Our story starts over 200 years ago, with the birth of Samuel Lowe near Cotes Mill, Loughborough...
Samuel Lowe is born, near Cotes Mill, Loughborough.
Cotes Mill today.
Church records show John Booth, is a Loughborough Joiner, and is is married to Jane Lewell on the 9th of May.
in 1926 Their son William is born.
Booth's joinery shop in Rectory Place.
1830's John Booth is also an upholsterer. A canvas from the bottom of an upholstered chair, with the words ‘John Booth, upholsterer, Canal Pickfords Loughborough' was recently found dating from this era. It was in a chair that had returned to the firm for re-upholstery! It would have been on the outside of a roll of upholstery canvas sent to John Booth via Pickfords removers on the grand union canal.
Samuel Lowe marries Mary Scamp, and is a farmer at Model Farm Loughborough (two current directors live on former Model Farm land today).
Samual and Mary in old age
A Kelly's directories search for 'William Booth' son of John Booth shows that he had already joined his farther in the joinery trade by this date, he is 20 years old.
John and William's joinery and upholstery workshop moved to Sparrow Hill during in the 1840's. This building backs onto the current premises in Churchgate.
1855 Charles Lowe born to Samuel and Mary, he grows up as a farm boy on Model Farm.
Photo shows Model Farm today.
Charles first started dealing in antiques at the age of 15.
The 17yr old Charles begins his apprenticeship under William Booth at 28 & 29 Church Gate.
Booth's upholstery and joinery business has moved a couple more times since 1841, each time no more than a stones throw, from Sparrow Hill to Pinfold Gate in 1855, to Baxter Gate in 1863, and back to Church Gate no's 28 & 29 in 1870 , very close to the current premises.
Image of 28 & 29 Church Gate today - upholsterers again!
Aged 23, Charles marries Fanny Spencer.
The Lowes and Spencers are neighboring farmers. Fanny was brought up in Holt Farm Cottage, just half a mile away. The Little Woodbrook running down from the Forest, passed close by the Lowes at Model Farm, then along the edge of ‘Bri’s Field’ and a couple more before skirting the Spencers at Holt Farm, on its way into town.
An old map from the period showing the two Farms
During this period Charles proves himself as a master in the art of cabinet making, and enters into partnership with Booth becoming part owner of the business, continuing a tradition already in at least its 5th decade.
A lovely photograph of young Charles and Fanny.
Charles and Fanny have a son and name him Samuel.
Charles proves himself as an enterprising young businessman and an authority on fine English Craftsmanship. He buys out Booth and becomes the sole owner of the business at the tender age of 27.
Charles is soon branching out in removals and storage and invested in a fleet of sling and lift vans and horse-drawn wagons, one of which has been preserved by the current directors.
Charles Lowe wins a fabulous contract to furnish and fit nearby Beaumanor Hall, home of Lady May Herrick, lady in waiting to Queen Victoria,
A Magnificent stately home set in parkland, it became famous much later after being used by British military intelligence during World War II, being instrumental in their triumph cracking the notorious Enigma code.
An illustration of the Hall from the period.
1887 Charles Lowe continues to furnish Beaumanor Hall. Horses and carts loaded with men and materials, led by Charles on his Tricycle, rode out from Loughborough to the hall every morning to work on the refurbishment. Breakfast was served at the hall on long trestle tables, bowls of boiled eggs were skidded up and down the tables untill the men had had their fill.
The work at Beumanor Hall was completed by 1890 and firmly established Charles’ reputation as authority in cabinet making and fine furnishings.
With profits from the project Charles purchases the current corner premises at 37 - 40 Church Gate, a medieval Guildhall where Henry VII had once slept.
(The history of the current premises is a whole different story not touched on here but very interesting in itself.
An artical in a Loughborough Arts, Trades & Manufacturers illustrated publication from 1892, well worth a read!
Charles invests heavily in a coal and steam powered, belt driven, overhead drive shaft system, the engine is installed in the 'long shed', and powers the wood working machines in the cabinet making workshop.
In 1899 this was replaced by a large DC motor, the introduction of Loughborough's DC electricity generation being just down the road on Bridge street. Happily, at only just over 1000 feet away, this proximity helped mitigate the tremendous voltage drop, inherent in these early, locally generated, Direct Current systems, which drastically impeded distribution.
Shown here are a couple of the original wooden wheels from the workshop, now on holiday, they are on display in the offices! they had been powered via a 3 and a half inch iron shaft that ran the length of the current cabinet workshop, connected by a wide leather and canvas belts.
Charles Lowe commissions the building of cottages for his workers in nearby Burder Street.
