Published 3rd April 2013
I picked up my copy of the local paper (Express & Echo) for Exeter and East Devon last week and the front page heralded the arrival of a new Ikea furniture store in Exeter. The overwhelming view was one of support for the new project, despite one waggish online comment: 'I wonder how many bits will be left over once they've finished building it'.
It is sad that the same enthusiasm was not in evidence to keep open the Brannam Pottery in Barnstaple when it closed a few years ago, nor for the wonderful North Devon firm of furniture makers Shapland and Petter Ltd, who also worked in Barnstaple.
Shapland and Petter produced some of the finest pieces of furniture of the Arts and Crafts period, but are not perhaps hailed as much as Liberty's or Wylie and Lochhead in Glasgow.
The firm was established by Henry Shapland at the Raleigh Woollen Mill in Pilton in 1854. He was joined by Henry Petter, an accountant and together the partnership bought the Raleigh factory. At the height of its popularity, the company employed some 350 people.
The designs for the furniture (whether Victorian furniture or Edwardian furniture) appear to have come from within the company rather than from a specific designer. The influence of people such as Charles Voysey, Ballie Scott and Charles Robert Ashbee is evident, although the latter regarded Shapland and Petter as far too commercial an operation and was very disparaging about the company following his visit to Barnstaple in 1893.
Suppliers to the company included the Della Robbia Pottery, the Brannam Pottery and the Pilknington's tile company.
Evidence of the use of tiles can be seen in a late Victorian or Edwardian Shapland and Petter Wardrobe (FS18/856) in our Spring Fine Art Auction to be held on Wednesday, 24th April 2013 and Thursday, 25th April 2013.
The wardrobe will now be offered for sale together with a matching dressing chest and a pair of bedside cabinets, which have subsequently come to light.
The wardrobe has patinated metal strap hinges, possibly form the Clarke Art Metalwork Company, whilst the tiles flanking the central mirrored door depict a peacock and are stamped Flaxman, the Flaxman tile works being located in Burslem, Staffordshire.
The suite is offered with a pre-sale estimate of between £2,500 and £3,500. The quality of the furniture is typical of Shapland and Petter and there were definitely no bits left over when they finished building it!
Shapland and Petter - Great Quality was written on Wednesday, 3rd April 2013.