Godfrey Giles & Co – ‘antique dealers’

Yet more examples of historic ‘antique dealer’ booklets and catalogues keep turning up – this time our friend Thomas Lange, researcher at leading London based antique furniture dealers Ronald Phillips very generously send us a copy of a rare brochure from his own collection. Thomas has been a keen supporter of the Antique Dealer Research Project for many years and has often sent us information and historical material on the history of antique dealing – thank you again Thomas!

On this occasion Thomas discovered an antique dealer that had not previously been known to us – Godfrey Giles & Co, 18 Old Cavendish Street, London.

‘Antique Furniture’ – Godfrey Giles & Co. c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds 2023.

Godfrey Giles were certainly not figured in our Antique Dealer Map website – but their absence can be explained by our research methodology; we have tended to concentrate on information about antique dealers from historic Trade Directories, Antique Dealer Guidebooks and Listings, and antique dealer advertisements etc. But of course such an approach misses many traders who operated at the periphery of the trade in antiques, and in overlapping practices such as furniture makers, decorators and general furnishers etc.

Godfrey Giles appears to have been this type of business. Indeed, they are classified as furniture manufacturers in the Furniture History Society’s ‘British and Irish Furniture Makers Online’ (BIFMO) database. The firm seems to have been flourishing in the 1890s, as ‘Decorators, Cabinetmakers and Upholsterers’, with various retail outlets in Kensington High Street, London (for ‘general furnishings’) and in Queen Street, London and New Cavendish Street, London (for ‘Decorative Furniture’ and ‘Antique Furniture’). Their New Cavendish Street shop was right next to another well-known ‘Decorator and Antique Dealer’ Gregory & Co.

The brochure that Thomas kindly donated to us is undated, but appears to date from c.1915; it’s about 10 inches x 6 inches, contains just 8 pages, and is typical of the types of booklets produced by several antique dealers in the period. It illustrates examples of antique furniture for sale in Giles’ shop.

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915 – illustrations of antique furniture. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023.

That Godfrey Giles, a ‘modern’ furniture maker and retailer, should also be selling antique furniture is no surprise of course, many furniture makers bought and sold antique furniture in the early 1900s as demand for antiques expanded in the period. As the booklet states, ‘The demand for antique furniture shows no signs of abating.’ The booklet has some interesting examples of antique furniture fashionable at the time. ‘Chippendale’ furniture was key of course, such as these ‘Chippendale Chairs’ described as ‘in original condition’ (see below):

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealer Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023.

Our these ‘Chippendale’ tables, the right hand one described as ‘of the best period and in exceptionally fine condition’ (see below).

Antique oak furniture was also particularly popular in the early 1900s – the booklet mentions the ‘Oak Room’ at Godfrey Giles’ showroom, ‘unique and full of interest to collectors’. The room itself is described in the booklet as a ‘Fine example of a Jacobean Oak Room taken from Erdington Hall, Birmingham. Circa 1650.’

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023

Erdington Hall was built in the mid 1600s, and was demolished in 1912, so this perhaps gives us a date for the Godfrey Giles & Co booklet.

Erdington Hall in 1879. Illustration from Harrison & Wills, ‘The Great Jennings Case’ (1879) – from https://billdargue.jimdofree.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-e/erdington/

The antique furniture illustrated in the booklet suggests that Godfrey Giles & Co were buying and selling high quality antiques. In fact Thomas Lange has spotted a ‘Queen Anne Mirror’ in the booklet that was later illustrated in the famous 3 volume ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’ compiled by Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards in 1924. The mirror in Godfrey Giles & Co booklet (see below, shown right) is described as having ‘Original gilding’ –

Godfrey Giles & Co., booklet c.1915. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds, 2023

The same mirror (see below) in ‘The Dictionary’ (see Volume 2, page 325, fig.45) was then owned by Mrs Percy Macquoid – perhaps, as Thomas suggests, Godfrey Giles & Co sold the mirror to the Macquoid’s? Illustrious customers indeed.

Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards – ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’ (3 vols, 1924) volume 2, p.325.

We are so grateful to Thomas for so generously donating the Godfrey Giles & Co booklet to the Antique Dealer Research Project.


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