Always looking to widen his services, in addition to upholstery, antiques, furniture and works of art, Charles is taking on contracting work, removals, warehousing, undertaking and coffin making, blinds and curtains, upholstery and bedding manufacturing, even producing his own branded mattresses and beds.
The very latest in fitted flooring is also being offered; Charles is supplying and fitting both the revolutionary new floor covering Linoleum, and is hand stitching strip carpets together to produce wall-to-wall 'fitted' carpeting for the really well to do!
Charles’ son Samuel marries Stella Lawrence
Charles is keeping up with the times, in addition to the electrical power installed in the workshop a few years previously, he now also has electric lights installed throughout the shop and workshops. The insurance company is duly informed, and they attach an endorsement to the fire policy accordingly, to cover this new risk!
(Samuel) Lawrence Lowe is born to Samuel and Stella.
A formal portrait of Charles in his late 50's
Being close to the towns first telephone exchange Charles installs one of Loughborough’s first telephones. the phone number was three digits - 554.
still surviving today is its own dedicated quiet room with padded door and peep glass to try and help the telephonist hear what was coming down the line and remain undisturbed!
The Great war. Philip Lowe, Charles' son, is a master cabinet maker. He is summonsed by the government to carry out vital work on the amazing new flying machines at the experimental Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough. The first ever aeroplane flight in Britain having been at Farnborough only 6 years previously!
Philip used his knowledge and skills with wood to work on the crucial and urgent job of experimentation and research aircraft being carried out at Farnborough for the war effort.
On the home front, Charles converts part of the Church Gate premises to provide home for displaced Belgian refugees.
Charles Lowe & Sons is country renowned for its antique restoration excellence even carrying out restoration work for King George V.
This note is from The Lady in waiting to the Queen, and reads:
The lady in waiting is commanded
by the Queen to thank Mr Lowe
for the table which has arrived
safely & was beautifully packed.
May 1. 1929"
The king was convalescing at Craigweil House, Bognor after serious illness.
Our current queen building sandcastles at Craigweil at this time.
Charles dies quite suddenly. (72yo)
He had enjoyed good health up until a stroke the year before. Whilst attending the place of worship he had purchased on school street so many years before, he was standing in the foyer putting his coat on at the time.
he left the business to his two sons Samuel and Jack (John Henry).
The obituary mentions him as one of the town's most highly respected townsmen and a well-known authority on antiques.
Dispite the sad death of Charles, things are still progressing apace under the stewardship of Samuel and John (Jack) Lowe.
A now teenage Lawrence, Samuel's son, finishes his education and joins the firm. In 1927 he and Miss Taylor experience ghostly goings on between the coffin cellar, the China room and the front shop. The same thing happens exactly a year later at the precise day and time. Lawrence carefully records it all in his diary.
Lawrence catches scarlet fever and comes close to death (18yo). Jack's only son had died young and the future looks bleak. Mercifully he pulls through and makes a full recovery.
The firm is carrying out high quality interior fit outs throughout this golden era of Art Deco, including the famous Blue John pub in Derby.
The great depression of the thirty's brought tough economic challenges. Samuel is taking a leading role in the running of the business and refuses to lay off any workers. He occupies them by restoring the considerable antiques stocks, and making furniture for stock. Not a single man is laid off during the whole depression.
Incoming ideas and technologies continue to be embraced.
An early form of electric intercom is installed in 1932 to aid internal communications on the premises, still installed today. (Employed by the current directors, in their youth, to scare the wits out of unsuspecting sub contractors by using it to produce weird howling noises down long and dark and apparently empty passages.)
1938 the first central heating is installed on the premises by personal friend Mr Messenger of Messenger and Co Ltd Loughborough. the boiler is coal fired and installed in the coffin cellar...
The second world war looms, Lawrence's call up to national service is delayed as the firm is employed in vital manufacture of black-out curtains.
The firm is also carrying out the removal and storage of fine furniture from stately homes requisitioned by the British military, seen on this invoice from the period.
(Note; CL&S monogram is by now fully developed to the form still used today. Also note; the phone number is now up to 4 digits)
The war brought its dangers. Substantial stocks of timber on the premises presented a considerable fire hazard from aerial attack. The firm was ordered to create a constantly manned Fire Watch Post.
This was duly done, the fire guard room being created in an area known as “The Dairy”, complete with blast proof doorway, easy chairs, bunk area and Stirrup pumps!
Today the Dairy remains, albeit as a dedicated tea and coffee making post.
Lawrence (30yo) is called up for the national fire service and deployed to Perth, Scotland.
As Charles had done in the first war Samuel again makes part of the premises available to house refugees displaced during the Second World War.
