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Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd (1887-1912)

Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd

Welbeck Street & Old Bond Street, London; decorators, designers, upholsterers, cabinet makers (fl.1887-1912)

Charles Albert Hindley (b.1863) and Edward Hindley (b.c.1864) were the sons of Charles Hugh Hindley, furniture maker and upholsterer of Berners Street and Oxford Street, London. Charles Albert was educated at Dulwich College, which he left in 1879. After a year at the South Kensington School of Art, he was apprenticed to Messrs Wallers of Chelsea to gain experience. At the same time he attended classes in building construction at King’s College, London. On attaining his majority he joined his father’s firm in Oxford Street and took over the carpet department. Edward had also joined the family firm but both brothers soon branched out on their own. In a letter dated 7 October 1892 Charles snr wrote to his brother Albert senior that ‘My sons have taken the ground floor and basement of No. 70 Welbeck Street, a good looking place and in a good part, but it is entirely of their own doing. I had no part in it and had not seen it till pointed to me by someone who congratulated me about it, and I have not been asked to see it nor have I passed it since... However I have heard expressions of good will from some in the trade and both Charles and Edward have no want of pluck and endurance. I hope for the best – Sidney has engaged himself to a Liverpool firm, named ‘Waring’ doing an immense trade, and he may probably go into partnership’.

The date of formation of the Hindley brothers new company must have been before 1892 because  in 1887 a catalogue of Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd was issued, which described the firm as ‘architectural decorators, designers, upholsterers, manufacturers of high-class furniture’ with showrooms at 8 Old Bond Street and 68, 70 & 71 Welbeck Street, factory Upper Charlton Street. The Bond Street address was formerly the premises of Wilkinson & Sons. Charles Wilkinson had stepped down in 1871 to give way to his eldest son Frederick, and it was he who went into partnership with the Hindley brothers in or before 1887. The catalogue showed an interior photograph of the Old Bond Street showroom full of French-style furniture. Other styles illustrated in the publication included Elizabethan panelling and chimneypiece, Dutch Renaissance oak panelled rooms, wall panelling of a Italian Renaissance style, a Georgian morning room, Chippendale armchair, Pompeian hall decoration and Sheraton toilet table.  It stated ‘All Furniture designed by the Firm is manufactured in the Factory, and can be relied upon as being thoroughly sound in construction, correct in style, and worth the price charged for it. It is of a nature which bears no comparison with the so-called ‘Art Furniture’ of the day, made to sell but not necessary to last (the furniture of Machine Mouldings and meretricious ornament)’. In some instances they were copying from pieces in museum collections; p. 65 of the 1887 catalogue illustrated a ‘Sheraton’ toilet table made in satinwood, with painted decoration, copied from an 18th century example in the V&A.  Also illustrated was the ‘Bureau du Roi’ which it claimed was recently executed by the firm to a special commission from the original (made in 1769 by Riesener) in the Louvre. However, this and other French-style pieces may have been made by Paris craftsmen. The catalogue indicated that sometimes ‘genuine old brocade’ was used for upholstery.  

Work on decorative schemes by Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd included that for the Athenaeum Club in 1893-4, executed under the direction of Lawrence Alma Tadema and Edward Poynter, work at Devonshire House, Chesterfield House, Stafford House and other town and country houses. In the Court Journal , 22 June 1895, there was an announcement that The Empress of Russia had placed an order of ‘several English miles of chintzes for curtains and furniture coverings with Mr Charles Hindley of 70 and 71 Welbeck Street’.  The World, 3rd April 1901, reported that ‘Hindley & Wilkinson, of 8 Old Bond Street, who are so famed for their beautiful chintzes, fortunately possess the original printing blocks... and they are therefore able in many cases to produce them at a less costly price than many other people. A branch of their business is at Nos. 68 & 71 Welbeck Street, and the same varied collection may also be seen there. Orders for the chintzes come to Hindley & Wilkinson from all over the world; they may be seen in the Czar’s palace at St Petersburg; among other places they are in great request in Canada, while only the other day some lovely ones were sent to Ladysmith’.   In 1902 the firm’s letterheading, with addresses at 68 Welbeck Street and 8 Old Bond Street, listed the partners of Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd as C. A. Hindley, C. Wilkinson, E. H. Hindley and J. A. Stenhouse. In 1907 the firm supplied a pair of gilt bronze and enamel candelabra for St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle. A Renaissance style buffet and upholstered chairs from their catalogues of 1900-12 is illus. Agius (1978) p. 41.  

Hindley & Wilkinson Ltd was bought by Debenham, Storr & Sons in 1912 and renamed Hindleys. Charles Albert Hindley’s active participation in the firm ceased in 1917 but he continued doing advisory work. He had been appointed adviser to the Museums Committee of the London County Council in 1913, and in that capacity took a leading role in organising and arranging the collections at the Geffrye Museum, a position he held for 15 years. He also held the positions of Junior and Upper Warden of the Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers and in 1927 became Master of the Company. For some years, he was secretary of the West London School of Art, Great Titchfield Street and also lectured widely.

Sources:  Agius, British Furniture 1880-1915 (1978); Microulis, ‘The Furniture Drawings of Charles Hindley & Sons, 134 Oxford Street, London’, Furniture History (2001); Agius, British Furniture 1880-1915 (1978); Hindley records in the Department of Furniture, Textiles & Fashion, V&A.