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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Peter Hall & Son

Every time I drop off my guide books at Peter Hall & Son in Windermere - that’s grandson Will reading one in the picture - I can’t help but covet the beautiful furniture which is on display here. If you wanted proof that the tradition of fine furniture making is in safe hands, this is the place to head for, or the firm’s workshop in Staveley.

Staveley is where the dining tables, chairs, sofas, sideboards, dressers, wardrobes and bookcases are all made and where in 1972 Peter Hall set up the business. A New Zealander by birth, he had just finished working for De Havilland in Hatfield, having acquired a degree in aeronautical engineering just after the war.

It was EF Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful that persuaded him to go into furniture making, and being married to the daughter of a Hawkshead vicar, this part of England seemed an obvious place in which to settle. By coincidence, the old county of Cumberland was where the De Havilland-manufactured Blue Streak rocket had been test-fired in the 1960s.

Today Peter Hall & Son - son Jeremy came into the business via Leeds College of Art and West Dean College, Chichester - are not only bespoke furniture designers and makers but woodturners, antique restorers and interior designers, the ethic and inspiration drawn from the Arts and Crafts movement.

English hardwoods like oak, ash, sycamore, elm, yew and walnut are their staple, with the very thickest of planks being air dried for up to eight years. The moisture content is then reduced further in a dryer.

Last year saw the opening of the boutique and interior design studio in Windermere which also sells the work of other artists and makers. Staveley has a small viewing gallery so you can watch the furniture being made or, as the picture shows, woodturning in action.

One of the more recent projects was the carving of a new serpent figurehead - called Sid - for the National Trust’s boat Gondola on Coniston Water. Gondola was Visitor Attraction of the Year in the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2016.

Bearing in mind John Ruskin’s influence on the Arts and Crafts movement and the influence of the Arts and Crafts on Peter Hall, it was a perfect commission. Ruskin spent the last 29 years of his life at Brantwood on Coniston Water, the lake much in the news recently because of the new film of Swallows and Amazons.

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