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Norwich, Carlisle & Dumfries furniture makers in the Graham Gadd Archive

Published by on 31 May 2024

Three Regional Furniture Makers & their Billheads: Norwich, Carlisle & Dumfries 

Whilst completing a collaborative internship to digitise the Graham Gadd Archive of nineteenth-century furniture bills, I came across a number of regional makers previously unrecorded in BIFMO. Three in particular stood out: Arthur S Howard of Norwich, Creighton & Company of Carlisle and Dunbar, Son & Pattie of Dumfries. Each of these firms operated between circa 1850 and 1915 and are represented in the archive by at least five different bills showing the firms’ use of a variety of billheads. This blog will therefore aim to reveal more about these makers as well as showing the range of different billheads put into use by nineteenth-century firms and the potential reasons behind the simultaneous use of multiple different billheads by the same firm.

Arthur S. Howard of Norwich

Active circa 1872 – 1915. Address: 75, Prince of Wales Road, Norwich

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Howard, 1874 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 2/11

All of Arthur S Howard’s five invoices that survive within the Graham Gadd Archive are topped by an elaborate gothic script proclaiming him to be an Upholsterer, Cabinet Maker, Paper Hanger, Carver, Gilder & General House Furnisher. They are dated between 1873 and 1910 and give his address as Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, with an additional workshop address of Elm Hill. The success of Howard’s business is attested to by his appearance in multiple contemporary Gazetteers and Directories. In particular, we can single out an extensive entry in a Norfolk Directory of 1890. The entry begins with the assertion:

‘In the city of Norwich the cabinet making, upholstering, and house-furnishing trade is of great importance, and among houses in this connection none enjoys a greater popularity or a more valuable measure of support than that under the proprietorship of Mr. Arthur S. Howard, 75, Prince of Wales’ Road. This gentleman has been established in business for the last twenty-five years, and it may be stated at once that he has originated and developed a particular branch of the business with singular success. Reference is made to the removal and storage of furniture of every description, and in this line Mr. Howard is certainly conducting the largest and most important business in Norwich.’

Of course, given that Howard probably paid for space in the Directory and provided the text himself, we must be aware of these claims being slightly exaggerated. However, at the very least the entry suggests that his business was founded as early as 1865 and that a significant part of his trade was devoted to the transportation and storage of furniture. Although this is also referenced on his billhead it is given much less prominence than his other occupations.

Both aspects of Howard’s business are clearly represented on an alternative billhead in the Graham Gadd Archive, showing an exterior view of the front of his premises at 75, Princes of Wales Road. The image shows a substantial, three-bay building, with two large shop windows flanking a central doorway, and an additional doorway giving access to the warehouse space at the rear. Howard’s various services are conveyed through large signs across the façade as well as through the array of furniture visible in the shop windows and a central plaque showing a train transporting goods. Whether this is an exact representation of the shop front in unknown, but the basic arrangement of the building is certainly truthful; the ground storey of 75 Princes of Wales Road remained largely unchanged into the 1970s, and the upper levels survive today as depicted.

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Howard, 1901 - Gadd archve
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 7/25

That this image is found on a memorandum, rather than an invoice, suggests that Howard may have used different billheads for different forms of stationary. However, it is also notable that whilst his surviving invoices relate to upholstery and furnishing work, the memorandum relates to furniture storage, suggesting that he may also have utilised different billheads depending on what aspect of his business the work related to.

Creighton and Co. of Carlisle

Active circa 1830 to 1890. Address: 1&2 Lowther Street, Carlisle; Castle Street, Carlisle (various numbers)

Unlike Arthur Howard’s business, which seems to have been spearheaded solely by him, Creighton and Co. went through several iterations as it was expanded by three successive generations of the same family. The five bills surviving in the Graham Gadd Archive date from between 1855 and 1874, when the firm was at its height. More information can be gleaned from two biographies of Mandell Creighton (1843-1901), who opted to become an Anglican cleric rather than join the family business, as well as from the ever-useful county directories.

