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Liberty & Company


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Set of 6 oak Arts & Crafts dining chairs, by Liberty & Company.

Height 0.710, Width 0.360, Depth 0.350

Price £1200.00 (LF1)



Good 'Tudric' pewter rose bowl, by Liberty & Company, designed by Archibald Knox

Height 0.140, Width 0.300

Price £950.00 (LM1)


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A History of Liberty Furniture
by Barbara Morris

There is a considerable variety in the furniture and styles of interior decoration produced by Liberty's between 1880 and 1910. On 13 March 1900, Arthur Lasenby Liberty gave a lecture on English Furniture to the Society of Arts. He began his talk with a brief historical survey in which he stated that our finest period of furniture began with the accession of James I, declined during the first half of the 19th century until the `Gothic revival brought us back to first principles of construction and directness of design'. He went on to stress the importance of comfort -- `Better a Windsor chair with comfort than a chaise a la Louis Quinze which makes one's back ache' - also stating that 'Utility, which means fitness, is in itself beauty if rightly understood'. Certainly, apart from some of the Oriental imports, most Liberty furniture was well made and soundly- constructed, but not all of it can he said to measure up to his other dictum of `no unnecessary decoration'.
'Anglo-Oriental' furniture by Liberty & Company

As Godwin had stated in 1876 (The Architect, 23 December), for the first year there was no 'decent furniture', but early in 1880 Liberty's decided to departmentalize their stock, furniture being sold in the `D' Department. The catalogue of oriental goods, Eastern Art Manufactures and Decorative Objects, published in 1881, included a section labeled 'Department D', with carved wooden pieces from China and Japan, together with cane chairs, stools and wastepaper baskets from North Africa. Apart from these imported foods, small items of bamboo furniture such as overmantels and shelves are described as 'Anglo-Oriental'. The catalogue also offered to have 'Special designs made to order drawings post free'. This Anglo-Oriental furniture was made by a French craftsman, Monsieur Ursin Fortier, originally - a basket maker, who had premises in Soho. Liberty's placed their first order with M. Fortier in 1881 and he continued to work exclusively for Liberty's throughout the 1880's, supplying a variety bamboo furniture including chairs and tables, cabinets and writing desks inset with panels of Japanese lacquer, leather paper or 'old fold' matting, and smaller items such as hanging shelves, easels and cakestands. In the 1890s the bamboo furniture was called 'Anglo-Indian' or `Chinese' and the rank widened to include chairs and settees upholstered in 'Djijim Kelims',

As well as being available in the Regent Street shop, some of the early Liberty furniture was shown in the galleries of the Royal School of Needlework in South Kensington. In 1883 The Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher (vol. III, 1883, p. 182) included Liberty's among its list of' high class firms selling furniture, stating that:
'…some of the cane chairs, carved cabinets, screens and flower stands shown by this enterprising firm are marvels of art and cheapness. Messrs. Liberty are evidently educating their Oriental producers as to the wants of our market and the result is that an English home can he almost entirely furnished with Eastern goods'.
Such furniture, however, would have had a limited appeal, and it became obvious that a wider range should be available. Accordingly, in 1883 Liberty's set up a Furnishing and Decoration Studio under the direction of Leonard Wyburd, a painter who exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1888 to 1905, describing himself as `Painter and Architect'. Wyburd retired from Liberty's in 1903 but continued to work independently describing himself, in an advertisement in the Studio Year Book of 1906, as `Designer and expert adviser in Decorations and Furniture - over 20 years with Liberty & Co.'

A wide variety of furniture in a number of different styles was to be produced by, or for, the Liberty Furniture and Decoration Studio under his direction, but Wyburd's own specialty was `Moorish' furniture and decoration, or Egyptian based designs.

