases I can vouch for the consideralable work involved in what appears to be a simple cabinet job).

The business seems to at thrived and increased during the 1860's and rather follows the middle class housing boom in sheffield at that time. Joseph II employed nine men and two boys and his two eldest sonsWalter, 19 years old, and Joseph III, then 23 years old, both as cabinet makers and Frank Appleyard was taken on as an apprentice. 1881, at the age of sixty one, Joseph II and his wife, had taken occupation of Cabinet Works, conisborough, along with their two bachelor sons, Walter and Frank Appleyard and a domestic servant, Jane ann Hawksworth.

Johnstone & Appleyards of Sheffield
Around 1879, Joseph II's sons took over the 'old but decaying business' of William Johnstone & Sons of Sheffield, a well established firm of cabinet makers and upholsters, which, at the time of the 1871 Census was employing forty cabinet makers and upholsterers, sia boys and six women.Established in 1832, william Johnstone began as a cabinet maker and added upolstery to the firm in 1841. He had rented several premises in the central shopping area of Fargate, before settling on 82-84 Fargate around 1850. It appears that he had entered into some partnership with a Mr Allat, possibly for finance reasons, as they advertised in 1852; ' extensive alterations and additional showrooms at their premises in Fargate. The firm could undertake a range of cabinet making and upolhostery activities offering a broad spectrum of furnishings for every thing from middle-class drawing rooms to servants quarters-- as well as supplying a range of bedding, wallpapers and panelling--' on the most reasonable terms'..with skilfull workmen..sent promptly to any part of the country'..
By 1856, he had returned to being a sole tradesman at the same premises, and advertising himself as a cabinet maker, upholsterer, carpet and general furnisher able to completely furnish a home, manufacture goods to special designs. The idea of a single business to completely furnish a home was clearly an attraction to the house holder not wishing to shop around, and he clearly flourished because of this. In 1861, at the age of 58, wife, two sons, five daughtersand his servant, moved into an affluent suburb of Sheffield, the firm now employing twenty seven men, four women and seven boys, with William jnr, then 20 years old, acting as clerkto the firm, whilst his brother, Samuel, independently managed a wholesale confectioners and worked as a Methodist preacher. By 1871, William jnr. was running a business with fifty two staff.
In 1878, the commercial premises at fargate comprised of a house, saleroom and workshop with a rateable value of £180.00. The Sheffield Rate Book for 1879 shows 82-84 fargate with the name of William Johnstone & Sons struck out, and replaced by Johnstone & Appleyards, suggesting that around the 24th May 1879, when the inspection was completed the take over of the firm occured with very little advanced warning. The firm of William Johnstone seems to have aquired another building in the Fargate during the period of 1876 to 1879, numbers 90-92 fargate, mentioned in the 1878 Rate Book, as a carver, gilder and picture framers and belonging to J.B.Meggitt & Sons who also owned 82-82 fargate, the name Meggitt was the middle name of William Johnstone and shows the family connection. Appleyards take over of Johnstones was assisted by the finance of Leonard Simpson friend, a friend of Joseph II, who seems to have remained a sleeping partner.

Showing a different firm with lesser degree of quality are these two photographs of the firm East brothers of Dundee, they many other firms like them, produced vast quantaties of these simple style furniture that so filled many Victorian houses. I will stop at this point as it is only meant as a posting and not a full scale book.

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