The glass-topped table on the left came from the Gane House interior designed by Marcel Breuer in 1935 in Bristol. The smaller one may also be from the house. They were made locally by Gane and Co. The house belonged to Crofton Gane owner of the company who commissioned Breuer to design a range of furniture and to remodel and furnish his home. The interior was then used for promotional literature and as illustrations for magazine features. The simple timber carcass of each table is stiffened by L-shaped plywood pieces attached to the legs and projecting above to provide an anchor for the loose plate-glass tops. The larger table is the more elegant solution, the plywood both strengthening the leg physically and visually.
It or a table like it appears in a photograph of the Gane House published in Design For Today in December 1935. The smaller one is much more direct and simple with a floor-level cross-piece to ensure practical strength.
The grey opaque glass used for both tops is identical, with polished bevelled edges and a ribbed back and is much like the plate-glass used in the 30s for bath-sides and bathroom fittings and as tiles on the façades of Odeon cinemas. On the back of the smaller top is a paper label from William Cowlin & Son’s of Clifton. Cowlin’s were civil engineers and builders working on many major projects in Bristol during the 20th century.
There are two possible explanations for the label. Cowlin’s built many of the major buildings of the period and could have supplied the architectural glass to Gane and Co. One can imagine Breuer, who was constantly exploring and experimenting and took inspiration from local building materials in the Bristol area for his architectural work, spotting the potential of the architectural glass tiles. I need to check who the builders were for the Gane Pavillion designed by Breuer for the Royal Agricultural Show in Bristol at the same time. Alternatively, Cowlin’s in Clifton had a removal and storage business in the 30s and it is possible that the label refers to that. That would imply that the table did not come from the Gane house whose furnishings stayed with it until the 1970s.
Both pieces are in the Ken Stradling Collection in Bristol. Go to the Collection website at www.stradlingcollection.org for more information about the Collection and for details of upcoming exhibitions and how to visit us in Bristol.
This article was originally published in Oliver Kent’s blog Clay and Fire.