The Thebes stools

Among the earliest items of furniture that can be fully documented were two stools, based on ancient Egyptian prototypes, both called the 'Thebes' and registered in 1884. One, a four-legged stool, usually made in walnut but also in mahogany, with turning on the lower legs and a leather seat attached to the frame with thonging, has the Patent Office Design registration No. 16673. It was hardly an original design, as the ancient Egyptian prototype had already inspired a number of artists and designers earlier in the century. A drawing of a similar Egyptian stool by J.G. Grace, dated 1853, is now in the RIBA, and Ford Madox Brown designed a comparable Egyptian style chair for Holman Hunt in 1857. A number of other artists, including Christopher Dresser and E.W. Godwin, produced drawings of ancient Egyptian furniture in the 1870s. It is tempting to suggest that Godwin, who was then in charge of Liberty's Costume Studio, may have had a hand in the origin of this 'Thebes' stool, for a drawing of the prototype occurs on a page of museum studies in a Godwin sketchbook of about 1875. The stool was to prove immensely popular and was produced over a number of years. One can be seen in a contemporary photograph of Arthur Lasenby Liberty's drawing room at The Lee Manor, the house he lived in from 1892.

The other 'Thebes' stool had three curved legs fixed directly into the dished seat which was carved from a solid piece of wood. It was made both in oak and mahogany, sometimes stained or lacquered red, and bears the registered number 16674. It was to prove equally popular, appearing in the firm's catalogues certainly as late as 1907. It was sold by Samuel Bing when he opened his shop, La Maison de ]'Art Nouveau, in Paris in November 1895 and in a number of other retail outlets in Europe, finding its way into museum collections as far afield as the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum in Trondheim, Norway, which purchased one from Bing in 1896.

It was copied by the Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), who claimed it as his own design, and also stained it red. He also stained red the bentwood chairs, made by Kohn, that he designed for the Cafe Museum in Vienna in 1899

Leonard Wyburd and Liberty

Leonard Wyburd's real specialty in the early (lays of the Furniture & Decoration Studio was the `Moorish' style which he employed not only for smoking rooms, but also for drawing rooms, and Liberty's own 'Arab' tea rooms. He was not the first in the field, for Owen Jones (1809-1874) had already executed Moorish designs for furniture and interiors earlier in the century, and the firm of H & J. Cooper of Great Pulteney Street were known for their Arabian and Moorish interiors from about 1875.
Liberty's owned a copy of Les Arts Arabes by Jules Bourgoin, published in 1867, which as Viollet-Le-Duc stated in the preface, "as a practical and complete treatise which reveals a whole new order of composition'. This, no doubt, provided an important source of inspiration for Wyburd. At first he seems mainly to have relied on imported furniture from North Africa, including inlaid coffee tables, Kharan stands, screens etc., but he soon began to design original 'Moorish' furniture, often including panels of Mushrebiyeh lattice work. J. Moyr-Smith in his book, Ornamental Interiors, Ancient and Modern (1887), reported that Liberty's: …showed a variety of art furniture in the Moorish or Arab style, most of it being light and elegant in form and moderate in price. The importation of Mushrebiyeh lattice-work from Egypt has probably induced Messrs Liberty & Co to turn this exceedingly artistic material to practical account: they have accordingly in their Kharan chairs made very tasteful use of this fascinating artistic product of Mohammedan Egypt, and Arabic cabinets, Mushrebiyeh screens, camphor or sandalwood tables, punkahs, traciered lamps, and Arabic stained glass windows of beautiful flowing designs and splendid colour are used to produce an Oriental effect.
J Moyr-Smith illustrated a Moorish smoking room as well as an occasional table and rush-seated chair incorporating Mushrebiyeh panels.

A tribute to the quality of Liberty's Moorish style is given in The Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher for 1 April 1884. Having described the Moorish style of Messrs. Cooper, the writer stated that:
Messrs. Liberty & Co …have fitted up apartments quite in the same style as the foregoing, and, from a commercial point of view, their display is more practical, because their
'adaptation of Arabian Art' - as they define it - is really consistent with inexpensive furnishing. They have applied the style, more or less successfully, to cheap forms of ordinary furniture.,.

