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Kendal, Milne & Co.; Kendal, Milne & Faulkner (1835-1919)

Kendal, Milne & Co.; Kendal, Milne & Faulkner

Deansgate, Manchester, Lancashire; house furnishers, cabinet makers, upholsterers, decorators (fl.1835-1919)

The history of the company began with the Watts family who operated a drapers' shop on Deansgate in Manchester. By 1796 three young managers had joined them; Thomas Kendal, trained as a draper in London; James Milne and Adam Faulkner, who had both been apprenticed in the textile trade. They purchased the store from the Watts family in December 1835. Faulkner died in 1862, and subsequently the store and business became known as Kendal, Milne & Co. Ltd.   

In the late 1860s the range of goods and services which the firm offered greatly increased from drapery to cabinet making, funeral undertaking and printed regular catalogues. There was a cabinet factory in Garden Lane and by early January 1874, Kendal, Milne & Co. had opened a ‘spacious cabinet show-rooms’ at 110-112 Deansgate, Manchester [The Furniture Gazette, 17 January 1874] with the business listed as cabinet makers at this address in The Furniture Gazette Directory (1876). In 1884 Thomas Kendal retired and control passed to John Dewhurst Milne, son of James Milne, working in partnership with James Herbert Milne, his brother, Samuel Kendal and Thomas Herbert Kendal.  

They were awarded a silver medal for their display of dining room and bedroom furniture, including accessories, at the Industrial & Fine Art Exhibition, Bradford Technical School, Great Horton Road, in July 1882 [The Furniture Gazette, 22 July 1882]; and received a silver medal for furniture and decorative art at the same Exhibition in 1883 [The Furniture Gazette, 24 November 1883].

At the Manchester Industrial & Fine Art Exhibition at St James’ Hall, Manchester, 1882 they exhibited a mahogany sideboard, an 8ft high ebony cabinet, an oak buffet sideboard, a cabinet in mahogany, a mahogany sideboard and dinner waggon, a wardrobe in mahogany and walnut, a mahogany dressing table and wash stand, chairs and a hall cabinet, illus. [The Furniture Gazette, 30 September, 21 & 28 October and 18 November 1882].

Details of a mahogany sideboard and dinner wagon

Details of a mahogany sideboard and dinner wagon [The Furniture Gazette, 28 October 1882, p. 287].

They participated in two other exhibitions, the Electric Light Exhibition, Manchester, 1883 [The Furniture Gazette, 24 March 1883] and the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition, 1887 [The Furniture Gazette, 1 November 1887]At the latter they displayed parlour & dining room furniture including examples of cheap furnishings accessible to workmen earning 35s per week. Also exhibited a fine repousse copper frieze. The firm furnished the reception rooms for the Prince & Princess of Wales, where receiving particular praise was a chair with two carved lions' heads capping the back and an inlay of engraved brass in Renaissance style design, all expertly executed by the company's employees; illus. The Art Journal, 1887, p.283.  A selection of the firm's furniture illus. [The British Architect, 13 & 27 May, 10, 17 & 24 June 1887].    

They contributed furnishings to the Comedy Theatre, Peter Street, Manchester [The Furniture Gazette, 3 January 1885]. 

Following the short-lived Morris & Co. shop c. 1885, Kendal, Milne & Co. represented Morris in Manchester. In 1888 they made alterations to their Deansgate premises including a rearrangement of fixtures & counters on the ground floor and the addition of a lift, to provide easy access to the basement, ground, first & second floors [The Furniture Gazette, 1 August 1888]. By 1890 the store employed over 900 staff and was reputedly 'the largest showrooms out of London.

News about past and current employees of Kendal, Milne & Co. was reported in The Furniture Gazette in the 1880s:

Three employees and Thomas Turpin (a previous employee and subsequent chemical dyer), were defendants in a case of wrongful dismissal. The plaintiffs received damages [10 May 1884]; F. B. Shelley, who had worked at Kendall, Milne & Co. for many years, set up business on his own account [1 June 1885]; and a former employee, R. Dickinson, later at Barton & Sons, opened offices at 26 Fountain Street, Manchester as a  commission agent to represent furniture manufacturers etc. [1 July 1885].

An Edwardian outdoor dining table stamped ‘K.M.& Co’ has been recorded and is illustrated in Anderson, Furniture History Society Newsletter (Feb. 1993). At this time they had their own workshops, a seven-storey building, and a high reputation as eminent house furnishers. 

A 1897 billhead of Kendal, Milne & Co., cabinet makers, upholsterers, decorators, shows a royal warrant to the Prince of Wales and records the cabinet factory still at Garden Lane, Lower King Street (illus. Moss & Turton (1989) p.344). In 1907 the company was recorded as bamboo furniture manufacturers at Deansgate, 10 Police Street, 8 Ann Street & King Street, Manchester. They became part of the House of Fraser Group in 1919.

Sources: Walkling, Antique Bamboo Furniture (1979); Moss & Turton, A Legend of Retailing..House of Fraser (1989);Anderson, ‘An Edwardian Outdoor Dining Table Stamped by Kendal, Milne & Co., Royal Upholsterers’, FHS Newsletter (Feb. 1993).