The Workshops

Gimson set up a workshop making furniture in 1900, initially in partnership with Ernest Barnsley. They employed Peter van der Waals as foreman based in temporary premises in Cirencester.

Alfred Bucknell on the left with his son Norman, 1930s

Alfred Bucknell on the left with his son Norman, 1930s

By 1903 the workshops had moved to Daneway House, near Sapperton but the partnership had dissolved. By the following year eight cabinet makers and four young local apprentices were making furniture to Gimson’s design.

In about 1902 Gimson set up a smithy at Sapperton and employed the young blacksmith, Alfred Bucknell. There were soon three or four men – experienced smiths and apprentices – working for Gimson, making hinges, handles, fire tools and decorative pieces such as candle sconce's.

The chair-making workshop opened in 1903. Unlike the other workshops it was a partnership between Gimson and Edward Gardiner, the son of the sawmill owner at Daneway where the workshop was based. Gimson provided the designs and Gardiner turned and rushed the chairs. The workshop was soon employing additional craftsmen and apprentices.

Gimson saw the craft workshop system as a model for reviving the rural economy, providing worthwhile training and creative employment.

Setting up the Daneway Workshops

Gimson took over sole responsibility for the Daneway workshops early in 1903 and found the first few years a struggle because of lack of capital.

He wrote to Sydney Gimson in 1904 to arrange for the sale of shares in the family business:

‘I am finding that Daneway can’t get comfortably along without a capital of £2500 so that I should like another £500’s worth of shares to be offered for sale.

I now have eight men and four boys and my orders including furniture not yet paid for come to £1000. … Until these shares are sold could Gimson & Co advance me £150 to be going on with do you think?  I may not want it, but my a/c at the bank is so low that I am not easy about it and I would rather not ask them for a further advance if it can be avoided.’

When his elder brother somewhat reluctantly arranged for the sale of the shares Gimson sent an account of his business. The letter is dated May 1904:

‘Thanks for your letter.  I wish too that it were possible to scramble along without selling so many of G & Co. shares.  But how else can capital be found?

For my first innocent calculations as to capital required no allowance was made for money owing or for the value of the incompleted work in the shop.  At the present time these two items come to £500.  Besides this I should like to have a balance of about £200 in the bank.

This is how my capital has gone

Repairing Daneway & turning farm buildings into shops - £250

Shop fittings - £75

Furniture in stock - £650

Stock of locks, handles etc. - £50

Seasoned timber - £200

Timber seasoning - £450

Furniture in workshop - £150

Furniture delivered & not paid for - £350

Capital for Blacksmiths’ shop - £100

Capital for Chairmaker - £25

Total - £2300

and then there is the balance of £200 that there should be in the bank making £2500 in all.’

A selection of metalwork from Gimson's workshops

A selection of metalwork from Gimson's workshops

Next Section:

The Craftsmen