Posts tagged ‘Ronald Phillips’

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.


March 30, 2018

Additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives

A couple of weeks ago our Phillips of Hitchin archive had some very significant additions. Thanks to the support and generosity of Simon Phillips and Thomas Lange at Ronald Phillips antiques, London, who very kindly sent, via their driver and courier, a very large number of archive boxes full of photographs, glass-plate negatives and associated marketing ephemera that Jerome Phillips, of the antique dealer firm of Phillips of Hitchin, had deposited with them in London.

The new additions to the PoH archive include 15 large archive boxes of glass-plate negatives and 17 smaller archive boxes with similar contents.  Both sets of glass-plate negatives appear to date from the 1920s-1950s and comprise PoH images of stock, plus glass-plate negatives of photographs of some other well-known antique dealer firms, including Hotspur, Ronald Lee, Stuart & Turner, Mallett and Frank Partridge.  There are also some glass-plate negatives related to the antique furniture collector and author R.W. Symonds – perhaps for the publication of Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (1940), which was republished in 1986 with an Introduction by Jerome Phillips.

Boxes of glass-plate negatives, part of the PoH archive. University of Leeds.

There is also one fascinating box of glass-plate negatives labelled ‘Arundel Paintings, 1912’ – which seems to relate to the famous Arundel Society (founded in 1849, for the dissemination of artworks via their reproductions).  As well as these extensive sets of glass-plate negatives there are also 49 blue plastic albums packed with photographs of the antique furniture stock of PoH (dating c.1920s-1970s) organised by object type – ‘chairs’, ‘desks’, ‘tables’ etc; and a box of loose photographs dating from the very beginnings of PoH c.1900.


PoH photograph albums. Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The photographs in the albums clearly illustrate the exceptionally high quality of antique furniture that passed through the hands of PoH – as the examples of the ‘chairs’ album of photographs, and the ‘commodes’ album demonstrate.

PoH archive, ‘Commodes’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.


PoH ‘Chairs’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Amongst the photograph albums are two albums dedicated to the PoH stands at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair; with photos of the PoH stands from the early 1950s up to the 1970s.  The photographs illustrate the changing methods of display adopted by PoH over the period – it’s interesting to note that PoH had also, from the earliest days of the business, produced reproduction wallpapers and textiles, and the PoH stands at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair always appeared to have been decorated with PoH reproduction wallpapers.

Here is the Phillips of Hitchin stand at Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1951.

PoH stand at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1951. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

PoH photo archive ‘ A rare old carved oak Vestry chair with marquetrie panel in back’, ‘circa 1650’. PoH archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Perhaps the most fascinating photographs in the archive are those dating from the very earliest days of the PoH business, when the antique shop was then run by the founder of the firm Frederick W. Phillips, the grandfather of Jerome Phillips who so generously donated his family business archive to Leeds University. These early photographs, dating from c.1900-1910 are dominated by examples of oak, walnut and mahogany furniture, which was so fashionable in the early 20th century.

The ‘rare old carved oak Vestry chair..’ shown here, is inscribed on the back of the photograph in a contemporary hand, ‘this we have reproduced’ – a further demonstration of the breath and depth of the business of F.W. Phillips (as it was then) in the period around 1900.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts on the antique dealer firm, F.W. Phillips was not only an ‘antique dealer’, but was also a complete home furnisher and interior decorator – he would also, if you so desired, build you an ‘ancient house’, (using recycled ancient materials) so fashionable in the period around the First World War.

Other interesting photographs in the recent additions to the PoH archive include this ‘carved mahogany settee, c.1760.’

PoH archives, ‘a carved mahogany settee, c.1760, upholstered in crimson damask’. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The back of the photograph has the inscription ‘carved mahogany settee…’ and also the price – ‘£95.0.0.’, which was quite a sum in c.1900.

We are so grateful to Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips Antiques for so generously paying for the transport of this large corpus of PoH archive material – they are a great addition to the PoH archive we already have at the University of Leeds and the addition of the photographs will allow us to match up the stock books that we already have with these fascinating images of the enormous variety of antiques that PoH sold over more than 100 years.




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