A biography of Mandell published in 1904 by his wife Louisa narrates how his grandfather, James Creighton, ‘had come from the Scottish Lowlands to Carlisle as a young joiner. There he became a partner in his employer’s business, which he developed and ultimately made his own.’ This is likely the firm listed in BIFMO as ‘Edmondson & Creighton’ which was recorded at 36 Castle Street, Carlisle in 1834. James Creighton is further described as ‘a silent man with sound judgement, upright and honourable, and much respected.’

By 1847, James Creighton had been joined by his son Robert (d.1878), with the firm being renamed ‘James Creighton & Son’. They are listed in the 1847 Cumberland Directory as cabinet makers, carvers and gilders, upholsterers and paper hangers, and timber merchants, operating from premises at 1 & 2 Lowther Street. The timber section of the business is listed solely under Robert’s name, suggesting that this something he initiated.

James Creighton probably died circa 1850 and by 1855 Robert had moved the business from Lowther Street to the more prestigious Castle Street – the key road running through Carlisle city centre between the Norman castle and the cathedral. From circa 1855 to 1873, ‘Creighton & Son’ / ‘Creighton and Co.’ occupied No. 24 Castle Street, afterwards moving to No. 47. Both buildings have since been demolished, but possibly they were not particularly impressive for instead of putting an image of the shop on his billhead, as was common, Robert Creighton instead chose an image of Carlisle Cathedral.

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Creighton, 1856 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 1/68

The design of the billhead varied slightly between 1855 and 1874, with some of more utilitarian invoices using the same lettering but omitting the image, but all proudly described the premises as ‘Opposite the Cathedral’. Four of the five are also labelled in the lower right corner as having been produced by H Scott, Engraver, of Carlisle.

Whilst none of the five bills surviving in the Graham Gadd Archive are extensive, the business appears to have been successful. Although described by his daughter-in-law as a harsh father, with little affection for his children, Robert Creighton was also recognised as being ‘a man of much natural shrewdness and business capacity, and of an active and enterprising mind’. He became involved in local government, and in 1866 was elected Mayor of Carlisle. His second son, James Robert Creighton (1844-1896), followed this path; he served as a City Council member for 22 years, Mayor of Carlisle from 1880-81 and 1888-89, and finally as a Director of the North British Railway Company. Upon his death in 1896, Carlisle City Council erected a column in his memory, which stands in the centre of Hardwicke Circus roundabout. The extent to which James Robert kept up the family business during his lifetime is questionable, and a directory of 1897 makes no mention of him as a cabinet maker, including only ‘R. and J.R. Creighton’ as timber merchants on Byron Street.

Dunbar, Son & Pattie of Dumfries

Active circa 1826 to 1912. Address: Buccleuch Street, Dumfries (various numbers).

Dunbar, Son & Pattie is different again from the previous two firms in having been formed through the merging of two pre-existing businesses with different specialities. It also shows the greatest variety when it comes to branding, utilising three completely different billheads across a six-year period.

A brief history of the business is given in the 1891 publication Glasgow and Its Environs. This contains an extensive entry for ‘Messrs. G. Dunbar & Son, Cabinet Makers, Upholsterers, Auctioneers and Valuers, Dumfries’. It narrates: ‘The business was established in 1826 by the late Mr Dunbar who died 20 years ago and it has since been carried on by his son Mr George Dunbar Jun. Mr Dunbar, Sen. was a Bailie of Dumfries and Mr George Dunbar Jun. has served as a member of the town council. He is therefore well known, highly respected and popular with his fellow townsmen.’ This gives an impression of the Dunbar family that is similar to the Creightons in Carlisle. The entry goes on to emphasise that, unlike the ‘shoddy goods’ made in large cities that ‘soon goes to pieces’, the furniture of Dunbar and Son ‘may be thoroughly relied on as sound as well as handsome’.

As well as emphasising Dunbar and Son’s occupation as cabinet makers, the 1891 description also emphasises the strength of their business as auctioneers and appraisers, declaring them to be ‘the oldest established auctioneers in Dumfries’. For this purpose, the firm had a large hall attached to their shop in Buccleuch Street, ‘built specially for the carrying on of auction sales’. The relevant Post Office Directories of 1878 and 1886 record G. Dunbar & Son. only as auctioneers, suggesting that this was the primary, or initial focus of their business.

