R.W.Toothill and their stylish 1960s sofas and chairs
As so often happens with pieces that don’t appear for sale very often, we get the opportunity to buy a number of things within a short period of time. Having bought a stylish Toothill sofa and a pair of chairs that we’d never had before, within 3 days we get offered the same model of sofa. Then 3 or 4 weeks later we manage to source 2 Toothill Wentworth sofas, one in amazing vintage condition with original bright orange upholstery. Also coming through our doors are 2 identical afromosia armchairs. We’ll go many months and not get the chance to buy any really nice Toothill pieces and then as they say it is like buses.
We’re currently doing some research on the company which was founded by Reg Toothill in Newton Aycliffe after the 2nd World War. His original business was making loose covers for existing sofas. Wartime and Post War restrictions greatly limited production of new furniture and even in the early 1950’s it was extremely difficult for new manufacturers to make furniture particularly as wood was severely rationed and only available to larger makers. If you couldn’t buy a new sofa whether it was because there was so little available or down to cost, the only alternative was to have an existing one re-done and loose covers were a lot cheaper than full re-upholstery.
As far as we know Toothill never fixed labels to their sofas and chairs but certain models like The Wentworth are so individual and recognisable that sellers often do know the make. We’ve recently seen a 1964 catalogue and discovered the model name which until now has not been generally know.
Toothill mainly used afromosia in the 1960’s for their frames and detailing. It’s sometimes called African teak but it’s not actually from the teak family and is darker and hard to work with. It was also used by Guy Rogers of Liverpool for their equally stylish sofas and chairs in the early 1960’s but they later moved on to using teak whereas Toothill seemed to have stuck with afromosia for much longer. In furniture A Younger used it in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and other makers such as G Plan used it for handles and edging to give a darker contrast to teak well into the 1970’s. The show frames on Toothill pieces we see will have been solid but the table ends on the Wentworth sofas must just be veneered as we’ve seen one where somebody has gone through the veneer!
From what we so far understand Toothills were a medium sized company employing about 100 people with their own fleet of vans. At various times they also fitted out pubs and clubs which fits in with the upholstery side and also made fire surrounds in the 1970’s. In 1989 the business was bought by a Swedish company for about £4.5 million ( ?? ) but not long after closed down. We know what they were making in the 1960’s and have been promised a mid to late 1970’s catalogue so will hopefully have an idea of later models. In the 1960’s their main British competition for stylish modern designs would have been Greaves and Thomas of London and Guy Rogers of Liverpool. Greaves & Thomas were taken over c 1968 by Schreiber and soon went down-market but we don’t know yet what happened to Guy Rogers. Certainly by the late 1970’s fashions in the UK were moving back to the traditional styles and no doubt Toothill would have had to follow the market.
We usually have several pieces for sale from Toothill as the quality always stands up to time and restoration.