22 Apr 2021

Henry W Batley (1846 – c. 1912) was an important figure in the English Aesthetic Movement. Renowned for his etchings and engravings, he was also a gifted Aesthetic furniture designer. His intricately carved antique cabinets and upholstered Victorian dining chairs can be found in Lancashire, often in antique dealers specialising in Collinson & Lock or Shoolbred & Co. furniture.

Henry Batley was trained by acclaimed furniture designer Bruce Talbert, quickly finding work as a designer for Collinson & Lock. The Victorian dining chairs, day beds and armchairs he designed are acclaimed for their fine detailed carving, often incorporating stylised floral carvings, and twist-fluting on the arm supports.

Exhibition pianos and antique cabinets

By 1878 Batley was also designing for Shoolbred & Co. He designed the interiors for their Terracotta House, commissioned by Doulton, at the Paris Exhibition – for which he was awarded the cross of the Legion d’Honneur. His elaborate interiors were also showcased in the publication “Decoration”, in 1884. One of Batley’s most outstanding designs for Shoolbred & Co is an intricately carved satinwood piano, which is on display at the V & A museum.

Batley produced designs for manufacturers familiar to people in Lancashire, including an antique desk for Henry Ogden & Son of Manchester. He also published “Series of Studies for Domestic Furniture Decoration Etc” in 1883, which clearly shows the influence of Talbert and Godwin on his antique cabinets and armchairs. As well as his etchings and writings, he designed textiles and wallpapers; Arthur Silver was apprenticed to him in 1873.

Batley and the Arts & Crafts furniture designers

Batley has been compared to the Arts & Crafts furniture designers. However, his aim was to form close working partnerships between designers and commercial manufacturers – the opposite of Morris and his contemporaries. To this end, Batley founded the Guild of Decorators Syndicate in 1908.

Visitors from Lancashire can see Batley’s ornate antique cabinets, decorative Victorian dining chairs – plus his famously intricate piano – at a V & A exhibition in 2011. Showcasing the extraordinary creativity of the British Aesthetic designers, it includes artworks, furniture and textile designs by Batley and many others of the Aesthetic Movement.

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