Turnidge of London a niche British maker in the 1960s and 1970s

Turnidge of London a niche British maker in the 1960s and 1970s

We’ve known a little about Turnidge of London for a few years now , and soon realised that unlike other British makers of contemporary furniture they never made the obvious dining room or bedroom furniture . Instead they seem to have carved out a niche making Bars , display cabinets and bookcases . We’ve recently found one of their catalogues called The Turnidge Collection 77/78 , and from this we have a little more information , and that bonus a price list dated Feb 1977 ! As so often is the case the earlier the piece the nicer the quality of the detailing , so a 1960s piece will be better made than the equivalent one from those made in the later 1970s .

The catalogue tells us ” Turnidge of London Ltd , have been established for over fifty years and by being a family business have retained and improved the traditional skills and crafts that ensures that the furniture which leaves our factory gives its owneras much pride and pleasure as it has given us to produce ” . Interestingly like so many furniture manufacturers that started life in London at some point they’d moved their factory , which in 1977 was in Sudbury in Suffolk . The pieces we see all date in style and manufacture from the 1960s and 70s , and we guess that like so many British makers they probably struggled to survive far into the 1980s . A lot of furniture manufacturers in the UK were taken over or closed in the 1960s , and then more went in the late 1970s and early 80s leaving a very few like Ercol , Nathan and a revived Morris of Glasgow to carry on .

The catalogue also says ” It is a policy of the company not to spend vast sums of money on advertising our products , as it’s the customer who ultimately has to pay the cost of the advertising . We prefer to ensure that our product sells on the recogniseable quality of the materials and finish . ” It never ceases to amaze us how much is spent today on advertising mass produced cheap furniture particularly bearing in mind how cheap it can be in the shops .

Another interesting quote is ” Wood is the natural surface for furniture . It is beautiful to look at , and satisfying to touch . And each piece of wood is as unique as you are , for no two trees are alike . Not all furniture is made with a real wood veneer but this is ” . Today we see adverts trumpeting the use of solid oak by certain retailers , yet each piece looks identical to every other piece ! Is this down to wood today being farmed , and the prices asked surely indicate this along with production being in cheap labour economies . Certainly by the early 1970s a growing amount of furniture being sold in the UK was being made with wood effect or white laminates . Gradually also the traditional apprenticeships were disappearing with less labour intensive manufacturing techniques . Such features as dovetailed drawers were being replaced with cheaper alternatives to cut costs for all but the most expensive pieces . The late 1970s unfortunately for firms like Turnidge this was the end of an era in British manufacturing which only a few would survive .

By the mid to late 1970s teak was really no longer that fashionable in the UK where Antiques and traditional styles were making a big comeback . Turnidge like G Plan and others such as White and Newton tried to come up with a range that combined mahogany and traditional features with contemporary units . The results were horrible in every case we’ve seen , but it did seem to sell to some extent and would provide a small percentage of the sales of these companies . In Turnidge’s case it was called the Period Range , and was described as ” to produce an effect which is acceptable in both contemporary and traditional homes ” . Unfortunately it was really neither contemporary or traditional , although no doubt it was well enough made .

In 1975 UK inflation peaked at 25% per annum , falling to 16.9% in 1976 then 16.2% in 1977 , dipping to 8.4% in 1978 and then rising again in 1979 and 1980 . Manufacturers could no longer print prices in their catalogues without replacing them regularly , so large firms like G Plan would have properly printed separate price lists . Turnidge who obviously couldn’t afford annual catalogues would just issue a very basic photocopy of a price list to save money ! Our catalogue came with a February 1977 list which probably would have needed to be replaced with updates every few months . Teak glazed cabinets that we sell for around £175 to £200 were then priced at around £90 , which works out at around £600 in today’s terms according to the historic inflation calculator . The other pieces we sometimes see by Turnidge are some beautifully made bars which in 1977 retailed for prices from £185 to around £250 depending on model , so around £1200 to £1600 in today’s terms . These bars were a definite luxury at the time and can be quite large so they don’t turn up for sale very often . The last time we had one was around 2 years ago .