Waals con­tin­ued Gim­son’s work and pro­duced some won­der­ful fur­ni­ture

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

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ONE hun­dred years ago, when the ar­chi­tect and de­signer Ernest Gim­son died, it did not seem as if the fur­ni­ture mak­ing busi­ness he had been build­ing up since 1902 would con­tinue.

But his fore­man Peter van der Waals (in­set, 1870-1937) stepped in and ran it un­til his death, cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful, high-qual­ity fur­ni­ture in Chal­ford.

A highly-skilled and qual­i­fied cab­i­net maker, Waals had come from The Hague in the Nether­lands to work for Gim­son where he and Ernest Barns­ley set up their fur­ni­ture work­shop in their home for the past sev­eral years, Sap­per­ton.

He had been work­ing in Eng­land since 1899 and started work­ing for Barns­ley and Gim­son in 1901.

Both Gim­son and Barns­ley had ex­per­i­mented with mak­ing fur­ni­ture and Gim­son had em­ployed peo­ple to make his de­signs while liv­ing in Lon­don, but the new busi­ness needed a team of skilled cab­i­net mak­ers.

Waals was fol­lowed by other Lon­don work­ers Ernest Smith and Percy Burchett. Harry Davoll had only come from Cirences­ter.

They worked at Daneway House, just out­side Sap­per­ton, us­ing the space for both a work­shop in the grounds and the house as a show­room.

Waals’ ar­rival at the work­shop sig­nalled a more so­phis­ti­cated un­der­stand­ing of fur­ni­ture con­struc­tion.

Waals was a stick­ler for qual­ity and, as such, worked well with Gim­son who, ac­cord­ing to fur­ni­ture maker Ed­ward Barns­ley, ‘wouldn’t com­pro­mise in any sort of way’ with clients or qual­ity.

Sir Ge­orge Trevelyan, who stud­ied fur­ni­ture mak­ing with Waals from 1929-31, said: “Gim­son would be the first to ac­knowl­edge the im­mense debt he owed to him as a col­league… he used Waals from the out­set in close co-op­er­a­tion.”

Waals was paid £2 10s a week as fore­man in 1914.

In 1920 the work­shops at Daneway were closed and Waals moved with his team mem­bers to Hal­l­i­day Mill at Chal­ford.

In the pho­to­graph you can see Waals work­ing on a piece in the work­shop.

Chal­ford was much more con­ve­nient for the rail­way – there was a sta­tion there in those days.

It must have been tough for Waals tak­ing over the work­shop, but most of the team stayed with him, “held by the great­ness of their tra­di­tion and its stan­dards,” ac­cord­ing to Trevelyan. Waals con­tin­ued to use Gim­son’s de­signs as in­spi­ra­tion, adapt­ing them to his clients’ needs, and also de­signed pieces him­self.

The Wil­son holds a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of his work. Sadly we hold only two of his draw­ings be­cause shortly after his death in 1937, there was a ter­ri­ble fire at the work­shop and the draw­ings were de­stroyed.

We have a cab­i­net in wal­nut with ebony and holly string­ing which was de­signed by Waals in 1931 for the Glouces­ter Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion as a me­mo­rial to Mary El­iz­a­beth Playne.

Playne founded the Glouces­ter School of Cookery in 1890 and wchaired the gov­er­nors of the Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion from 1893-1909.

You can see sev­eral pieces de­signed by Waals and made by the Chal­ford work­shop in both the Arts and Crafts Move­ment Gallery and the Fur­ni­ture Store.

Come and have a look at the fine work­man­ship, or book onto the tours run by our knowl­edge­able volunteers on Thurs­days and Satur­days at 2pm.

Watch out later in the year for our new ex­hi­bi­tion about Ernest Gim­son com­mem­o­rat­ing the cen­te­nary of his death.

Cab­i­net maker Ernest Smith the Chal­ford work­shop in about 1924

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