ROCKMAN & ROCKMAN is based close to the spiritual heart of the old East London furniture trade around Shoreditch, epicentre of the British furniture industry from mid-19th to mid-20th Century. Most of our local urban landscape is largely shaped by Victorian and Edwardian buildings that were built specifically to house their workshops, factories, showrooms, warehouses and timber yards.
When we arrived here over 20 years ago most of the local manufacturing and wholesale furniture trade had gone but there were still many interesting old shops that stocked thousands of unusual fittings and furnishing hardware. Since then sadly, they have all gone and the rich spectrum of goods on offer has disappeared with them - the last being Daniel Lewis & Sons carraige fittings on Hackney road, killed off by the red route parking after over 200 years trading in the same building.
At ROCKMAN & ROCKMAN we have a huge archive of old catalogues and reference from the 20th Century furniture industry, most specific to the Shoreditch area. These catalogues contain a fascinating goldmine of designs from a lost era. Here are few examples from our collection of brands that were once big names based in the area.
B. COHEN was one of the leading wholesale manufacturers and exporters of furniture in Shoreditch. The premises were on Curtain Road from 1871 – 1952.
It was one of the earliest examples of fully developed showroom warehouse buildings. B. Cohen ceased production in 1968
W.A.HUDSON offices and warehouses were located at 117-125 Curtain Road until the1980s. The name W.A.Hudson was synonymous in the trade with furnishing ironmongery. The building is still there and you can see the original signs on the brickwork. Now called ‘Gratnells’ after Hudson’s 3 Grandsons the business is still going strong today. They specialise in school trays!. You can read the whole amazing history of the firm on their website…
HARRIS LEBUS was a prolific furniture manufacturer and wholesaler based in Tabernacle St with a factory in Tottenham. This was the biggest furniture factory in the world at the time. It employed over seven thousand staff and was said to be a mile long! They supplied stores such as Maple and Co., mainly producing bedroom and dining cabinets. During the Second World War the firm became part of the government scheme to produce utility furniture bearing the CC41mark. Harris Lebus was on the board of their advisory commitee. The firm finally closed in 1969.
OAKDEN & SONS were at 86-90 curtain Road (on the site of Shakespear’s first theatre} From the 1930’s to the 1960’s they were the second biggest distributor of locks and keys etc after Willen Key Co Ltd. In the 1970s they went into decline and eventually closed in July 2000. [The site is now a Foxtons Estate agents]
JAMES LATHAM is today one of the largest timber merchants in the world and we’re proud to have them as one of our wood suppliers! From 1850 Latham’s was based at 122 -124 Curtain Road. The premises included a warehouse, sawmill, drying sheds and veneer + molding departments. They moved away from the site in 1940 when the lease expired.
PARRY & SON - S. TYZACK & SON Many of the tools and machines in the Rockman & Rockman workshop were purchased from a Tyzack hardware store. Henry Tyzack was from a family of saw makers based in Sheffield. He came down to London in 1839 and opened his first shop on Curtain Road. His family opened a string of shops in Shoreditch and then out in the High Wycombe area. Until the early 2000’s Parry Tyzack’s was a familiar landmark on Old Street but sadly it shut down. (Parry Tyzacks originally belonged to Parry’s hardware but when Parry died the Tyzacks were offered the business and that’s how it got it’s name)
The last remaining Tyzack shop is on Kingsland road.
You can read the whole family saga here: http://www.tyzack.net/hackney.htm
THE SHANNON There were a number of office furniture companies based on the City of London / Shoreditch border to service the Banking industry. The Shannon Ltd was on Ropemaker St and supplied a huge range of complex filing desks.
'X' CHAIR PATENTS COMPANY Flatpack and folding furniture is nothing new, a few firms were specialized in produced space saving designs, some for domestic use, but more often for the Army and to export to the British Empire. Many of the folding chairs we see in modern furniture today are re-workings of Victorian inventions - for example the 'Hardoy' chair (often referred to as 'The Butterfly chair') made by Knoll in the 1950's, lost it's copyright to many imitators because it was based upon an old British Army folding chair called the 'Tripolina'.