With the Victorian era came industrialisation and mass production and potentially a time for everyone to benefit from British global wealth. However critics of the time saw these developments as an erosion of moral and spiritual values and authors like Charles Dickens created many memorable stories based on social commentary of the period. Almost every Dickens novel focused on the divisions between those that had money and those that did not.
From attacks on tightly bodiced Victorian fashion to over ornately upholstered lumbering domestic furniture, designers like William Morris were attacking the bold and fancy rich commercial purples in exchange for natural dyes and hues.
The ‘Sussex’ chair designed by Morris was a traditional much plainer ladder backed rush-seated armchair. Dining furniture such as the refectory table reflected Morris’s socialist values by promoting the hand crafted rather than commercially produced. However demands for Morris’s designs put him under pressure where he also came under the influence of commercial Victorianism and began to mass produce the wallpapers and fabric designs that he is still famous for today. Unfortunately this neither benefited his workers or the mass market that he sought to reach where most of his wallpapers, tiles and fabrics remained the preserve of the rich. Although he continued to promote good design for the masses, good craftsmanship generally could not be afforded.
Arts and Crafts antique furniture of the period is now valued more and sells better than its contemporary mass produced Victorian equivalent, and whether you purchase Arts and Crafts furniture in a town like Preston in Lancashire or a city like London, the trend remains the same.
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