Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Goodearl Brothers

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of Mendy Street, High Wycombe, Bucks. (1922)

Ditto Address. Telephone: High Wycombe 116. (1947)

1811 William Goodearl was born.

1870 He became a Windsor Chair maker and then commenced business on his own account at premises in Dovehouse Mead, High Wycombe.

1875 He was listed in a local directory as a Chair Manufacturer at West End Road.

Four of his sons, Henry (b.1838), Richard (b.1843), Benjamin (b.1849) and Arthur (b.1851) were all working within the furniture trade. Henry, at Dovehouse Mead, was a cane seat framer. Richard at 7 Water Lane, Newland. Benjamin, a benchman, was at 11 Oxford Road. Arthur at 20 Mendy Street was also a cane seat framer.

By 1887, the brothers appear to have joined forces at Mendy Street and during the next decade strengthened their position as High Wycombe chair manufacturers.

1903 A. E. Barnes joined the company as a carver. He was to play an important role in the Company as a designer, and eventually became its Chairman. Machinery was being introduced to an ever increasing extent. A Timber Yard and Sawmill were working, and other factories were also being supplied with plank and sawn parts.

Richard became head of the firm, with two of his sons, Albert and Percy, working with him. The eldest son, George, had emigrated to Australia and was manufacturing bedding in Sydney after a short time of importing furniture from Wycombe.

1907 The firm became incorporated as Goodearl Brothers Ltd.

By 1914 a wide range of Windsor chairs, cane seat chairs, upholstered 7 piece suites etc. were being made in quantities. They were mainly sold in London, being transported there by horse and van. (A display panel in the Wycombe Chair Museum says that the return journey took 36 hours, the wagons often travelling in convoy through the night. Only the lead driver needed to be awake).

1915 A former mill at Navan in County Meath, Ireland, was bought and equipped as a sawmill and chair factory. It was managed by Percy with Wilfred Dean and employed about 70 men and boys. Athlumney Mill was half a mile downstream from Navan beside the Boyne Canal and built as a flax mill. Though immediately before the Company took it over, it was being used by the Navan Bacon Factory. (The building was later used as a corn mill, but after falling into a dangerous state, it was demolished in the mid 1970's).

March 1919, with civil unrest becoming increasingly violent, in Ireland, the factory was shut down and the family moved back to High Wycombe.

1920 With the ending of the Irish operation, the Company acquired premises in Princes' Risborough. Chair parts were assembled and finished in the old 'British School' at the junction of Wycombe Road and Station Approach. Demand was increasing and a site by the Railway Station was purchased and building commenced to house machinery and assembly facilities. During this period, Albert and Percy were joined by Ernest Dean and Harold Dean. The latter being married to Edith, Percy's sister. The Company at Risborough was styled Goodearl, Dean and Co.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Patent Upholstered Easy Chairs and Settees, compact for shipping; Adjustable Reclining Easy Chairs; Old Fashioned Cottage Chairs; Restaurant Chairs; Reproduction, etc. (Stand No. C10) [1]

1924 The name was changed and incorporated as Risboro' Furniture Ltd. Further land had been acquired making the site up to approximately ten acres. A modern Sawmill with a travelling overhead gantry crane and railway sidings were established.

1926 Max, the eldest of Percy's three sons, started work at the Risborough Sawmill.

By 1930 a new factory had been built on the Risborough site. The main Factory buildings were single storey, apart from the brick faced Office block and the two shops behind. Natural lighting was provided by a partly glazed roof on the 'northern light' principle. Meanwhile in Wycombe, high quality chairs and some tables and sideboards were achieving a measure of success, with A. E. Barnes being responsible for many of the original designs. Trading conditions had become more difficult. To strengthen the two separate companies, which were virtually controlled by Albert at Wycombe and Percy at Risborough, and were pursuing separate policies, it was decided to merge. In October of that year, Richard, their father died aged 87.

1931 Goodearl Brothers acquired the shares of Risboro' Furniture. From this period improvements at both factories continued, but with expansion at Wycombe being limited by space.

1934 A pub which adjoined the works in Mendy Street, was acquired and a new Showroom block built on its site.

1939 The outbreak of War saw the factory at Risborough requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Phillips and Powis Aircraft), leaving only the Sawmill in operation. Half the area at Mendy Street was also requisitioned for storage. The limited production of chairs for the various Ministries and other wooden wartime needs were sufficient to hold the much reduced labour force together until hostilities ceased.

Post War. The two companies were successful in being designated to produce Utility dining chairs and upholstered easy chairs.

Output proceeded to expand in spite of the difficulties of timber rationing, and every effort was made to utilise materials in plentiful supply. These led to a more diversified production and a large range of Plastics surfaced tables that found a ready market.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of furniture in Light Alloy, Plastic Sheet and Mouldings as follows: Dining Chairs, Arm Chairs, Upholstered Easy Chairs, Hotel and Restaurant Tables of all types, Occasional Tables, Extending Dining Tables. [2]

1958 A new machine shop was built at Risborough. This greatly increased efficiency by enabling all machined parts to be produced under one roof. It also permitted a new kitchen cabinet assembly and finishing operation to be established at Wycombe.

1959 Progress was such that it became necessary to extend one or other of the companies facilities each year.

The Wycombe company was known as Goodearl Bros. Ltd with the trademark of a vase of flowers. The Princes Risborough factory was called Risboro' Furniture Ltd, and it used the symbol of Whiteleaf Cross. Since the amalgamation of the two factories, the name Goodearl-Risboro' has been adopted, with Whiteleaf Furniture as the brand name. The trademark is now the shape of a White Beam leaf from the trees grow on the local hills. These also supply some of the Beech timber that provide much the raw material that the company uses.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1922 British Industries Fair p31
  2. 1947 British Industries Fair p119
  • [1] Goodearl Brothers Website
  • Furniture Makers of High Wycombe [2]