Crofton Gane and the All Electric House

The All Electric House – Stoke Bishop, Bristol.

P E Gane Ltd were established furniture manufacturers and retailers in Bristol in the first half of the 20th century. From 1933, director Crofton Gane became increasingly active amongst progressive designers, manufacturers and architects interested in promoting the values of International Modernism in Britain. As politics in Germany deteriorated and the Bauhaus closed, so many leading European figures came to London as refugees in the mid-30s. They were enthusiastically welcomed by this network, often active in the Design and Industries Association. Amongst the group was Bauhaus furniture designer Marcel Breuer, who like the others was keen to find opportunities for work. Much of the action was inevitably London-based and Gane was keen to promote modern design in the West of England and South Wales. Meeting Breuer, he immediately saw an opportunity, and commissioned him to design furniture prototypes for him, completely remodelling and furnishing the interior of his Bristol house and designing and building a ground breaking show pavilion for the 1936 Royal Agricultural Show in Ashton Court.

Breuer’s time in Bristol is well-known but researching P E Gane Ltd has drawn attention to the range of less well-known projects and ideas that the company was involved in between the First World War and the destruction of the business in the Blitz in 1940. Gane’s held regular exhibitions of new design in their College Green showrooms showcasing contemporary design and designers as well as designing a number of show house interiors for property developments working with a range of interesting architects and institutions. Amongst these is the All Electric House for which P E Gane Ltd designed the interiors.

People in Bristol are aware of classic Modernist houses like the Concrete House in Westbury-on-Trym (Connell, Ward and Lucas, 1934-5) but there are less well known treasures lurking in the suburbs. The All Electric House was commissioned by the Bristol Branch of the Electrical Association for Women and built in 1935. A local architect Adrian Powell was chosen for the task and worked to a detailed client brief.

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The All Electric House, Stoke Bishop, Bristol, 1935. Design for Today, Jan 1936. p.5.











The EAW aimed to demonstrate the potential of new electrical technology to make the lives of women less onerous. If you compare this small 4-bedroom house with the Concrete House or the Gane House, it differs in assuming that the domestic tasks are likely to be largely undertaken by the householder rather than maids and cooks.  Gane had Breuer revamp the whole house in theory but in practice the kitchen and service areas were left untouched. The middle classes after the First World War were far less able to rely on service than the earlier generation.

The house featured all kinds of electrical appliances and gadgets from an electric cooker, refrigerator and fires in every room to drying cupboards, electric clocks and food warmers. The reviewer in Design for Today, commented that design issues ‘were not subordinated to the propaganda interests of one industry.’ (Design for Today, Jan, 1936, p.7) P E Gane Ltd provided all the furnishings for the show house and Crofton was keen to show the latest stuff.

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The dining area in the All Electric House, Stoke Bishop, Bristol. 1935. Furnishings by P E Gane Ltd. The steel furniture is all by PEL Ltd. P E Gane catalogue 1936.

The house featured a single long reception room divided into a living/soft-furnished area at the front and a more enclosed dining area with a serving hatch from the kitchen and a side view onto a sun-terrace. Gane set the dining area out with a neat fitted cupboard and tubular furniture by British manufacturer PEL (albeit copies of continental designs). Note the light fittings and the elegant plain rug. He was clearly pragmatic and the other half of the room has a more decorative theme with a dramatic moon-shaped suite.

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The living-room/dining-room of the All Electric House, Stoke Bishop, Bristol. 1936. Furnishings by P E Gane Ltd. P E Gane catalogue, 1936.

Apparently the house sold within the week of opening and was a critical success. In recent years it has been lovingly restored, even to the point of the front-graden planting. Lovely to see.

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The All Electric House, Stoke Bishop, Bristol in 2016

It seems to be less well known that the EAW were brave enough to commission two All Electric Houses. The second one was about a mile away in Sneyd Park and was identical although not kitted out as a show house by Gane’s. Sadly it has suffered very badly indeed over the years – I can’t bring myself to post a photo.

There is more information on the Electrical Association for Women and the house on the Institute for Engineering and Technology website and also the University of Westminster’s page ‘Electricity for Women – The EAW in the inter-war years.’. Thanks to Chris Yeo our Curator for the black and white images.

This is a version of a post published on Oliver Kent’s blog Clay and Fire.

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A Taste of Sunshine


Standing Bull by William Newland, 1947

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sally Nash, the daughter of William Newland and Margaret Hine, artists who’s work is featured in the current exhibition at the Design Study Centre Of Brush and Clay: Painter Potters of the 20th Century.

In the post-war period Newland and Hine’s ceramics forged a path away from the sombre Anglo-Orientalism of Bernard Leach and his followers. Working with Nicholas Vergette, they drew inspiration from Picasso and the traditional tin-glazed ceramics of southern Europe. During the course of our conversation we talked about Newland and Hine’s travels in the Mediterranean just after the Second World War and the influence this had on their work.


Newland and Hine weren’t the only artists looking to sunnier climes for inspiration during the post-war period. Fascination with the Mediterranean could be felt in diffuse areas including fine art, illustration, cookery and garden design.


