W. F. Greenwood & Sons, York

Recent additions to the growing corpus of antique dealer ephemera for the research project includes this rare pamphlet published by the antique dealers W.F. Greenwood & Sons, titled, ‘The Tudor House, Stonegate, York, a brief description of an interesting remain of domestic life and architecture dating back to the middle ages’.

The Tudor House, published by W.F. Greenwood & Sons, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The pamphlet is undated, but probably dates from c.1905-1910 (one of the illustrations included in the pamphlet is dated 1904).  It seems to have been produced to highlight the recent acquisition by W.F. Greenwood of their new premises, ‘The Tudor House’ in Stonegate, York, and was part of publicity for their antiques business of course.  Greenwood were one of the oldest established ‘antique dealers’ in Britain – according to their own publicity of the early 1900s, the business was established in York in 1829; they began as furniture manufacturers rather than as antique dealers, but certainly by the 1850s there are records of the firm was selling antique furniture – it was very common for furniture makers to transition their business practices from making furniture to retailing antique furniture during the course of the 19th century.  Walter Francis Greenwood began the business in York, which by the 1880s had branches in Scarborough of the East Coast of Yorkshire; they also opened a branches in Harrogate, Yorkshire by 1910 and even had a branch in Clifford Street, London and at New Bond Street, London for a short time in the early 20th century.

The pamphlet recounts the history of ‘The Tudor House’, with a history of the house and a description of the interiors, which were at the time stocked with antiques by Greenwood. The images here show (right) ‘The Tudor House’ as it was in c.1813 and (left) a recent photograph of the same shop at 33 Stonegate (as it is now numbered) of 2018.

The early 19th century engraving of the ‘Tudor House’ is from The Antiquities of York (1813) by the antiquary H. Cave. The decorative pargetting (moulded plasterwork) on the front of the building was removed in the late 19th century, and the windows and the shop front itself have obviously been remodelled, but the building structure remains mostly the same as it was when it was constructed in the 17th century – according to Historic England the building is believed to date from early 17th century, despite a spurious date of ‘1489’ carved on the second-floor bressumer (the beam that traverses the front of the building) – the spurious date was obviously one of the reasons for the house being called ‘The Tudor House’ at some stage in its life.



Greenwood’s other shop in York at the time was at 24 Stonegate, and which became a very well-known antique shop in the city. Here’s a photograph of their Stonegate shop in c.1905. Indeed, the shop itself still exists in Stonegate – although it’s now occupied by the women’s fashion store ‘Jigsaw’ – and the shop still has a photograph of Queen Mary visiting Greenwood’s antique shop in the 1930s in a small glazed frame fixed to the shopfront.

W.F. Greenwood & Sons, 23 Stonegate, York, c.1910. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

Greenwood’s shop at 24 Stonegate was regularly visited by Queen Mary (1867-1953) during the 1920s and 1930s.  Amusingly, on one occasion in September 1927, Queen Mary and The Princess Mary (who had married the Earl of Harewood in 1922 and was living at nearby Harewood House, near Leeds) visited Greenwood & Sons on a Wednesday afternoon, not realising that Wednesday was half-day closing for the shop.  The Evening Telegraph reported that ‘they found the door closed against them and were unable to gain admission’; ‘in response to their knocks, an assistant, Miss Hogarty, appeared and admitted the party.’ The report continued….’Miss Hogarty was considerably surprised, but the Queen soon put her at her ease by apologising for having disturbed her half-holiday.’  In the meantime the assistants sent for Mr Greenwood, who was at his house, ‘mowing his tennis lawn.’  Queen Mary, it was stated, ‘bought two Spode tea services, some Rockingham china, and some old silver’.  Queen Mary was allegedly notorious for encouraging gifts from antique dealers – or rather there are many stories suggesting that the Queen would often say, ‘Oh what a lovely thing’ when looking around antique shops…..and obviously the objects were often packed off to the Palace without charge.  I’m not sure how true these many stories are, but the newspaper reports on this occasion clearly state that the Queen ‘bought’ the objects from Greenwood & Sons.

Anyway, what is fascinating about the ‘Tudor House’ pamphlet is how it demonstrates the close alignment of the practices of antique dealing and the evolving notions of heritage, and heritage interpretation, in the period around 1900.  For further examples of this phenomenon see previous posts on the Antique Dealer Research Blog (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Phillips of Hitchin and the construction of Baliffscourt, Sussex in the 1920s, and the post (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Walter Thornton-Smith and their work on Schoppenhangers Manor near Maidenhead, in the 1910s.

The W.F. Greenwood pamphlet is obviously a promotion for the business, but interestingly it presents itself as a philanthropic project; as the text in the pamphlet states, ‘Instead of using the house as showrooms and storerooms for some of their valuable stock of antiques, it’s present owners, W.F. Greenwood & Sons Ltd., have restored it with all the exactitude and care which their experience as dealers in antiques have enabled them to give.’ – ‘the object of Messrs. Greenwood is to use their shops and showrooms, No.23a and 24, Stonegate, for selling, and here to give their customers and visitors an idea of the beauty of the old houses and furniture’, but of course, as the writer continued, ‘Visitors can purchase the articles on view’.

The pamphlet includes some fascinating photographs of the interiors of ‘The Tudor House’.  The displays were arranged as a series of ‘Period Rooms’, which was becoming a discrete marketing and display technique amongst antique furniture dealers during the 1910s and 1920s, and such historical recreations were also becoming more popular in the displays in public museums at the same time.  The ‘Tudor House’, for example, had an ‘Elizabethan Panelled Living Room’ (shown below), furnished with antiques from the period.

The Elizabethan Panelled Living Room, in The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

And a ‘Jacobean Bedroom’, with a rare bedstead of the period:

The Jacobean Bedroom, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

As well as a ‘Georgian Panelled Dining Room’, again with appropriate antique furniture and other objects:

Georgian Panelled Dining Room, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The foregrounding of heritage interpretation, heritage education and heritage tourism are all evident throughout the text in the pamphlet, but its commercial imperatives were also implicitly, and explicitly, present – the pamphlet contains 4 advertisements of W.F. Greenwood & Sons in the final pages and it was, of course, published by Greenwood & Sons.  The educational/marketing technique of displaying antiques in ‘period room’ settings would also enable those interested in buying antiques to see how they could display them in appropriate settings in their own homes, and such ‘interior design’ practices for domestic interiors were becoming ever more popular in the opening decades of the 20th century.


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