A.E.Barnes - Designer
Albert Barnes started with the Company in 1903 as a Carver. He went
on to design many successful products for the Company. In 1931, when
Goodearl Bros. Ltd merged with Risboro' Furniture Ltd, he became
chairman. He retired in 1936, and died on the 15th September 1966.
In 1956 he wrote this short account of the early years.
In 1887 Goodearl Bros. had been in Mendy St. for several years, but
in September of that year - my people having moved from London - I
saw it for the first time, with its rows of cottages and on the
fronts of some of them, vines growing with small bunches of grapes.
These grapevines helped to make a pleasant picture of Wycombe, and
linked up with the ripe corn on the hills and the watercress in the
streams and indeed the whole beauty of the countryside.
By way of contrast was the coming of machinery to the local
furniture trade, and when I first went to Goodearl's in 1903 the yard
looked like that of a sawmill rather than a chair factory, having
great capacity of output, and supplying other factories with plank
and sawn parts. A big gantry with travelling crane overhead dwarfed
the wooden workshops and was approached by a gangway paved with
Denner Hill stone.
It was just a hundred years since the band-saw had been invented and
about fifty years since the technical difficulties of making the
saws reliable were overcome. So when one considers that the band-saw
was the greatest invention in woodworking machinery, changing the
whole conception of furniture manufacture, it would seem that
Goodearl's were fairly progressive and were facing up to the new
The head of the firm at that time was Mr. Richard Goodearl who had
with him Mr.A.T.Goodearl and Mr.P.R.Goodearl, two of his sons. The
man who preceded me was Mr.L.Harris, a very fine craftsman indeed,
and there were a good number of such men in Wycombe then. all of
them acting as an inspiration to others, and drawing the interest of
masters and men rather in the direction of good handiwork than in
the use of machinery, a result, perhaps, of the teaching and
influence of such men as John Ruskin and William Morris.
The secretary was Mr.Frank Coles, a man timeless in his work, which
to him was a vocation, as with others, such as the windsor framers
who, engrossed in their ancient calling, soothed one's mind with the
calm of antiquity and in time became an inspiration to the furniture
designer, revealing the principles behind the development and
restraint as seen in old time chairs.
The designer was spurred to effort by the stagnation of trade which
followed the South African War. The prospects looked dreary: it was
hard to break fresh ground, to open new accounts, to produce goods
at a saleable price, and he was forced to exert himself: to try out
this, that, or any other idea.
The firms experiments with wood-bending were fruitful and of good
promise. Not only beech and ash, but oak, walnut and mahogany bows
were bent and played their part in a varied range of designs of
28 Viii 56
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