Jacket illustration by John Minton (1917-57) for Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean and French Country Food (1950).

One artist particularly associated with this trend was John Minton (1917-57), a fine artist and one of the most popular illustrators of the time, responsible for illustrating many books, most famously Elizabeth David’s first two cookery books.


John Minton (1917-1957) On the Quay, Cornwall, pen and ink, circa 1944. Image courtesy of Bonhams.

Looking at Minton’s illustrations, I’m struck by the similarities with Hine’s style.


Figure on a donkey by Margaret Hine, 1949

The vigorous rendering and hatching of Hine’s work is very much in the Minton manner. Even the heads of Hine’s figures have the same distinctive horizontal elongation seen, for example, in Minton’s Children by the Sea.

Children by the Sea 1945 by John Minton 1917-1957

John Minton, Children by the Sea, 1945. Image courtesy of the Tate Gallery.

Studio ceramics are so often seen in isolation from other genres that perhaps we forget that they were and are subject to the same influences, movements, challenges and artistic ideals.


Plate painted with a pierrot on horseback by Margaret Hine, circa 1950.

The exhibition has had its run extended and is at the Design Study Centre, 48 Park Row, Bristol until Wednesday 30th December.

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A Famulus chair for the Ken Stradling Collection – and one at Charleston


We have recently purchased this armchair at auction. Known as the Famulus, it dates from the mid 1930s and was designed by J P Hully and made by P E Gane and Co. of Bristol.

John Parkinson Hully (1882 – 1944) worked for Gillows of Lancaster before becoming Chief Designer for Bath Cabinet Makers. By the mid 1930s he was in-house designer at Gane’s, coinciding with Marcel Breuer’s time as Consultant to the firm in 1935-36.

The chair is made of birch and formed by the intersection of steam bent curves, the arms bending through 180 degrees to form sledge feet. At first glance, this is a feature it shares with the armchairs designed in 1935 by Marcel Breuer for the home of Crofton Gane, however, on those chairs the arms are composed of two sections, only partially bent and then pegged together. This chair must therefore date from after 1935, when Gane’s had acquired the machinery necessary for steam bending.


An identical chair, which belonged to Virginia Woolf, is in the collection of the National Trust at Monk’s House in East Sussex. Apparently Woolf bought a number of these chairs in the late 1930s for Monk’s House and gave one to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, which is now in the Studio at Charleston.


Famulus chair in the Studio at Charleston. Copywright National Trust images.

As soon as funds become available, the current 1970s brown Dralon upholstery will be replaced with something more period appropriate.



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Ken Stradling Collection at Margaret Howell – Preview Photos

Here are a selection of photos of the Ken Stradling Collection show at Margaret Howell at 34 Wigmore Street, London. The show is on until the 15th November. The work look stunning and sits beautifully alongside Margaret Howell’s elegant designs. The Marcel Breuer desk and chair from the Gane House is displayed in the window with pieces by John Leach and Robert Welch. Elsewhere in the gallery, the Breuer pieces are accompanied by a carefully selected range of objects from the collection of which many are glass. The selection is subtle with a number of red pieces acting as a foil to the quiet palette of the space as a whole.

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Margaret Howell window display 2 MH Long shot 3 MH general shot with MH MH general shot with glass and panelMH Black breuer desk and mirrors MH Couple looking at Breuer chairs DSC_9925 MH Exhibition panel

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Bill Newland, Margaret Hine and Sam Haile at the Ken Stradling Collection

Clay and Fire

‘Of Brush and Clay – Painter Potters of the mid 20th Century’

The current exhibition at the Ken Stradling Collection, 48 Park Row, Bristol. On until 9 December.

A selection of work fom ‘Of Brush and Clay’ including pieces by Nicholas Vergette, William Newland, Sam Haile and Margaret Hine. An exhibition of ceramics by Bill Newland, Margaret Hine and Nicholas Vergette together with Sam Haile celebrating an interesting group of mid-century artists whose interest in contemporary art and in painting set them apart. The show combines pieces from the Ken Stradling Collection with around 30 examples of Newland and Hine’s work on loan from their family.

Figure on a donkey holding bunches of grapes. Margaret Hine/William Newland. Tin-glazed earthenware. 1949. Private collection. Newland, Hine and Vergette were members of a group of artists working with clay whose interests lay away from the orientalist concerns of those lead by Bernard Leach…

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Ken Stradling Collection at Margaret Howell


Margaret Howell’s gallery in Wigmore St, London is currently showing a selection of more than 50 pieces from the Ken Stradling Collection chosen and curated by Margaret herself. The show included pieces from across the collection but central is a selection of furniture designed by Marcel Breuer for the Bristol house of furniture manufacturer Crofton Gane in 1935.

Christine Dove, Chairperson of the Society of Designer Craftsmen examines a model of the 1936 Gane Pavillion.


Margaret Howell’s News page  has a full description of the show and a video conversation between Margaret Howell and Ken Stradling.