The accompanying illustration showed three Anglo-Moresque chairs. The wooden armchair in the centre, which has panels of Musharebeyeh was stained darkish green and was as said to be 'remarkably easy and not uncomely' When made comfortable by the addition of a few cushions. An example of this chair is now in the Cecil Higgins Museum, Bedford. The chair on the left was described as a good model, and the bracket supports to the legs and back were praised as good, constructive features, giving strength to an otherwise rather flimsy design. The third chair, like some of the Thebes stools, was, painted vermilion red, and had a Moorish arch motif cut out of the back, and splayed straight legs. It was described as a 'crude looking chair' which is an example o1 that vermilion coloured furniture which has been of late, so much in demand. When there are two or three pieces in a roam, the effect is, I think too florid; but a single piece frequently helps to light up an apartment'. The furniture was displayed in a room with Egyptian red walls, the ceiling painted in colour, with a Saracenic design; some of the Mushrebiyeh screening had coloured glass behind it, and lamps hung from the ceiling. There were also folding stands for brass trays, brackets, what-nots, and fabrics. The writer pointed out how Liberty's were not content to act merely as importers, but: …wisely perceive that a much larger trade can be secured if the public are only shown how the treasures and styles of the East can be transformed or utilized for the purpose of everyday life in this country. Thus they embrace in their present business home-made productions, in the Moresque style, as well as originals, and the clever way in which the two are wedded does considerable credit to the firm. I have never seen a display of such goods more calculated to secure business or to meet the wants of middle class as well as wealthy buyers.

The Moorish style was to feature prominently in Liberty catalogues and sketches of interior decoration well into the next century, for their Three Styles of Furniture and Decoration, published in 1909, features an `Eastern smoking room'. Indian elements where often mixed with the Arab style and a number of the interiors Deere designated meter as 'Oriental'. The Liberty Handbook of Sketches and Prices and Other Information for Artistic and Economical Domestic Decoration and Furniture, which has been tentatively dated 1889 although it is probably slightly later, shows folding Mushrebiyeh lattice screen,, Kharan chairs and writing table, an Anglo-Arab drawing room, a section of an Arab hall, and a morning room in Arab style. It also includes a press reports of 13 April 1889, under the heading `An Eastern Dream' which describes the Eastern Music Room and corridor at 27 Grosvenor Square, which was executed for Lady Aberdeen, the wife of the 7th Earl and 1st Marquess of Aberdeen. The room was described as: … a triumph of taste and a monument to 'Liberty' enterprise and art. The ceiling panels are modeled from windows around the tombs of the Queens of Shah-Ahmed at Ahmedabad, the leaded glass from the designs of the tombs of Yufus Mooltan; the exquisite lattices hail from the Punjab, the fire dogs from Nepal, and the tiles from Mooltan. Pure and perfect Orientalism are supreme in this exquisite room.

Wide variety of styles

As in this Handbook of Sketches, together with other Liberty publications of the late 1880s and 1890s, eclecticism was rife, with Orientalism going hand-in-hand with revived English styles, which ranked from Tudor and Jacobean to 18th century country furniture, and catered for a wide range of artistic tastes. Liberty's emulated Morris and Company in producing a considerable variety of rush-seated chairs with the names `Chesham', `Wykeham', `Hampden', `Argyle' and `Arundel'. The `Lincoln' set, which had turned decoration recalling some of the simulated bamboo furniture of the Regency period, comprised a settee, a gentleman's chair, a lady's chair and six single chairs, all for the price of 10 guineas. The 'Lincoln' child's chair could be bought separately for 7/6 in the ebonised version, or for 10/6 in walnut. The `Norfolk' was a corner chair composed of ebonised bobbin turning; and a three-legged stool with a round seat called the `Patience' was advertised as being in `Art Colours'. These adaptations of English country furniture, introduced in the 1880s and 1890x, sold well into the 20th century. A simple Windsor-like chair, made in beech and stained green, which appears in the Liberty Yule-Tide Gifts catalogue of 1895-6 was certainly sold abroad, for one was purchased by the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum in Trondheim from Messrs Hirschwald of Berlin in 1902. Most of this type of furniture would have been made by outside firms, including William Birch of High Wycombe, but how much of it was exclusive to Liberty's is not clear. The Liberty Yule-Tide Gifts catalogue of 1897 illustrates a chair with five spokes com erring from the shaped top towards the upholstered seat, which is set on four splayed legs and is described as the `Antwerpen' chair, `A quaint chair, strong and light, made of walnut, seat upholstered and covered with tapestry. Price 15'-'. The identical chair, however, was illustrated in the Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher (1 January 1889, p. 172) described as an `old fashioned type of kitchen chair refined up to the form of a "gossip" chair painted in artistic green, with a prettily upholstered seat', and as sold by Messrs Hindley & Sons, who specialized in reproductions of 18th century English furniture.