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Dunbar, 1896 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 4/32

Robert Pattie must have joined the business as a partner sometime between 1891 and April 1896, the date of the earliest bill in the Graham Gadd Archive. The bill features an engraving of a heavy Victorian dressing table, possibly an actual object produced by the firm or else a standardised image devised by the engraver J Maxwell & Son, also based in Dumfries. There is little information on Robert Pattie, but he may have been brought in to bolster the firm’s cabinet-making activities. This is supported by a 1903 Commercial Directory, which lists the firm as ‘Auctioneers, Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers’, as well as listing George Dunbar and Robert Pattie individually as an Auctioneer and Cabinet Maker respectively. A letter from Robert Pattie to a client in 1902 discusses the design of a chair and couch, the cost of the latter quoted at £9 and available to be made with ‘the arm at either end, whichever will answer your room best’ (suggesting the ‘couch’ was a chaise longue).

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Dunbar, 1902 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 7/38

By 1902, J Maxwell & Son had produced an entirely different billhead for the firm, utilising a modern and bold typeface and with a depiction of the premises at 27 Buccleuch Street. This building survives in virtually the same state today as depicted in the engraving. Surprisingly, this new billhead appears to have been used simultaneously with a third design showing a domestic interior.

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Dunbar, 1902  - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 7/40

The reasoning behind this divergence is unclear. Possibly, although they worked in partnership, George Dunbar and Robert Pattie each opted for different billheads. Alternatively, the stationary may have been created with dIt is also worth noting is that, unlike the exterior engraving which must have been unique to Dunbar, Son & Pattie, the interior design was reused by at least two other firms: James Osborne of Kirkcudbright and Charles Garbutt of Harrogate.ifferent purposes in mind – the exterior design perhaps for general use in the shop and the interior design for correspondence and/or larger commissions. 

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Osborne, 1913 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 6/72

Whilst this type of reuse was uncommon, it was probably the result of different firms employing the same stationer.

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Garbutt, 1911 - Gadd archive
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Graham Gadd Archive, © National Museums Scotland, GSG 6/59

Given that Kirkcudbright is less than 30 miles from Dumfries, it follows that James Osborne might have commissioned his stationary from a Dumfries-based firm. However, use of the image by a business based in Harrogate, 150 miles away, is somewhat surprising. The mystery can perhaps be answered by returning to the 1891 book Glasgow and Its Environs, which as well as giving information on G. Dunbar and Son records the existence of A & T Hunter, Stationers and Printers, at 142 High Street Dumfries and 8, Commercial St, Leeds. It is therefore likely that all three firms employed this stationer, with A & T Hunter expeditiously reusing the same image.

In conclusion, this blog has shown how each of the three firms discussed achieved significant local recognition, despite their existence having been subsequently forgotten. Although all proclaimed themselves to be cabinet makers and upholsterers, each supplemented their business with complementary trades, be that furniture storage and transportation, timber sales or auctioneering. Analysing the various billheads used by these firms has shown the variety of different designs that might be employed, but though also how engravers had a tendency to reuse the same image for multiple firms.

Sources: Norfolk, 1890 (Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society, 2016); Kelly’s Directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk (1883); William White, History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk (1890); Louisa Creighton, Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton (1904); James Covert, A Victorian Marriage: Mandell and Louisa Creighton (2010); History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland (1847); Post Office Directory of Cumberland (1858); Post Office Directory of Cumberland and Westmorland (1873); Kelly’s Directory of Cumberland (1897); Glasgow and Its Environs: A Literary, Commercial and Social Review, Past & Present (Stratten & Stratten, London, 1891); Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory and Topography of Scotland (1878); Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory of Scotland (1903), Part 1; Dumfries and District Post Office Directory for 1911 and 1912 (1911); (NB: English directories accessed via JSTOR, Historical Directories of England and Wales; Scottish directories accessed via the National Library of Scotland).

 

About the author

Emma Ballie

Emma Ballie is a consultant for Scottish Heritage Buildings Trust. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, her thesis focused on the architecture and interiors of eighteenth-century Scottish country houses. She was awarded a MA from the University of Buckingham (2019) and a BA with honours in the History of Art at the University of Edinburg (2017).