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Chlöe Monks is a 2nd year student on the BA (Hons) Ceramics course at Cardiff School of Art and Design. She has been very much involved with the Ken Stradling Collection this year as a volunteer. She is volunteering with the Crafts Council and the National Museum of Wales as well!

Amongst all the other things she has to do, Chlöe has found the time to post on her blog about her experiences at the collection – Chlöe Monks – Ken Stradling Collection. Whilst with us she has been researching a Kenyan carved wooden stool which is one of a number of ethnographic and folk art objects that Ken has collected over the years. For her thoughts on it see her post African Stool.


Kenyan woman’s stool. Mid 20th-century. Ken Stradling Collection

Chlöe is volunteering at the National Museum of Wales as a tour guide for their major contemporary ceramics exhibition ‘Fragile’ which is on until October. The exhibition showcases a range of new work by artists and makers working with clay. These include installations by Phoebe Cummings, Keith Harrison and Clare Twomey. Expect to see things get broken… For more information about this show go to the .


Installation. Clare Twomey. ©NMW/Andy Paradise

Chlöe is volunteering at the National Museum of Wales as a tour guide for their major contemporary ceramics exhibition ‘Fragile’ which is on until October. The exhibition showcases a range of new work by artists and makers working with clay. These include installations by Phoebe Cummings, Keith Harrison and Clare Twomey. Expect to see things get broken… For more information about this show see the National Museum of Wales website.

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1-2015-04-14 10.35.53Amongst the artists represented in the current show at the Ken Stradling Collection is the driftwood sculptor Sid Burnard. Sid is a longtime friend of Ken’s and says he cut his teeth as a maker whilst working for him at the Bristol Guild years ago. Sid has kindly lent two pieces – a pelican and a pig – from the Goldmark Gallery. The pelican is a delightful piece that quivers gently on its orange plastic foot if you move it or a breeze catches it. It is typical of the kind of playful object that Ken enjoys and sits watching the door from the top shelf in the gallery.

Below is a 32 minute film made by Goldmark to celebrate Sid’s work. Well worth watching.

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Animal Magic – New show at The Stradling Collection opens with a sense of fun

Animal Magic – an Exhibition of Creatures from the Collection opens today at the collection’s Design Study Centre in Park Row, Bristol.

The new show at the Ken Stradling Collection showcases around 90 pieces which reflect Ken’s sense of fun in the form of animals. Every kind of medium is covered from steel to paper and from Wedgwood Coronation souvenir mugs to cheerful Danish wooden toys by Kai Bojesen.

In the gallery Eleanor Glover’s birds have managed to open the cage door and are escaping into the room. Lions roar and bulls posture while Bojesen’s monkey swings from the shelving. A blue papier maché tabby is curled up at the window keeping an eye on Park Row. On the wall is a tribute to Max, Ken’s first cat and a Sam Smith drawing of circus acrobats improbably balancing a lion and a tiger.

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These pieces are not necessarily the first ones you notice when visiting the collection because of their relatively small size. The discovery of a hedgehog or a seal amongst the studio pottery or on a side table always brings a smile. Brought out and displayed together the colour and energy of them is highlighted. Though some are toys and playful others are more reflective and sinister. Ian McKay’s wooden chicken stands proud but open the drawer in her side and it contains not eggs but a row of tiny trussed and roast birds. Other artists and designers featured include Bill Newland, Sid Burnard, Eric Ravilious, Peter Markey as well as a number of folk art pieces from around the world.

The show is open from Saturday 28 March to Wednesday 24 June 2015 – Wednesdays 10am – 4pm or by appointment. There is a fun activity sheet for children.

Click here for a pdf of the show poster Print one and stick it on your wall!

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Ken Stradling Collection aids Student Automaton Builder

The recent addition to the Ken Stradling Collection of a group of automata by Peter Markey as part of the Beales Bequest has provided it with a valuable resource for students wishing to explore the area. 3D Design students from the Foundation Diploma course at Bristol School of Art visited the collection recently as part of their studies and one in particular has made good use of the opportunity to see and handle these pieces.

Hanah Middlefinch’s Fortune Teller has given her a few headaches and the mechanism is a sophisticated use of wheels and pins that allows the figure both to nod her head and move her hands across the rune-stones on the table in front of her. She is built of wood, mdf, porcelain and textiles and operated manually by a handle at the side. The mechanism is allied to that used for the Kissing Couple piece in the collection although more complex. The drive shaft operates a crank to rock the head and two pinned wheels to drive the hands – one to the left and the other to the right.  A tricky bit of construction requiring a considerable degree of accuracy. The battery pack enables the candle to light to be lit.


The Fortune Teller prepares to reveal her hand.


The triple action operates the two hands and the head individually allowing one wheel l to push to the left and the other to the right.


A cold gaze as the rune-stones are shown. What will they say?

The Fortune Teller can be seen in action on YouTube here

Mixed media automaton. Head and hands are made from ceramic, the runes are made from polymer clay. The candle was attached to the battery pack and lit up as the head moved up but the connection short circuited and I’ve yet to fix it! HM

We wish Hanah all the best with her studies and at University next year.

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