Edwards & Roberts (1845-1899)
Edwards & Roberts
London; furniture makers, upholsterers and antique furniture dealers (fl.1845-1899)
Makers & retailers of fine French style and reproduction furniture in Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles during the second-half of the nineteenth century. Unpublished notes by Pauline Agius (held in V&A departmental files) indicate that the firm was founded in 1828 by a Mr. Wood and became Edwards & Roberts in 1845. The 1854 Kelly’s Post Office Directory of London lists them as ‘antique and modern cabinet makers and importers of ancient furniture’ at 21 Wardour Street. This address had been listed for the curiosity dealer, Joseph Solomon in the London Post Office Directory, 1841.
Little else is known about the partners other than London directory listings. In 1871 they had three premises: 16-21 Wardour Street, Soho; 14 Great Chapel Street, Belgravia and 7 Little Chapel Street, Soho [1871 London Directory]. In January 1871 fire destroyed their 4 storey building in Wardour Street and 3 horses in the stables were killed [The Bradford Observer, 14 January 1871]. Presumably the building was rebuilt as The Furniture Gazette Directory, 1877, recorded the firm at the same addresses in Wardour Street and that it had also expanded their Belgravia and Soho locations, with the Carlisle Street premises in Soho described as an 'antique furniture warehouse' in 1890. In 1892 they occupied seven locations across the West End of London: 146-160 Wardour Street, Soho; 10-15 Carlisle Street, Soho; 83a Dean Street, Soho; 14 Chapel Street, Belgravia; 7 -13 Little Chapel Street, Belgravia; 532 Oxford Street and 126 Piccadilly.
Ivorine plaque of Edwards & Roberts, c.1890. © London Fine Ltd, 2018
Examples of their work or in their stock include a copy of a table now in the John Jones collection, V&A (illus. Agius (1978), p. 17). The stamped Lucretia Cabinet, made by Collinson & Lock and exhibited by the makers at the 1878 Paris Exhibition, also bears the stamp of Edwards & Roberts so must have passed through their hands before 1899. An Art Movement ebonised cabinet with spindles, painted panels, bevelled mirrors, brackets and gilt incised lines stamped Edwards and Roberts (illus. Agius (1978), p. 139). These examples show the difficulty of differentiating between the furniture made in the firm's workshops, the work of outsourced makers, and furniture retailed by Edwards & Roberts as dealers of 'antique furniture'.
The firm exhibited at the 1878 Paris International Exhibition where their work comprised ‘... quelques meubles en palissandre, traits dans le gout rocaille et rappelant la Regence, attestent assurement une grand habilete, mais ne nous apportent, helas! aucun enseignement precieux’ [Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1889, Vol. 2, p. 178].
They exhibited an inlaid satinwood drawing room suite, a brightly coloured enamelled bedroom suite and a mantlepiece at the 1889 Paris Exhibition, illus. [The Furniture Gazette, 1 August 1889].
Regency-style chair originally designed by Thomas Hope c.1807 [W.29-1976], c.1892. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Bardwell stated in 1898 that, 'In the early days of the business the aristocracy were the main customers...there was a fine & complete library of the work of old designers to be seen at Edwards & Roberts. The old French styles of the period Louis XIV, XV, XVI and of the Empire are much in request, especially the period of Louis XV. A representative of the firm told us that...high class imitations of old furniture were very costly. He believed that very little was practised'. Imitations were, however, part of their trade along with selling original period furniture with the firm's embellishments.
One such example of the latter was a George III mahogany commode, sold by Christie's, 9 July 1988 (lot 145), labelled as retailed by Edwards & Roberts. It is likely that the marquetry roundels had been added in the late 19th century. The commode may have originally been supplied ensuite with a four-poster bed to the 5th Duke of Bolton (d.1765) for Hackwood, Hampshire.
Another interesting case was in connection with the Earl of Arundel, who employed Edwards & Roberts at Wardour Castle in the late 1890s. An inlaid mahogany tambour topped pedestal desk, made by the firm after a model supplied to Wardour Castle by Mayhew & Ince c. 1780, was sold by Sothebys, 12 November 1992 (lot 126). The catalogue entry suggests that the original desk and also dining furniture were taken to Edwards & Roberts' workshops at the time of work at Wardour Castle and then copied prior to their sale.
Other clients of Edwards & Roberts included:
- H. M. Queen Victoria
- Duke of Cambridge
- Archbishop of Canterbury
- Archbishop of York
- Tsar Nicholas II
The firm outsourced the manufacture of some its furniture stock. Suppliers included George Elcock, a manufacturer of carved oak cabinet work.
Over a thousand design drawings by Edwards & Roberts (part of the Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History), are now housed in the Brotherton Library of Leeds University.
Mr Edwards of the ‘West End cabinet making firm’ (possibly Edwards & Roberts) presided at a meeting of the London Wood Turners’ Society in the first week of May 1877 [The Furniture Gazette, 12 May 1877].
The firm closed in 1899.
Sources: Bardwell, Two Centuries of Soho' (1898); Agius, British Furniture 1880-1915 (1978); Collard, ‘The Regency Revival’, The Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the Present (1984); Meyer, Great Exhibitions. London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia. 1851-1900 (2006); Unpublished notes recorded by Pauline Agius held in V&A furniture department, c.1975-78.