During the years 1869-1935 there were well over 250 registered bamboo furniture producers in Britain. The earliest recorded firm was Hubert Bill of 14 Little Camden St, London N.W., who claimed to have been established in (1869) while Daniel Jacobs & Sons of Hackney Road, London, were still in business in 1915, after 45 years of production.
Design, quality, price and methods of construction were fairly consistent throughout the whole period, but it was the imaginative and often eccentric choice of subject matter that marked differentiation between the various firms. While most produced standard tables, stands and fire-screens, the more adventurous offered for sale items such as corner shelve units, charcoal barbecue grills and musical tea tables. Shelves were often covered with embossed leather paper designs, at first imported from Japan and then later produced in England.
Some firms incorporated the knobbly roots of the bamboo stems into their designs, generally to form feet. Occasionally handles to drawers and cupboards were made with these roots although they were more commonly carved as imitations. Handles were mostly of cheap metal or brass. The ends of the bamboo canes were capped with stamped metal or turned bone, ivory or wooden discs.
Methods of construction fell into three categories. First and most common is that of pegging. Bamboo stems being hollow, thick dowels can easily be glued into the joints. Some firms farmed out this work of `plugging' the ends of the canes to part-time workers at home. The second method, that of pinning, was far less satisfactory as bamboo tends to split lengthwise and therefore the jointed pieces eventually disintegrated. The most efficient method was that patented in 1888 (patent No 2383) by the firm of W. F. Needham in Birmingham. It consisted of metal shoes and covers for all joints which were made by wrapping a metal strip around the stems and soldering the overlapping ends. Some joints were further strengthened by a small pin or screw. Needham was by far the largest and most successful manufacturer and their individual and superior method of construction undoubtedly gained them their reputation.
A. Englander & Searle of 34 Gt Eastern St and 31 Mare St, Hackney, London, were a firm particularly concerned with methods of construction. Although they seem to have entered the bamboo furniture market at a comparatively late date, about 1898, they produced inexpensive' bamboo, aimed particularly at the export trade.
Stating in their catalogue that bamboo furniture “can be exported in one piece or it can be exported in pieces and put together again. The fixing up is much facilitated by a system of marking and numbering. Further, no glue is required for putting together as the screw system only is applied”. This method of construction best fits the Etagere and this item in the flagstaff collection and it is believed to have been made by A Englander & Searle, exported in a knock down form to Australia, purchased in kit form from a dealer here and put together by the purchaser.
The bamboo plant stand is a significant item as it highlight furniture fashion of the late Victorian era. This item was highly sort after in its time and although mass produced, not many examples remain because the item is so fragile so this example is a valuable addition to the Flagstaff collection. It is believed,the construction method used is by a notable and respected maker in England of bamboo furniture that was aimed specifically at the export market and probably came to Australia in kit form to be assembled by the purchaser.
Bamboo plant stand with octagonal top edged with tortoise shell bamboo the top is of wood and supported by four tortoise shell bamboo legs joined at the base by a square cane covered shelf. The tortoise shell appearance is brown lacquer. Item is part of the Giles Collection.
Inscriptions & markings
- flagstaff hill,
- shipwrecked coast,
- flagstaff hill maritime museum,
- shipwreck coast,
- plant stand,
- bamboo furniture,
- victorian furniture,
- simulated bamboo,
- tortise shell,
- a englander & searle,
- domestic furniture,
- giles collection,
- henry giles,
- mailor’s flat,
- 19th century household goods