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 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 .
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 1950s 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 known .
Toothill mainly used afromosia in the 1960s 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 1960s , 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 1950s and early 1960s , and other makers such as G Plan used it for handles and edging to give a darker contrast to teak well into the 1970s . 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 1970s . 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 1960s , and have been promised a mid to late 1970s catalogue , so will hopefully have an idea of later models . In the 1960s their main British competition for stylish modern designs would have been Greaves + 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 1970s fashions in the UK were moving back to the traditional styles , and no doubt Toothill would have had to follow the market .