Oak furniture by Liberty & Company

The most characteristic Liberty furniture was made in oak, solidly and well constructed in a somewhat ringed style, party- based on English rural forms. It was often embellished with beaten copper plaques, elaborate copper hinges, lock plates and handles, and with leaded glass cupboard doors, and sometimes an appropriate carved inscription at the top. A typical example of this style is a huge oak sideboard with copper fittings, including a repousse copper panel of two ships and a flying dragon, which is flanked by two small cupboards with leaded glass panels. At the top is the rather curious carved inscription `IT IS THE FAIR ACCEPTANCE THAT CREATES THE ENTERTAINMENT NOT THE CATES' (cates being purchased provisions, as opposed to homemade ones). Below are two cupboards with copper hinges, escutcheons and drop handles. The sideboard was designed by Leonard Wyburd and was illustrated in the Studio (vol. II, 1894, p. 35) and also later in the house (vol. I, 1897, p. 90). An earlier, simpler example was a rather `mediaeval' sideboard with heavy hinges and locks that was illustrated by Moyr Smith in 1887, citing it as an example `of a very simple and inexpensive style of dining room furniture which yet had spirit and individuality. To emphasize the 'Medieval' quality, the sideboard was set with German Stoneware and roemers, and reproductions of old Venetian glass.
By the 1890s a considerable range of this heavy oak furniture, including sideboards, bookcases, tables, chairs and bedroom suites, was available, much of it designed by Wyburd himself. Most were given 'Saxon' or Scottish names and the oak was `rendered the colour and finish of old work'. A characteristic example, one of several variants, was the `Lochleven Buffet', introduced about 1890, which had a small cupboard, glazed with leaded 'bulls-eyes', and two open compartments on a shelf raised from the board by turned columns, with a drawer and cupboards below . Such items sold abroad as well as at home, and a 'Lochleven Buffet' was purchased by the Osterrichisches Museum fur angewandte Kunst in Vienna. A very similar bookcase, with the same kind of asymmetric al arrangement of open shelves and a glazed cupboard above a fall-front desk had a carved inscription at the top 'READING MAKYTH A FULL MAN WRITING AN EXACT MAN'. In somewhat similar style but lighter, were shelves for bric-a-brac, a combined clock and wall bracket called `The Thoecen', and the 'Raleigh' smoker's cabinet with the dubious motto `THE MAN WHO SMOKES THINKS LIKE A SAGE AND ACTS LIKE A SAMARITAN'. These and other similar articles appear in the Yule-Tide Gifts catalogue of 1895-6.

The 'Culloden' suite had a sideboard made in finely grained oak, enriched with wrought copper fittings, with an upper cupboard glazed with leaded glass, and drawers and lockers below. The accompanying rush-seated dining chairs, with broad slatted backs, were similar to those produced by Morris & Company in the 1890s. A Yule-Tide Gifts catalogue: undated, but probably 1899, includes a two page central section illustrating a number of smaller pieces of furniture including the 'Wiclif' chair 'of quaint and simple design', and two heavy rush-seated armchairs, the `Ethelbert' and the `Athelstan'. The Athelstan design featured as a bedroom suite in the Liberty Furniture catalogue of 1902, described as a serviceable and artistic suite in solid oak. The upper panel of the door of the wardrobe had a hand-stained panel of a landscape, and heart-shaped cut-outs, the latter a feature of many Liberty pieces around the turn of the century. The washstand had 'antique' tiles at the top and back and the dressing table had rather primitive looking handles made of a piece of oak dowelling, attached to the drawers by small rectangles of wood at either end. The same handles appeared on another bedroom suite by Leonard Wyburd of about 1899 which showed an Egyptian influence, being embellished with `Lotus' insets in pewter, and a lotus design stenciled on the matting splashback of the washstand which was attached to the frame by thonging.

