Posts tagged ‘Furniture History Society’

March 31, 2023

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

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.


August 14, 2020

Curating SOLD! Dealers, Museums, and the Art Market – Zoom Talk Sunday 6th September 7.00pm

I thought you may be interested to hear that I’m giving a FREE talk on ZOOM on 6th September on behalf of the Furniture History Society focused on the SOLD! the Great British Antiques Story exhibition, staged at The Bowes Museum from January 26th to May 5th 2019. The talk is called ‘Curating Sold! Dealers, Museums and the Art Market’ and is a kind of autopsy of the SOLD! exhibition, as well as a chance to offer some reflections on the exhibition itself.

SOLD! exhibition Poster. Image courtesy of The Bowes Museum.

For those of you that missed the exhibition this is a chance to see what the exhibition looked like and to see a wide variety of installation photographs; it’s also a chance to hear about the exhibition themes and the objectives of the exhibition.  You will also be able to see many of the spectacular objects from a wide range of museum and private lenders that we managed to encourage to come to The Bowes Museum for the exhibition.  And for those that did manage to see the exhibition this is also an opportunity to more hear about the behind-the-scenes development and delivery of a major museum exhibition and to hear about the challenges and opportunities of working on the exhibition project – which took more than 2 years in final stages of development, but was also underpinned by more than 10 years of research – so you can also hear about things that did not make the final cut!

SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story – The Bowes Museum, 2019. Photograph courtesy of The Bowes Museum.

The talk takes place on SUNDAY 6th September 2020 at 7.00pm on the ZOOM platform, and will last about 1 hour, including some opportunities to ask questions via the chat function in the Zoom platform.  The Furniture History Society are managing this talk and ask that anyone interested in hearing the talk could send them an email and they will send out the link to the Zoom room and a password for access.
Do email FHS Events Secretary, Beatrice Goddard at for your free ticket!
Here’s some extra blurb for the talk –

Curating SOLD! Dealers, Museums, and the Art Market

SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story was the first exhibition of its kind in a public museum.  The exhibition directed renewed attention to the history of museum objects through the fascinating story of the history of antique dealing in Britain.  SOLD! brought together some world-renowned and familiar museum objects from leading public collections, but presented these objects in new and unfamiliar contexts. SOLD! highlighted the extraordinary role that antique dealers have played in the development of public museums, presenting an illuminating story of our 200 year-old fascination with ‘antiques’

This talk, by the guest curator, outlines the objectives and purpose of this ground-breaking exhibition, with reflections on the development and the processes, and the challenges and opportunities of working on the exhibition, as well as retelling the intriguing tales of expert discoveries and fortunate finds and revealing some of the stories, and myths, about antique dealing.

SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story exhibition catalogue 2019.

As you know, PDF digital copies of the accompanying exhibition catalogue, SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story (Bowes Museum, 2019) are available as a FREE download; made possible by the generous support of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art – you can download the catalogue at the bottom of the Antique Dealers Research project page HERE

Hope you can make the talk!


November 30, 2014

Project Presentation at Furniture History AGM

The project team (Mark, Eleanor and Lizzy) attended the Furniture History Society AGM at Nostell Priory, Wakefield, on Saturday 22nd November. Thank you to the FHS for inviting us! We presented a project overview, and an update on the progress to date; the response from the FHS members was fantastic – loads of enthusiastic congratulations, loads of interest, and lots of new leads for further research activities – thank you to all that offered help and further avenues of exploration.


FHS President, Sir Nicholas Goodison, addressing the AGM




Lizzy at FHS AGM

Eleanor, Lizzy and I only had 30 minutes to outline our HUGE project, so we decided to divide the presentation into 3 sections, 10 mins on the oral history interviews (Eleanor), 10 mins on project archives (Lizzy), and 10 mins on project overview (me).


MW at the FHS AGM

We also had a really fabulous lunch….with wine! (not too much though), courtesy of the FHS, and members, and us, had an amazing private ‘open house’ tour of Nostell Priory under the guidance of the National Trust team at Nostell and the very rich range of expertise in the FHS membership itself – it was a fantastic opportunity to ‘get up close’ to some of the Chippendale furniture in the house.

Thank you to Christopher Rowell (FHS Chair) and the rest of the FHS Board for such a brilliant opportunity to spread the word about the Antique Dealer project





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