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 outlook.

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 different grades.

28 Viii 56

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