Wyburd also produced a number of smaller items such as the 'Sigebert' table; this had a hexagonal top and art nouveau tulip motifs cut out of the three legs, which were joined by three stretchers forming a triangle. Art nouveau fretwork also adorned the 'Suffolk' stand, which combined an occasional table with shelves for hooks or objects. It is difficult to ascertain to what extent these designs of the 1890s, were by Wyburd himself. An undated Handbook of Sketches, Part ll, Reception Room;, halls, Dining Rooms, Drawing Rooms, Boudoirs, Morning Rooms, Smoking Rooms and Billiard Rooms probably spans dates from 1893 to 1900, for the first sketch, 'A Summer Cottage' is signed by V.T. Jones and dated 1893, whereas other sketches labelled 'Recent developments' are manifestly later. The sketches include `The Witlaf" sideboard, in solid oak, with an embossed copper panel of boys in a Viking ship, which is signed H.F.T; other illustrations, including a Dutch breakfast room with a frieze of 'Old World Battleships' above the dado, are signed P.E.Q. in monogram, while a Saracenic smoking room design is signed G. Hentschel. These unidentified initials are possibly those of the studio draughtsmen, rather than the designers, for an illustration of a morning room called the 'Rossetti' (as it included reproductions of his paintings) shows the `Sigebert' table and the `Suffolke' stand, both of which have been attributed to Wyburd. Little is known of the personnel of the Furnishing and Decoration Studio, apart from E.P. Roberts who joined the design team in 1887, and succeeded to the management in 1903 on Wyburd's retirement. According to the Liberty Lamp (vol. VI, 1930, p. 126), Liberty's first took over a workshop of their own in 1887. It was supervised by a Scot, James Thallon, who had as his foreman George Wolfe, who had previously worked with Thallon at the cabinet-works of Messrs Howard of Berners Street. When James Thallon retired in 1898, his son took over, to be succeeded in turn by George Wolfe who remained with the firm until his retirement in 1931. Not all the furniture was produced in the Liberty -workshops, some probably being made by independent craftsmen. Certainly, both chairs and cabinet furniture were made for Liberty's by William Birch of High Wycombe, some of it designed by F.G. Punnett. Punnett was possibly responsible for some of the more elegant pieces of Liberty furniture which were first produced in the late 1890s. This furniture was made in mahogany or walnut, or occasionally in satinwood, rather than in oak. It often shows the influence of C.F.A. Voysey and is similar to that produced by J.S. Henry of Old Street, a firm which also employed E.G. Punnett as a designer.

A typical Liberty piece is a music cabinet made in 1897 or 1898, which is now in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle. Made of mahogany, it has four capped posts rising above the main carcase, and art nouveau plant decoration in coloured woods on the doors and upper rails. The same style can he seen in an elegant mahogany display cabinet of approximately the same (late, which has dazed doors, marquetry in coloured woods and mother-of-pearl, and elaborate brass lock plates and handles set with small blue ceramic bosses. A number of occasional tables have similar art nouveau floral marquetry. An equally elegant suite in walnut, inlaid with delicate motifs in mother-of-pearl, was designed by the Glasgow architect George Walton (1867-1933). George Walton, the son of an unsuccessful painter, after attending evening classes at Glasgow School of Art, abandoned his career as a bank clerk and set himself up as `George Walton & Co., Ecclesiastical and House Decorators' in 1888. He moved to London in 1897, and in 1898 secured an important commission to furnish Kodak showrooms in London, Glasgow, Brussels, Milan and Vienna, and continued to pursue a successful career as an architect and designer of stained glass, furniture, textiles and wallpapers. As well as designing furniture, he also designed some of the later 'Clutha' glass sold by Liberty. A satinwood drawing room suite, with a glazed cabinet, two armchairs, single chairs and a table, virtually identical to one in a Liberty Inexpensive Furniture catalogue of about 1905, clearly shows the influence of George Walton although it may not have been designed by him. There is a strong `Glasgow style' influence in much of the Liberty furniture of this date, as shown in the room settings in their Dress and Decoration publication of 1905. Wylie and Lochhead of Glasgow retailed some Liberty furniture and there is a distinct similarity between some of their pieces, particularly the hall furniture.

