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British Industrial History

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Shapland and Petter

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March 1911.
South side of Long Bridge. Photo taken in 2011.

of Raleigh Works, Barnstaple, North Devon. Telephone: Barnstaple 2201-2. Cables: "Raleigh, Barnstaple". (1947)

Shapland and Petter of Barnstaple were cabinet makers.

1854 Company formed at Pilton, Barnstaple by Henry Shapland and Henry Petter

1864 Moved to premises on south side of the Long Bridge.

1871 Employing 96 men and lads.[1]

1881 Employing 125 Men and 36 Boys.[2]

1888 Serious fire at the Rawleigh(sic) factory. The manufactory of five-storeys had existed since 1774. Building taken over by Shapland and Petter in about 1863 who were formerly in Bear Street. There was a previous fire in 1869. Last year Henry Shapland, Senior, and Henry Petter, Senior, retired from the business. Two years ago the firm acquired the premises at the end of the Long Bridge. 250 men work at Rawleigh and 50 at the Long Bridge site.[3]

1905 Arts and Crafts Bureau. [4]

1924 New company formed as Shapland and Petter (1924) to take over Shapland and Petter (of Raleigh Cabinet Works incorporated 1894) and the Barnstaple Cabinet Co. Combined works employ 350 men.[5]

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of High Quality Furniture, both Traditional and Contemporary Reproductions for Home and Export. Schemes prepared to Meet Special Requirements. Architectural Joinery. Flush Doors and Panelling. (Earls Court, Stands No. 687 and 773) [6]

A review in 1971 reported that the Raleigh Cabinet Works was till in production, having been completely re-equipped with new machinery in the preceding three years. Expansion was planned for when the Ilfracombe branch railway was closed down (the line obstructed access). The steam engines were used until 1927, and one of the Lancashire boilers continued in use for factory services, fired by wood shavings.[7]


1930 A history of the company[8]

The firm of Shapland and Petter was established by Mr. Henry Shapland, who was born in 1823. He served an apprenticeship and worked with a cabinet maker of considerable local repute, Mr. Crook. Marrying in 1847, he went to London in 1848. Being of an adventurous spirit, however, he decided at the end of the year to go to the U.S.A. He sailed from Bristol. The ship was in a gale, and the destined founder of the local Barnstaple industry was nearly wrecked off Hartland Point, North Devon.

He worked for himself in the States, sharing a workshop with another. In the room adjoining worked a clever mechanic, who had invented a machine for producing wave mouldings. He worked his machine secretly, but Mr. Shapland prevailed on him to let him see it, and consent was obtained condition that he left the country immediately. He was given about ten minutes to inspect the machine, after which he made rough sketches and notes of the mechanism. He then returned to England, and proceeded to reproduce the machine he had seen preparing the patterns for the costings himself.

Mr. Shapland commenced business in one room rented at the Raleigh factory, which at that time was used as a woollen mill. The moulding machine was manipulated by hand, that is, it was driven by turning a handle, one man named Trevisick providing the motive power. . . . The removal of the firm to premises in Bear-street marked the development of the concern. . . .

About this time Mr. Henry Petter retired from the well-known publishing firm of Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, subsequently entering into a partnership with Mr. Shapland, acting as traveller, etc. From this time the history of the business was one of gradual but persistent growth. . . The continued success which the commercial and business acumen of the two men achieved resulted in the purchase of the Raleigh factory (no longer used for woolen manufacture) in 1864. The factory was situated in delightful surroundings about three quarters of a mile from the town of Barnstaple. On the higher side of the factory runs a stream, which was used to drive two water wheels, which produced most of the motive power required.

The growth of the Raleigh Cabinet Factory was contemporary with the wider application of machinery to the furniture industry. This firm had always availed itself of the latest labour-saving devices, but the design has never been subservient to the machine. Early association with the United States, and the fact that the first piece of machinery used had been modelled on a mechanism seen by the founder while in America led to constant and lively interest in what was being done on the other side of the Atlantic. Labour-saving machinery invented there was installed in the new factory at Barnstaple as soon as possible. . . .

On the night of March 5th, 1888, the Raleigh Cabinet Works were burnt to the ground. . . . While the ruins of the whole premises were still smouldering, architects and the practical cabinet manufacturers who employed them were planning on a large scale, a factory more extensive and in every way better equipped than the one which had just been destroyed. This is the present, factory; it adjoins the railway and has accommodation for the berthing of ships which bring coal and timber. . . The planning of the new works was carried out with due regard to the danger of fire, the buildings being arranged in separate blocks. . . .

The year 1909 saw the opening of new factory in the town, under the title of the Barnstaple Cabinet Co., with Mr. A. N. Oliver as manager. . . This firm continued to make a steady growth until 1924, when Shapland and Petter and the Barnstaple Cabinet Company were amalgamated, with Mr. A. N. Oliver as managing director. The establishment of the two factories is about 450 hands.

By the migration of skilled craftsmen, etc., this district has largely influenced and maintained good design and craftsmanship outside its own area. The well-known firm of W. and L. Lock, of Bath, was founded by two brothers trained at the Raleigh factory. This industry also provided 'The Cabinet Maker' with editor for many years in the person of Mr. H. P. Shapland, A.R.I.B.A., the grandson of the founder. A President of the National Furnishing Trades Manufacturers' Association has also come from Barnstaple in the person of Mr. A. N. Oliver."


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1871 Census
  2. 1881 Census
  3. North Devon Journal - Thursday 08 March 1888
  4. [1] The Design Gallery
  5. North Devon Journal - Thursday 06 November 1924
  6. 1947 British Industries Fair p247
  7. 'Strong's Industries of North Devon (1889)': A reprint with an Introduction and Notes by B D Hughes: David & Charles Reprints
  8. North Devon Journal - Thursday 10 April 1930