As the Victorian era progressed, it was machine manufactured rather than hand crafted furniture that catered for the growing middle classes. Increased individual wealth meant that a much larger percentage of the population could now furnish their houses with a range of antique furniture from any period in history that they desired. However, there was also growing dissatisfaction with the quality of some of this new factory made furniture and reformers like A W N Pugin (1812-52) were seeking to revive the honest workmanship of much earlier Gothic furniture.
William Morris (1834-96) also supported Pugin’s thinking and in 1861 began the firm of Morris & Co, and with furniture designers such as Philip Webb, J P Seddon and William Burges created much simpler, hand crafted country pieces as a protest against the burgeoning machine made furniture market. Unfortunately at the time, these much plainer pieces of furniture because they were hand crafted were generally out of most people’s price range, and also not considered sophisticated enough by the richer elements of society.
The Arts and Crafts Movement, originally inspired by Morris, however continued to promote and provide well made hand crafted furniture as an alternative to poor quality machine produced items. With commitment to the movement by followers like A H Mackmurdo, C F A Voysey, C R Ashbee and Charles Rennie Mackintosh , ‘progressive furniture’, as it came to be called, became generally more popular and by the end of the 19th century was being sold through firms such as J S Henry and Heal & Son.
Progressive furniture, because of its simple design and superb hand craftsmanship, remains very popular today. When looking to purchase Arts and Crafts furniture , Preston specialist antique dealers will be able to show you a good selection of pieces.
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