As well as their original styles, Liberty's was responsible for a number of revivals. Prominent among them was the so-called `Jacobean' style, which Liberty described as `perhaps the most ENGLISH in its characteristics …. 'and in many respects the most suitable to our climate, tastes and habits'. This style was considered particularly suitable for halls, staircases, billiard rooms and dining rooms, with tables with bulbous carved legs, inglenooks and oak panelling, with plaster friezes and ceilings, some executed by G.F. Bankart. What was called 'Modified Tudor' or 'Domestic Gothic' also found favour, and often incorporated linenfold oak panelling which was to become a Liberty speciality. `Elizabethan' and `English Renaissance' are also found, and while English revivals predominated, an occasional foreign influence was permitted. The 'Holbein' sideboard designed by Wyburd, which has similar decoration to that on the shelves and brackets in the 1895-6 Yu1eTide Gifts catalogue, is described as `Flemish', while the 'Culloden' (lining room is described as `German Gothic'. Unlike many of their competitors, Liberty did not favour French styles, and avoided the fashionable 'Neo-Rococo' and `Louis Quinze' and `Louis Seize' styles. These varied styles of Liberty interior decoration, perhaps because of their very Englishness, had a marked success abroad, and commissions were received throughout Europe and from as far afield as India and South Africa.

Apart from permanent schemes of interior decoration, Liberty's were also involved in more ephemeral and exotic schemes for exhibitions and other special occasions. As well as providing the materials for the costumes for F.C. Burnand's play The Colonel, adapted from a French play satirising the aesthetes, and the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Patience, when the latter transferred from the Opera Comique to the newly built Savoy Theatre (designed by the architect Charles John Phipps (1835-1897)) which had opened on 14 October 1881, Liberty's designed a special reception room for the Prince of Wales, festooning the room with a selection of Liberty silks. Similar decorations were provided on occasions for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Haymarket Theatre, the Lyceum and Drury Lane. For The Mikado (1885), with its Japanese setting one of the most popular of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, Liberty sent representatives to Japan to study the native costumes at first hand, and bring back correct materials for both the costumes and stage sets.
Special schemes by Liberty & Company
In 1875 Arthur Liberty had been involved in setting up a Japanese house in the park at Alexandra Palace in North London, but in 1885 he was to undertake an even more ambitious project, the setting up of an Indian Village at the Albert Exhibition Palace in Battersea Park. This was a cast iron and glass building similar to the Crystal Palace and was first erected for an exhibition in Dublin, and then moved to Battersea in southwest London. This enterprise involved bringing over a whole contingent of native Indian craftsmen, entertainers, musicians and cooks. A Liberty employee, Mr A. Bonner, had the rather daunting task of collecting the Indians and bringing them to England, complicated by the fact that the Indians belonged to different castes and religions, including Hindu, Mohammedan, Zoroastrian and Roman Catholic. The craftsmen included spinners, weavers, fivers, dressmakers and embroiderers, brass workers and jewellers, carvers and inlaid woodworkers and modelmakers, and among the entertainers were a snake charmer, an acrobat, jugglers and dancing girls. The idea was to show the skill of the Indian craftsmen and no doubt also to promote Liberty's own Indian imports.

