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Amanda Girling-Budd

MA work

Holland and Sons, a 19th Century Cabinet-Making Firm and its Clients, 1835-85

This thesis examines the productions of the 19th century London cabinet-making firm of Holland and Sons, and the ways in which its clients used the firm. It contends that although Holland and Sons operated commercially within a market for high-quality furniture, they were not merely businessman, nor simply producers of fine furniture, but had a pivotal role as advisers on taste at a time when the decoration of interiors was highly conventionalised and subject to elaborate codes. The business strategies of the firm are examined against the background of the furniture trade in Britain and abroad, and its success in the market is assessed. Holland and Sons’ role as contract furnishers on a number of important institutional commissions is explored and the influence of the company’s links with the building trade is examined. The invoices of a sample of clients from 1865 are examined in detail to tease out differences and similarities in patterns of patronage and types of goods purchased, and the findings are assessed in relation to the social status and occupation of clients. A high degree of conformity in patterns of purchase is evaluated in terms of the social use of taste to demark and confirm social position, against a background of shifting class allegiances and values. A decline in the firm’s sales at the end of the century is set against broad social changes; changes in the market for furnishing; new methods of retailing; and changes in the way the decoration of interiors was used as a means of identity formation.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2007

  • Holland and Sons, a 19th Century Cabinet-Making Firm and its Clients, 1835-85

    This thesis examines the productions of the 19th century London cabinet-making firm of Holland and Sons, and the ways in which its clients used the firm. It contends that although Holland and Sons operated commercially within a market for high-quality furniture, they were not merely businessman, nor simply producers of fine furniture, but had a pivotal role as advisers on taste at a time when the decoration of interiors was highly conventionalised and subject to elaborate codes. The business strategies of the firm are examined against the background of the furniture trade in Britain and abroad, and its success in the market is assessed. Holland and Sons’ role as contract furnishers on a number of important institutional commissions is explored and the influence of the company’s links with the building trade is examined. The invoices of a sample of clients from 1865 are examined in detail to tease out differences and similarities in patterns of patronage and types of goods purchased, and the findings are assessed in relation to the social status and occupation of clients. A high degree of conformity in patterns of purchase is evaluated in terms of the social use of taste to demark and confirm social position, against a background of shifting class allegiances and values. A decline in the firm’s sales at the end of the century is set against broad social changes; changes in the market for furnishing; new methods of retailing; and changes in the way the decoration of interiors was used as a means of identity formation.