Arkana , Avalon and Bath Cabinet Makers the link

Arkana , Avalon and Bath Cabinet Makers the link is the Christie Tyler Group .

We came upon this link initially through some of the vintage Mid-Century catalogues we bought recently , then a Google search added a little bit more information . We’re sure that as usual there will be people out there who can add to the bare bones of the story that can be found on the internet . If you can tell us anything please do as gradually knowledge is lost as people who worked in the furniture industry in the 1960s and 1970s get older .

Bath Cabinet Makers started in 1892 , in the early 20th Century they were a high quality maker of furniture in the Arts + Crafts and Art Nouveau style , and as fashion moved on in the Art Deco style . If you do a Google search you will find a photo of a very impressive factory in Bath , and that they made pieces in the 1930s for the prestigious luxury liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth . In 1959 they were taken over by Yatton Furniture also known as Avalon .

We’ve had some of their late 1950s and early 1960s sideboards and seen others . They were well made often with quirky large handles using various woods . They must have had their own designer as well as their own separate factory as their pieces at this date were totally unlike those of Yatton/Avalon . In the mid to late 1960s their pieces are much sleeker and stylish and look to be by a different designer . They must have still operated a separate factory to Avalon whose pieces were of noticeably poorer quality and more basic in design . Their late 1960s sideboards are really nice , but their bedroom furniture although sleek and stylish was made using plastic drawer interiors and shows other signs of the cost cutting that some makers were having to do at the time due to changes in the market and the beginnings of foreign competition . We’ve seen some pieces with their labels on that may date from any time from c 1967 to the mid 1970s , so it would be interesting to know when they stopped trading as a brand .

Yatton Furniture also sometimes Wake + Dean was based in Yatton in Somerset some 25 miles from Bath . An agricultural town , there seems to have been a history of making school and church furniture well into the 19th Century . This presumably developed in to a successful local domestic furniture manufacturing as would have been found all over the country at a time when most furniture was bought and made locally ,  except for high-end pieces which would justify the costs involved in transportation further afield . In the early to mid 20th century companies like this came and went , it was the 2nd World War and easier van deliveries and the like that lead to smaller local makers disappearing as time moved on .

The Avalon pieces we see today are firstly their Ladderax inspired wall systems which are noticeably inferior in quality and easier to damage , as well as harder to restore than the more up-market product by Staples of London . Secondly we see some of their 1960s and 1970s bedroom furniture . We only buy some of their earlier 1960s pieces when  in good condition as most are not stylish enough and well enough made to be worthwhile buying . The finish and detailing is often poor and damages easily and not worth restoration costs . Now and then we find a nice enough chest of drawers or small sideboard in good condition at a sensible price . We have an Autumn 1968 catalogue and the slogan is  “Avalon furniture with a secret … its not nearly as expensive as it looks ” . Price was obviously the issue and it would have been a lot less to buy than G Plan and their BCM subsidiary for instance , so aimed at those who couldn’t afford Ladderax and the like . There is nothing in this catalogue that we would consider buying if we saw it unfortunately ! Avalon ceased production in 1985 , surviving longer than McIntosh and White + Newton and many others .

The link between Bath Cabinet Makers and Avalon is obvious as they were geographically very close , but Arkana seems to have been made originally in Dundee or Falkirk . The pieces they are best known for are the Tulip ranges which are 1960s and 70s versions of the designs of Eero Saarinen for Knoll in the mid 1950s . The Tulip and Star ranges mainly are seen in white , the tables with laminate tops and metal bases , but sometimes also the more expensive and stylish ones in rosewood on aluminium bases . Also popular in their day were the Chelsea chair , commonly known today as Safari chair , designed by Maurice Burke of whom little seems to be known , and another armchair in chrome designed by the better known Geoffrey Harcourt .

At some point in the mid to late 1960s Arkana must have been taken over by Christie Tyler who by that stage owned Avalon . We have a very stylish catalogue printed in the Netherlands probably in 1968 which shows Bath Cabinet Makers and Arkana products in the same catalogue . The pieces look to date from around 1968 and there are numbers to the back which could mean that it was produced in September of that year . We also have an Arkana 1974 catalogue which has the same address on it as given for Bath Cabinet Makers , and shows in addition to the Arkana pieces the BCM Format bedroom range as shown in the 1968 catalogue . This catalogue calls Arkana ” A Christie Tyler Company ” . We assume that at some point production of Arkana must have moved from Scotland to Bath .

Christie Tyler were a successful upholstery manufacturer who at some point in the 1960s started to take over furniture makers such as Avalon who already owned BCM,  and Arkana . They seem to have had major problems in around 1985 and closed Avalon , BCM and Arkana having gone prior to that probably in the late 1970s . In 1986 one of their directors bought out the company , and in 1990 they took over G Plan only for it to be closed in 1992 . The G Plan name was later bought by the Morris Group . Christie Tyler also took over other upholstery businesses and at various times also manufactured pieces for companies such as Parker Knoll . They went bankrupt in 2005 , but various subsidiaries were bought from the liquidators by management teams . Unfortunately Christie Tyler’s history is typical of British furniture and upholstery manufacture with various takeovers , closures and financial problems . Some brand names survive , but they have little to do with their original roots .