The story of a Buckinghamshire furniture company.
From its beginnings in 1870 until closure in 2001
and its rebirth as whiteleaf ltd.
Part 1: Risboro' Furniture Ltd.
Expansion on a new site.
Mostly taken from an account by WMG.
With further information from L.J.Mayes book:
'The History of Chairmaking in High Wycombe'.
Additional research by Mr. Ken Goodearl.
Risboro' Furniture Ltd
The Risborough Unit was started in 1920. Chair parts were assembled
and finished in the old 'British School' at the junction of Wycombe Road and Station Approach.
Demand was increasing and in August 1920, a site by the Railway
Station was purchased and building commenced to house machinery
and assembly facilities. Power was provided by Robey 'Portable' Steam Engines.
During this period, Albert and Percy were joined by Ernest Dean
and Harold Dean. The latter being married to Edith, Percy's sister.
The Company at Risborough was styled Goodearl, Dean and Co.
but on 14th January 1924 the name was changed and incorporated
as Risboro' Furniture Ltd.
The Sawmill had a long overhead crane gantry. The Picts Lane end
was where timber delivered by road was unloaded and stored.
By 1924 further land had been acquired making the site up to
approximately ten acres. A modern Sawmill with a 250 HP Marshall
Steam Engine, travelling overhead gantry crane and railway sidings
By 1930 a new factory had been built on the Risborough site.
The main Factory buildings were single storey, apart from the brick
faced Office block and the two shops behind. Natural lighting was
provided by a partly glazed roof on the 'northern light' principle.
Improvements and expansion continued and the Corduroy covered,
flock or spring filled, loose cushion Adjustable Chair became the major product.
Production in the 1930's. Spray Polishing
French Polishing Shop
The Packing Department
Bed Chairs proved popular, from before the war up
until the late 1960's. These illustrations featured on
the Company stationery, and were taken from a letter was dated 1940.
Meanwhile in Wycombe, high quality chairs and some tables and
sideboards were achieving a measure of success, with A.E.Barnes being
responsible for many of the original designs.
In September 1926, Max, the eldest of Percy's three sons started work at
the Risborough Sawmill.
By 1930, trading conditions had become more difficult. To strengthen the
two separate companies, which were virtually controlled by Albert at
Wycombe and Percy at Risborough, and were pursuing separate policies,
it was decided to merge.
In October of that year, Richard, their father died aged 87.
In 1931 Goodearl Brothers Ltd acquired the shares of Risboro'
Furniture Ltd. The directors were A.T and P.R.Goodearl, E. and
E.H.Dean with A.E.Barnes as Chairman.
Mendy Street Factory in 1974
From this period improvements at both factories continued, but with
expansion at Wycombe being limited by space.
In 1934, the 'Peacock' Public House, which adjoined the works in Mendy Street, was acquired and a new Showroom block built on its site.
The Goodearl Bros. Showroom at the Mendy Street Factory in 1937
1936 saw the retirement of A.E.Barnes and A.T.Goodearl, when P.R.
Goodearl became chairman and Max Goodearl was moved to manage the
Mendy Street end. Alan, Percy's second son started work in 1938.
In 1937 the retail price for the 4087 was £2 16s 6d
and the 4085 was £2 15s 0d.
The outbreak of War in 1939 saw the factory at Risborough
requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd), leaving only the Sawmill in operation.
Half the area at Mendy Street was also requisitioned for storage.
The limited production of chairs for the various Ministries and
other wooden wartime needs were sufficient to hold the much reduced
labour force together until hostilities ceased.
A Wartime product:
Goodearl Bros Snow Shoes
The Risborough Site in 1956
In the immediate post war period, the two companies were successful
in being designated to produce Utility dining chairs and upholstered
easy chairs. E.L.Clinch, who had joined the company design staff in
1932, played a large part on the committee set up by the Board of
Trade for the designing of Utility furniture.
With the War over, de-requisitioning took place and the major task
now was to re-establish the Risborough factory, where little of its
wartime operations were any longer of value. New machinery had to be
acquired and new layouts planned. E.E.Hain who had started in 1931
as a cost clerk, rejoined the company after a wartime absence,
and together with Alan, they took charge of the re-commencement of
production at Risborough.
Output proceeded to expand in spite of the difficulties of
timber rationing, and every effort was made to utilise materials in
plentiful supply. One successful range embodied diecast aluminium
chair parts, another, extruded aluminium sections and laminated
plastics. These led to a more diversified production and a large
range of Plastics surfaced tables that found a ready market.
Max was elected to the Board of Directors in 1942, followed by the
addition of E.L.Clinch in 1944. Ronald, Percy's third son, started
work with the company in 1947.
Having, by this time, successfully established a range of tables in
the kitchen departments of many stores, a range of kitchen units was
introduced to supplement them.
In 1953 Alan and E.E.Hain joined the Board making seven in all, with
Percy as Chairman.
In 1955 Ernest Dean, who had been Secretary, died and S.V.Goodchild,
who had started in the office in 1930, and had 'grown up' under
E.Dean's tuition, took over his role. Ronald was elected to the Board
A new machine shop was built at Risborough in 1958. This greatly
increased efficiency by enabling all machined parts to be produced
under one roof. It also permitted a new kitchen cabinet assembly and
finishing operation to be established at Wycombe.
In 1959 E.H.Dean passed away after being in failing health for some
Progress was such that it became necessary to extend one or other of
the companies facilities each year. Before his death in 1965, Percy
was able to see that while a considerable part of the large site,
which he had had the foresight to acquire, was now employed as a
successful furniture factory, there was still space for future
Max succeeded Percy as Chairman, and in 1966 S.V.Goodchild was
invited to join the board.
Mr Percy Goodearl, 1954
The Mendy Street Factory shortly before its closure.
The Newlands area in 2003. Oxford Road is top left, Bridge St. joins Desborough Road bottom right. The yellow spot marks the position of the Factory in Mendy Street.
(Photo courtesy Wycombe District Council).