Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 162,525 pages of information and 244,521 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

E. Gomme

From Graces Guide
March 1911.
October 1954.

E. Gomme of Spring Gardens, High Wycombe, Bucks.

1880s Ebenezer Gomme arrived in High Wycombe from Nettlebed, Oxfordshire.

The family then moved to Totteridge Road. Ebenezer is supposed to have set up a chair workshop behind his house.

1898 Ebenezer went into partnership with his brother-in-law, Jim Pierce, marking the beginning of the furniture manufacturing business which became E. Gomme Ltd. Ebenezer Gomme started by making hand-made chairs.

By 1903 he had installed some machine tools.

1909 New factory built in Leigh Street, High Wycombe. The company was at the cutting edge of the furniture trade in High Wycombe. The firm introduced new machinery and was the first to abandon old practices like part-time working.

1911 Ebenezer's two sons, Frank Rupert Gomme and Edwin Corner Gomme were taken into partnership. The range of production began to include sideboards, tables and other cabinet goods.

WWI the company made aircraft frames.

1927 the Spring Gardens factory was built, and was subsequently extended.

1933 The firm became a limited company.

Between the wars, Gomme’s were the first to introduce the concept of the dining room suite, designed and made in harmony.

By 1938 Gomme’s employed 800 people and was one of the country’s biggest furniture manufacturers.

WWII The company made aircraft frames. Manufactured parts for the De Havilland Mosquito. [1]

1943 During wartime, furniture was part of rationing in the UK; the Board of Trade set up the Utility scheme which limited costs and the types of furniture on sale. A small number of simple designs were available in oak or mahogany. Designers, such as Mr Barnes and Edwin Clinch, were on the board appointed by the Government to design the Utility line, which set the tone for British furniture making until the early 1950s.

Post-WWII. After the War, Gomme became one of the country's largest furniture manufacturers.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Antique Reproduction Furniture, Bedroom, Dining Room, Drawing Room Furniture, Upholstered Furniture. (Earls Court, 1st Floor, Stand No. 661) [2]

1953 Donald Gomme, the designer at E. Gomme, decided to produce a range of modern furniture for the entire house which could be bought piece by piece according to budgets. Advertising was part of the plan from the beginning. The furniture was advertised in magazines direct to the public. Designs were available for several years so people could collect them slowly. All furniture was marked with the distinctive brand mark - G-Plan. The G-Plan name was coined by Doris Gundry of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency – from the Gomme Plan, a plan for living. The G-Plan range appeared just at the right time – when consumers wanted a change from the limited choice of the utility furniture of the Second World War and the dark brown, chunky furniture of earlier decades. G-Plan’s light oak furniture was stylish, attractive, adventurous and had a contemporary feel. It could also be bought a piece at a time. While retailers determined the styles of furniture, which most manufacturers produced, G-Plan went over retailers’ heads and appealed directly to the public through a national advertising campaign. G-Plan pioneered the display of furniture in complete room settings with accessories. The range became hugely successful. At one point there was an 18-month delivery wait and other manufacturers copied styles. G-Plan changed radically over the decades, from light oak furniture in the early 1950s.

The success of G-Plan lead to E. Gomme becoming one of the UK's largest furniture manufacturers, with profits increasing sixfold between 1952 and 1958 when it was floated.

Another part of the direct marketing was the showrooms where the public could see the furniture. There were small centres over the country, and "The G-Plan Gallery" in Vogue House, St. George Street, Hanover Square in London.

1954 Gomme’s took over the older High Wycombe furniture firm of W. Birch and Co.

1958 Donald Gomme left the company.

1958 Took over Castle Brothers, with their factory in Cressex

1959 E. Gomme was renamed Gomme Holdings[3]

1960 Bought Clover Mill at Nelson, Lancashire, to do upholstering work.

Early 1960s, the government introduced restrictions on hire purchase (the most common method of purchasing furniture), and in response to competition from Danish furniture the company introduced a Danish Modern range which made the rest of the range seem dated, and Gomme lost their market leading position, though they continued to be a major manufacturer making innovative designs with a very well known brand name.

1978 Acquired a cabinet assembly plant in Wrexham.

By 1980 Gomme’s employed 2,000 people, several hundreds with at least 25 years’ service, and there were many sports and social clubs including cricket, football, netball and bowls clubs.

Late 1980s the G-Plan style had moved through black-lacquered tola wood items and more plush upholstered furniture to the futuristic ‘New Seasons’ range.

1987 the Gomme family – major shareholders in the company - decided to retire. They sold Gomme Holdings to its directors.

1989 Sold to the Christie-Tyler subsidiary of Hillsdown Holdings.

1989 100 workers were laid off

1990 the Wrexham and Nelson plants were closed with the loss of the 600 remaining jobs

1992 The High Wycombe factory was closed

1996 G-Plan furniture is still made, although now by two separate companies - the Morris Furniture Group acquired the licence to make and market the Cabinet furniture in Glasgow. The upholstered furniture is made in Melksham, Wiltshire. The company, now based at modern offices near Melksham, Wiltshire, currently operates under the name of G-Plan Upholstery Ltd.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Mosquito by C. Martin Sharp and Michael J. F. Bowyer. Published by Crecy Books in 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6
  2. 1947 British Industries Fair p119
  3. The Times Jan. 20, 1959