14 February 2018
Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley, Yorkshire, 1718 and died in London in 1779. He’s
immensely famous, but why?
His fame stems from the fact he was arguably the most gifted cabinet-maker of his time,
and his services were sought by the great and the good. However, he wasn’t
simply born into his illustrious career, as his success came only following
significant efforts on his part to establish his name and further his
Chippendale was the only child to be born into a family of Yorkshire carpenters. After an
average education the details of his early career are obscure, which serves to
emphasise how his family business was not a particularly well known one when he
first started his working life.
It wasn’t until 1748, aged 30, that Chippendale started to make a name for himself when
he moved to London, set up as a cabinet-maker, married and had a large family.
His workshop was on St Martins Lane, a newly fashionable centre of the furniture making
trade in London throughout the 1800s. It was from this base that Chippendale
undertook many large-scale furnishing projects for grand houses throughout
The factor which helped him be so successful was that at the time there was a huge demand
for luxury goods.
The major point in his career which cemented his position as one of Europe’s foremost
cabinet-makers came in 1754, when he published a pattern book called The
Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directory.
The book was issued in 1755 and included 120 designs for pieces of furniture. It was bought
by many aristocrats and authority figures, who then clamoured for Chippendale
to create one of his pieces for them.
Not all his furniture followed these designs though, as for the right price he was able to
create bespoke pieces. Chippendale’s workshop also made a success of producing
simpler, plainer pieces for private spaces which were mass-produced and easily
As a result his business grew quickly, with a workforce of 40-50 artisans operating from
his St Martin’s Lane workshop by the end of 1755.
Nowadays his works are scattered across the UK and Europe, with many antique furniture
dealers like ourselves offering Chippendale furniture for sale.
To this day people still clamour to buy the pieces bearing his name, which is seen as a
byword for quality.
To mark the 300th Anniversary of Chippendale's baptism on 5th June 2018, Leeds City Museum will be hosting a 'birthday party.' There will be demonstrations of some of the crafts used by Chippendale as well as a chance to have a go yourself.
Full details and programme of events around the UK can be found on the 'Chippendale 300' website: www.chippendale300.co.uk