Shapland and Petter Furniture

For more than a century, Shapland and Petter were respected and cherished employers in Barnstaple, supplying furniture and doors to customers throughout the world.  They were based in an impressive building on the southern bank of the River Taw which was a prominent element of Barnstaple’s townscape. The company employed up to 900 people and many former staff look back with satisfaction at the work they achieved. 

The founders, Henry Shapland and Henry Petter, emulated the style of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement, but without the handmade ethos of William Morris. The use of automated industrial methods meant their furniture became accessible to a greater breadth of customers.

Glass Plate Negatives

A key element of the firm’s work was the use of photography, both for depiction of their furniture in catalogues and in order to develop a visual archive of their work.  This led to a large accumulation of glass plate negatives which were passed to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.  They were recently delivered to the conservation studio at Devon Heritage Centre for cleaning, packaging and digitising. 

The negatives are extremely heavy and need to be stored upright, on their edges, in  made-to-measure boxes. Many decades of dust and detritus were painstakingly removed before the plates were wrapped in photo archive paper and stored in their boxes. They will be digitised for easy research access with the originals stored safely at North Devon Record Office.

‘Creative North Devon’ Project

The work is connected to the wider Creative North Devon project, which has largely been in abeyance for the last year.  However, it is hoped that the project will spring into life as – if things go to plan – the country is able to open up over the coming months.