Unlike many modern furniture companies, we can trace our heritage back well over a century, to 1888 in fact. At that time furniture production relied on sourcing local timber and the skill of the craftsman making the pieces.
There was very little in the way of mass production and pieces were made with whatever wood was in plentiful supply locally. The craftsmen could turn their hand to most things and items of furniture were produced to order and often to the requirements of each individual customer.
These are traditions we still maintain in the business today and, although the founder of our company may be amazed at some of the machinery we use to make the task easier, and the end product more consistent, we are sure they would approve of the values we preserve, both in what we produce and how we make it.
“We believe that it is better to do a few things very well rather than a lot of things moderately well.”
Our catalogue and website feature our principal product ranges and the variations that are available within each range. We believe that it is better to do a few things very well rather than a lot of things moderately well. It would appear that our longevity and many satisfied customers would bear out this philosophy.
From small beginnings
Cotswold Caners began life in High Wycombe – one of the furniture-making centres of England. Our founder, George Holt, set up a chair business in one of these bodging shops with his family, under the name of Geo. Holt and Son. It was from there that the odd item of bespoke furniture was produced by hand in very primitive conditions.
The bedroom and kitchen chairs made by craftsmen became the mainstay of the company between the two world wars. These were often loaded onto a horse drawn cart with the driver being told not to return until they were all sold!
During the Second World War the company made wooden aeroplane propellers, but in peacetime they found they could not compete. Consequently, they gathered together a team of skilled staff repairing caned and rushed chairs.
The workforce epitomised the impression of a bygone age, all charming, and over 60, but incredibly skilled. The prices being charged for this wonderful work were also ridiculously low… it was time for change!
New owners, new focus but the traditions live on…
1969 was quite a momentous year for Geo Holt & Son. The last of the line decided to retire and the business was purchased by Henry and Janet Gibbs.
Over the next 10 years further changes were gradually introduced, starting in 1971, when the first prototype headboard was caned by the company. This quickly (for the company anyway) started the road to where we are today.
By 1974 we had started to produce headboards and bedside tables, still using the tried and tested traditional methods and locally sourced wood. It was in the same year that the current owner Malcolm Carmichael started training in furniture manufacturing at the High Wycombe Furniture College. These two events, unrelated at the time, would eventually determine what Cotswold Caners is today.
The change of ownership and a focus on furniture production rather than repair certainly paid dividends, as by 1975 the company was supplying blue chip retailers such as Harrods and Heals with furniture made to order for their customers.
“…we continue to value craftsmanship,
quality and exemplary service to this day.”
Cotswold Caners is born
The change of name coincided with a move to our current home town of Cirencester, deep in the Cotswolds. We moved to our current modern factory in 1985 which allowed us to work much more effectively, making beds, headboards and bedroom furniture to order. This meant we could supply clients all over the country through our network of quality retailers.
Malcolm took over Cotswold Caners in 1988 and has been instrumental in the development of the company, introducing some state-of-the-art machinery.
That, as they say, is history, which the company is immensely proud of, and it is why we continue to value craftsmanship, quality and exemplary service to this day.
Malcolm Carmichael – a life in furniture making
If there is one aspect of our history that epitomises Cotswold Caners, it is the story of our owner which starts with an interest in furniture.
The theoretical and practical knowledge that Malcolm gained at the High Wycombe Furniture College was put to good use after graduating in 1977, when Malcolm started working for Ercol, one of the country’s leading furniture makers.
Whilst at college, and then Ercol, he competed at three World Rowing Championships with the GB Rowing Team, culminating in an Olympic Medal. These achievements cemented his wish to ensure his furniture truly represented British craftsmanship at its best.
The above wish was rewarded at the Furniture Show, where he was awarded first prize for the best designed suite of furniture that year.
Malcolm actually joined Cotswold Caners in 1982 as he knew the Gibbs, having worked at their factory in High Wycombe whilst at college. As he says:
“I have been very fortunate to have spent a lifetime doing something that is my passion, and I believe this is reflected in every piece of furniture we make.”