Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781803131047



Feb. 28, 2022

Victorian furnishers and decorators Collinson & Lock were a model of the art furniture business of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This book is the first wide-ranging study of this once highly important company. It will give insights into the workings and productions of a London furnishing business in the period. It also provides information on a wide variety of topics including furniture design developments, interior design styles, business practices, working practices and techniques, and the firm’s customers and competitors.

Clive Edwards first considers the structure of the London ‘art furniture’ trade and its development to locate the firm in its community. He then traces the growth of the firm’s business, its involvement with important international exhibitions, the designers they worked with, and the furniture and interiors they produced.

This important book then outlines and discusses Collinson & Lock’s creations ranging from seminal pieces that were designed for an exclusive clientele, to those displayed at national and international exhibitions between 1871 and 1900, through to batch produced objects that still maintained the quality and design that the firm was famous for. The involvement of the firm with both public and private interior decoration commissions is also examined through case studies, including those in the Anglo-Japanese, Queen Anne, Old English, and Renaissance styles used in the later Victorian period.

Drawing on the author’s extensive knowledge of nineteenth-century furniture and interiors, this book meets a need for a fully researched and illustrated reference work on this famous firm. If you have an interest in the history of furniture and interior design, if you are involved with furniture collections either on a private basis or professionally, or you simply have an interest in the decorative arts and culture of the period, this book should be on your shelves.

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Stephen Calloway Book Review, Furniture History Society Newsletter Nov 2023

Furniture History Society Newsletter 232 November 2023

Studies of individual firms in the various branches of the furnishing trade of the nineteenth century can sometimes feel somewhat sketchy (often owing to the widespread destruction or scattering of old commercial records that occurred during and immediately after World War I) and
also lacking in any sense of the wider context in which particular designers, craftsmen and partnerships of makers and businessmen first set up, flourished or met their demise. Others, based upon meticulous or, one might say, perhaps obsessive attention to detail may seem to verge
on the monomaniac. This recent volume by Clive Edwards, Professor of Design History at Loughborough carefully treads a path between these two evils. Telling the history of Collinson & Lock, one of the most successful London-based furniture businesses of the Victorian era, it is a study
of the workings and productions of a firm conspicuously at the forefront of the trade during the last three decades of the nineteenth century and is clearly based on a great deal of research including extensive examination of the contemporary literature.
Edwards's exploration of the art journals and trade publications of the day, as well as other sources provides richly detailed documentation of the firm's reputation in general terms and is informative about what people thought of not just their finest exhibition pieces but also their more
run-of-the-mill productions. The book never loses sight of the bigger picture and at each point in a narrative that necessarily follows the commercial and reputational fortunes of the firm, admirably sketches comparative details of rival businesses and the careers of architects and designers who were associated with Collinson & Lock and contributed to their success.
Starting with an introductory chapter charting the growth of the 'Art Furniture' movement that had its origin in the ideals promulgated by the design reformers of the 1840s, most notably A.W.N. Pugin, Edwards proceeds by way of a sequence of almost dictionary-like sections to build a
most useful picture of the furnishing trade in the years of the Aesthetic Movement.
Devoting these mostly short sections to general topics such as 'Antique Dealers and Decorators', 'Female-run Businesses', individual firms such the intriguing but short-lived Art Furnishers' Alliance or the influential William Watt, and to key designers such as Daniel Cottier and EW. Godwin, the author provides an invaluable overview of the world into which Collinson and Lock launched themselves in 1870.
The main meat of Edwards book consists of a careful and well-documented account of the initial emergence of the partners from their shared origins as employees in the prestigious company of Jackson & Graham and their subsequent rapid rise to prominence in the trade.
A particular strength of the book lies in the close attention which is paid to Collinson & Lock's participation in the major commercial shows of the era, which since the Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862 had played such a key role in the development of design and manufactures for the home.
Analysis of the pieces submitted by the firm to shows such as the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, illuminated by quotations from contemporary press opinion, fills out our picture both of the firm's progress and more widely of the taste of the time.
Almost consistently lauded for the quality of their craftsmanship - and in particular for the strength of specialities such as their use of intricate inlay work using fine woods and ivory - Collinson & Lock continued to move ever-upmarket, but gradually away from the cutting-edge of design innovation and into a safer, more comfortable, but nevertheless highly-respected, world of 'good taste'. In this they can be seen to have presaged a trajectory which we can also recognise in the history of Morris & Co and later Liberty, enterprises which have traditionally attracted more attention from design historians.
With its wealth of documentation, as well as excellent illustrations from catalogues and other contemporary sources and photographs of pieces in museums or that have passed through the hands of specialist dealers such as Paul Reeves and Blairman's, Edwards's book makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the workings of the late Victorian furniture trade as well as celebrating the achievement of two of that trade's
outstanding protagonists.