Liberty's also provided decorations for Queen Victoria's Golden jubilee in 1887 and for the celebrations of the Silver Wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in the following year. Perhaps the most exotic of these ventures was the decoration of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton on the occasion of a ball given for a wealthy Indian Prince, the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, who was spending the winter of 1887-8 in the town. Guy Bentley, writing many years later in the Liberty Lamp in 1927, recalled that: 'several truck loads of carpets, rugs, embroideries, palampores and other Oriental goods valued at over .£2,000 were transported to Brighton, and in about for y-eight hours the Pavilion was transformed into a scene from the Arabian Nights.'
Guy Bentley, with two other Liberty employees, attended the ball, and he described how `the Rani (the Prince's wife) was concealed in a small room fitted up for her where, behind Musharabeyeh screens, she could watch the festivities'.

The Royal Pavilion transformed

The hall took place on 8 December and a full description of the decorations was given in the Brighton Guardian for 14 December 1887. Described as being `decorated internally with the most lavish Oriental splendour', the Gaekwar's colours of yellow and (lark blue were used throughout the scheme. In one apartment the colours were emphasized in the festooned hangings of Indian muslin and rich embroideries, and in the chief supper chambers they were again found most appropriately blended in the spread tail of a peacock, which formed a conspicuous table ornament. The doorway leading to the main corridor was decorated with a sumptuous piece of antique Chinese embroidery worked with figures in crimson and gold silks, with on either side Japanese panels embroidered with storks. The seating in the corridor was covered with Turkish and Persian rugs and the natural divisions of the apartment were adorned overhead with festooned curtains of vellow Indian muslin. The walls were hung with Japanese embroideries, glittering with gold thread, and open fans of cerulean blue silk and yellow flowers added to the colour scheme. Large palm trees were set at intervals; the floor was covered with brightly coloured rugs, and mirrors reflected the splendour of the scheme. The double staircase at the north end of the corridor was hung with printed Indian palampores. The Saloon was furnished as a throne room and the dais, approached by two or three steps, was covered with a fine Dhurrie carpet, overarched with a canopy of blue and gold, with draperies at the back. The chair of honour, or throne, was in crimson velvet and gold with a tapestry behind embellished with the Gaekwar's crest of a crown and a scimitar.

The two large apartments, the Music Room and Banqueting Room, were set aside for (lancing, and the settees covered with Persian rugs. Platforms decorated with festoons of muslin were provided for the bands, and were surmounted by a frieze composed of Indian hand screens of kus-kus grass. The oblong chamber behind the Banqueting Room was transformed into a retiring room for the Gaekwar by the liberal use of old gold stain, which covered the walls and ceiling, with a dado improvised in rich tapestry.

In addition to fairy lights, illumination was provided by electricity. The Corporation Minute Book recorded that the electric light was 'steady and brilliant' from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Minutes also recorded that the Gaekwar permitted the decorations and electric light to remain in place, free of charge, for a concert held in aid of local charities on 12 December.

Liberty's were by way of being pioneers in the use of electric lighting, using it for their own Eastern Bazaar by 1887 and advertising that they could carry out schemes of electric lighting for both domestic and commercial use. The only hitch in the proceedings occurred when one of Liberty's workmen accidentally damaged a picture, but Liberty's expressed their deep regret and offered to pay for the repair, an offer that was gratefully accepted.

The Brighton Guardian regarded the ball as `the most splendid entertainment of its kind ever held in the Pavilion since it became the property of the Corporation'. This had been in 1850, when it was sold to the town by Queen Victoria for £53,000. To those who know the Pavilion today, the transformation must be hard to envisage, but when the building was sold to the Corporation, most of the furniture and moveable decorative features were kept in Royal possession and dispersed, to he returned only in recent years.

