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Trapnell & Son; C. & W. Trapnell; Trapnell and Gane (1850-1954)

Trapnell & Son; C. & W. Trapnell; Trapnell and Gane

Bristol; cabinet makers (fl. c.1850-1954)

The business was founded by Henry Trapnell in 1824 in Host Street, Bristol, and as they expanded new premises were acquired in St James’s Barton, Queen’s Street, St Michael’s and Barrs Street, St Paul’s. In 1860 the headquarters moved to College Green (no. 39 in 1876) and from 1880 branches had opened in Wales at Cardiff (6 & 74 Crockerbtown in 1882) and Newport.

At the Great Exhibition of 1851 Trapnell & Son exhibited a console chiffonier and C. & W. Trapnell exhibited a carved light oak sideboard at the London International Exhibition, 1862 (illus. Meyer (2006), pp. 62 & 158). By this date one assumes Henry Trapnell had died, the firm being taken over by his sons William and Caleb; the latter being the principal designer for the firm. Made general household furniture of all pricesv.

C. & W. Trapnell supplied furniture, soft furnishing and silver plate to Richard Greenway, a Pontypool solicitor, between 1862 and 1872. A bill of 1862 included a mahogany side table with marble top, a set of ten dining chairs, a couch, two hall chairs and an ormolu chandelier. In 1863 they charged £41 10s in part exchange for a ‘Handsome Wing Wardrobe 8ft Long with carved pediment centre 4 plate glass doors secret drawers etc’. A dining chair, two drawing room chairs (one upholstered), an occasional table and a sofa, all made in 1874 for the Mansion House, Bristol, are illus. Aslin (1962), pls 79 & 81-84. The firm's repertoire also included household furniture of all prices and styles. Their work as described in an 1874 catalogue included Farmhouse and Cottage Furniture, Clergy and Country Villa Furniture and Superior Furniture for Country and Town Mansions; and their prices ranged from 70 guineas for a ‘superior olivewood cabinet’ to 70 shillings for a black and gold ‘art’ cabinet.

C. & W. Trapnell were listed in The Furniture Gazette Directory, 1876 & 1877, as cabinet makers & designers.  The Furniture Gazette, 2 June 1877, recorded that C. Trapnell had applied for a patent for apparatus to raise and improve access for invalids and others in bed, also applicable to sofas, couches & chairs and other incline rests, on 23 May 1877.

The Furniture Gazette, 15 June 1878, reported the firm had for nearly sixty years enjoyed one of the best reputations in west England for cabinet manufacturing and that its system of importing timber direct from overseas and cutting and seasoning of the wood was unique. The article continued to state that the apprentices and clerks all underwent three years training at the local School of Art. The article said that Trapnell had a good export business and recently produced a throne for an African potentate and a State saloon for the Emperor of Brazil's railway carriage was also furnished by the firm. Other commissions included a casket presented by Bristol to the Princess of Wales on her marriage and the hall of the Society of Merchant Venturers was also fitted out by the firm, as well as various hotels & clubs in Bristol, London, Birmingham, Hereford and Birmingham. Two sideboards were illustrated.

Philip Endres Gane, who had been employed in the firm since boyhood, was taken into the partnership in the 1870s/early 1880s. In the 1880s Trapnell and Gane’s price for furnishing a six-room villa including carpets and curtains was £75 6s 6d and in the 1890s G. M. Ellwood supplied designs to the firm for ‘Quaint’ and Art Nouveau furniture. The firm also furnished the Assize Court, the truant school, Bristol [The Furniture Gazette, 12 May 1883] and the new Town Hall, Newport [The Furniture Gazette, 8 May 1885].

In 1886 a marriage chest in the style of French Renaissance which was presented to the H. R. H. The Princess Henry of Battenburg by the women of Bristol, was designed by C. Trapnell and made by the company; the principle parts were made from the ancient oak of Redcliffe Church [The Furniture Gazette, 1 May 1886].  

The Furniture Gazette, recorded two exhibitions in which the firm participated; the 2nd Furniture Trades Exhibition, Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, 1882 [25 March 1882] and the annual show of the Bath & West of England Society, Bridgewater, 1883 [9 June 1883].

At the end of the 19th century Gane took over ownership. In 1903 a new five-floor factory was opened in Hill Street, Bristol, and in 1909 a private limited company was formed, with Philip Endres Gane chairman and managing director. His two sons, Leslie and Crofton, became directors in due course. The latter took over the chairmanship on the death of Philip in 1933, by which time the Cardiff branch had already closed.

Air raids during the Second World War took a heavy toll on the company’s premises; the large showrooms on College Green were destroyed in 1940, along with much furniture and archives. Shortly thereafter the workshop in St Paul’s and the warehouse suffered the same fate. In post war years the company operated from its showroom at 79 Park Street, Bristol.

In 1950 the Newport branch closed and in 1954 the company went into voluntary liquidation. Archives for the firm were deposited in Bristol Record Office by Mr Crofton Gane in December 1957.

Sources: Aslin, 19th Century English Furniture (1962); Meyer, Great Exhibitions. London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia.  1851-1900 (2006); Bebb, Welsh Furniture (2007), II, p. 317; Bristol archives