Englender upholstery a British company that deserves to be better known

Englender upholstery a British company that deserves to be better known

This amazing story is mainly brought to you due to the research of William I Massil who wrote a short book entitled Immigrant Furniture Workers in London 1881-1939 . This book was published by The Jewish Museum in association with The Geffrye Museum in 1997 and was added to with a small supplement in 2000 . Although titled as being up to 1939 it actually tells the story of companies up to the date of publication .

Most Jewish immigrants to Britain came from Eastern Europe in the late 19th century until the early 20th century , and either went into tthe garment trade or into furniture . The next influx was in the mid to late 1930s from Germany due to the rise of the Nazis , but this was a much smaller and more skilled immigration . Samuel Englender was born in 1902 in the village of Yarov Padlocka near Warsaw , and was a rare immigrant from the early 1920s as he arrived in London in 1923 . After the First World War there was no need for immigrant workers , and very few came as a result . There were plenty of former soldiers returning to the workforce and many jobs had disappeared so unemployment was high .

Samuel Englender had previously only worked on a farm , but had an uncle called Mr Gordon who was established in London as an upholsterer in Shoreditch . He started working for his uncle and after work learnt English in evening classes . He must have been very able with a good business brain as he set up in business with a co-worker from Gordons in 1926 as Marks and Englender . Their business moved a number of times as it grew and in 1932 Sam bought out Lionel Marks for £1370 , which taking inflation into account is around £94000 today ! Readers must remember that this was a time of the great depression , so any company that was growing and doing well at this time had to be well run and progressive .

Englenders made high class upholstery in the 1930s and was known for it’s fan back lounge suites that were influenced by the Shell Petrol sign . These stylish suites were fantastic quality and can still be found today occasionally although the link to Englender is apparently been lost . Epstein’s were known for their cloud back sofas , but it was Englender who made the fan back version . The firm continued to grow until the second world war , when like most furniture companies it ground to a halt . In 1941 their premises in Leyton were requisitioned by the Ministry of Works . 3 or 4 older workers carried on by repairing war damaged furniture , and then later produced a small amount of Utility upholstery .

After the War the strict Utility regulations continued into the early 1950s , but in 1948 Samuel purchased a partly destroyed large factory of 60000 square feet in Weybridge , Surrey that had been used by Vickers . Englenders were getting ready for the next phase , and the business was going well by the early 1950s , and Samuel was joined by his 2 sons Norman and Michael . In 1958 Englenders started to produce chair shells out of expanded polystyrene instead of the traditional timber framed models , and soon became a leader in this field . Although they used the latest technology Englenders were never really at the forefront of modern design , unlike a company called Lurashell who used glass fibre to create the most organic upholstery forms . A Blog on Lurashell will follow soon hopefully !

We don’t think Englender labelled any of their pieces so if you search for them you’ll not find anything listed . They mainly produced for the many small family run furniture shops that were the mainstay of the furniture trade in the 1960s . Some chains like Perrins existed , and others like Maples were gradually being created , but local family firms were the norm . We’ve recently found a rare 1965 Englender catalogue and it shows the vast range that they made . Some pieces like the stylish chair on the front cover and a lovely teak rocking chair were very on trend , but they also made standard old fashioned wing chairs and other more traditional styles . Their 3 pieces suites at around £80-£100 were similar in price to G Plan and other mid-market companies . In today’s money allowing for inflation that’s £1600-£2000 .

In 1973 the company moved to a 100000 square feet factory on a 25 acre site next to the M1 at Normington in Derbyshire and 3 years later Samuel formerly retired . He must have been rightly proud of what he’d achieved particularly due to his start in life . 1973 was not a great time to be expanding , but then the business had started and grown at a time of the largest recession in memory . Companies like MFI offering cheap furniture from edge of town stores that were more like retail warehouses gradually led to Englenders moving into the growing contract market and by 1985 they had left the domestic market to specialise in leisure and hotel contract work . At some point in the last few years the company stopped producing altogether .