This time these include Count Von Posner, of Polish aristocracy and his family. He helps out with the Fire watch Duty’s, settles down, and spends the rest of his life in Loughborough, cutting hair in a barber shop a few doors down on Church Gate for many years.
A photograph of some of the staff July 1942
front row: Miss Phyllis Rigden (Peggy), Samuel, Jack & Lawrance Lowe
second row: Albert Pervin, Mrs?, Joe Upton
third row: ?,?,Harry Grundy?,
The company lost employees and trade during the war. Lawrence is discharged from the fire service and returns to Loughborough determined to rebuild the company and re-establish it as the leading brand for home furnishings and fine cabinetry.
Lawrence marries Doris Stones.
They had met during the war, Doris was in the ‘Land Army’ and was stationed at the Midlands Agricultural and Dairy College, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough.
Richard Charles Lowe is born to Samuel and Doris Lowe.
Charles Lowe & Sons has become a regular stopping place for overseas visitors, dispatching goods as far as Australia, New Zealand, America, Italy, France, Norway, and South Africa.
in 1952 The firm wins the contract to furnish a certain Opera house in Sydney Harbor, Australia.
In 1952 this is not the opera house you may be thinking of! Chalwin Castle was a precursor to the current Sydney Harbor Opera House which didn’t come along until some time later.
Craftsmen, some time in the 50’s possibly late 50’s
back row: Molly Morgan (Barrow), 'Snowy White?' , Stuart Attenborough, Norman Trasler
front row: Dave Sibson, Bobby Trasler, Pat Wellband.
Samuel Lowe dies.
Samuel leaves his assets to Lawrence and his two sisters. Lawrence’s brother-in-law immediately insists the company will have to be sold without delay in order to raise the capital to buy him out, this places Lawrence under serious pressure at this very hard time.
After 3 years of hard work and negotiations Lawrence is able to settle the estate with his sisters and Charles Lowe & Sons is able to continue. It becomes a Limited Company which Lawrence forms with his wife Doris.
He spends the rest of his life working incredibly hard in order to ultimately leave the firm debt free and successful.
By the 60’s Charles Lowe & Sons has been firmly re-established as the complete home furnishings provider, renowned for its antique restoration excellence, fine cabinet making and French polishing.
Heavily in debt, just one year after buying out his sisters, Lawrence makes a gift to the local Christian community of the church on school Street that had been passed down from his grandfather Charles,
Another early first, Lawrence Installs one of the earliest models of Closed Circuit Television in the show rooms to help protect the valuable stock.
Standard Atlas delivery van.
Richard Lowe completes his City and Guilds cabinet making course and joins the family business.
He oversees the reproduction of fine oak furniture, antique pieces are copied with faithful accuracy to replicate earlier furniture dynasties, carefully aged and distressed to authentically simulate the originals.
Charles Lowe & Sons is commissioned by Mr. Joseph Cyril Bamford, the C.E.O. of J.C.B. Diggers, to refit and trim the interior of his famous Rolls-Royce.
When JCB introduced the revolutionary 3C backhoe machine (the quintessential ‘JCB’), it was a massive success. The machine even provided the operator of the machine with facilities for boiling a kettle in the cab.
Mr. J.C.Bamford visited every purchaser personally in his Rolls Royce and presented them with their kettle. Mr. JCB’s customer visits became legendary and the 3C an overnight success.
Craftsmen mid 70's back row: Wayne Newby, Stuart Attenborough, Phil Boucher (Butch), David Paling, Richard Burke. front row: Ken Sharpe, Jim Birch.
Richard marries Jillian Marsh
They have 3 sons; Daniel Gordon & Greg.
Lawrence installs a diesel electric generator in order to keep the showrooms and workshops open during frequent power cuts caused by coal miner’s strikes.
1990’s The three brothers and current directors join the firm, serving their apprenticeships in the cabinet, upholstery and polishing workshops. They are taught traditional cabinetry by veteran cabinet maker Stuart Attenborough who has been with the firm since he left school at the age of 14 in 1952. He retires in 2013 after over 60 years with the firm.
1999 Generations brand oak flooring is created to mark the fifth generation joining the firm and to underscore particular emphasis on fine oak floorboards hand planed, aged and polished in the traditional way.
Demand for the Generations branded flooring grows and it is established as a leading alternative to reclaimed oak floor boards having the benefits of consistency and the modern performance of engineered oak but with the pleasing visual appeal of aged oak boards.
Supplies many listed properties and stately homes for refurbishment and extensions in projects nationwide.
Dan (21yo) and Greg (17yo) oiling some particularly large oak boards outdoors in the yard on a fine day!