The 1902 Furniture catalogue shows a wide range of Liberty furniture, including the 'Rowena' drawing room suite in mahogany. The cabinet from this suite, an example of which is now in the Cecil Higgins Museum, Bedford, was described as `Mahogany cabinet, in rich colour with unvarnished surface. Relieved by three inlaid panels of various coloured woods and designed in the centre with a glazed cupboard for bric-a-brac. Suitable, also, for a boudoir'. The `Ethelwynn' drawing room suite in walnut was somewhat simpler and showed something of an Austrian influence. The room setting for this suite showed a frieze probably designed by George Walton. The 'Helga' suite, described as `a dainty bedroom suite in white enamelled wood', had a hanging wardrobe with a curtained space above for bonnets. The 'Athelstan' oak bedroom suite was shown in a room with a peacock frieze, and included the 'Stronza' armchair, an adaptation of a traditional Orkney chair with a high semi-circular back of woven rush. The 'Culloden' dining room suite was also included, another oak dining room suite called the 'Dunkeld' in which the wood was stained grey-brown and dull wax polished. This finish has recently been revived by Liberty in some reproductions of their turn of the century furniture.

The 1907 catalogue of furniture contains less of interest. Although the 'Culloden' and 'Athelstan' suites are still featured, the furniture on the whole is simpler and less original, with more or less straightforward reproductions or adaptations of `Queen Anne' and 'Hepplewhite' furniture. Whether this was occasioned by the retirement of Leonard Wyburd in 1903, or merely by following the same path as Morris and Company and other high-class firms at that time, a distinct Liberty style is no longer dominant. There are a few touches of originality such as two charming swing cradles with embroidered linen curtains, illustrated in the Studio Year Book of Decorative Art (1906, p. 84), and a nursery dresser with inset pictorial panels of Dutch children. As a writer in the 1906 Studio Year Book wrote: ….perhaps as a reaction to the extravagancies of art nouveau . . the demand of the day… is practically confined to copies or adaptations of the past.... It is not a little mortifying for all who have been looking hopefully for a fresh and vital style in English furniture design, to be obliged to acknowledge that enterprise in that direction has sustained a check which has temporarily impeded its progress in that country.
This trend towards traditional design was to continue at Liberty's in the 1920s and 1930s, with most of the innovations in the field of textiles and dress. It was not until the 1950s that they were to resume their pioneering role in promoting the best of contemporary design, while successfully maintaining a traditional 'Liberty' image, a trend that has continued until the present day.

Directory of Liberty Manufacturers

Aller Vale Pottery, Newton Abbot, Devon
This pottery began making brown ware from 1865 and in 1868 was taken over by John Phillips. In 1887 the works became known as the Aller Vale Art Pottery. Liberty & Co stocked their wares between the years 1887 and 1901. Their work is often adventurous, the decoration free and bold. Impressed mark.

Murlle Bennet & Co, London
This firm frequently supplied small items of Art Nouveau style jewellery to Liberty and Co during the early years of the 20th Century. They specialized in pendants and brooches, usually enameled. Their designs frequently follow the typical Liberty Art Nouveau style of the early years, but are sweeter and prettier than the purer and more geometric designs of Archibald Knox. Murle Bennet & Co were an Anglo-German firm who frequently advertised as their own production, pieces which appeared in the Liberty and W.H. Haseler catalogues. This was not uncommon practice at a time when there was a great deal of pilfering and pirating of the designs of other firms. These were often just sufficiently modified as to appear 'original'. A lot of Murle Bennet jewellery sold through Liberty and Co was probably made in Pforzheim, although the pieces often carried the marks of both Liberty and Haseler. There has always been some confusion about the exact nature of this firm's activities. Their jewellery was close to the Liberty and Art and Crafts styles, but was also influenced by the contemporary German geometric style. Their claim to have designed all their jewellery is belied by their advertisements, which illustrate pieces supposedly exclusive to Liberty and which appear in the catalogues of that firm. They also supplied Connell of Cheapside and the Goldsmiths' Company with jewellery.

C.H. Brannam Ltd, Barnstaple, Devon
Brannam's operated from Litchdon Street Pottery in Barnstaple, and were notable for their grotesque and fantastic motifs: animals, birds, sea creatures and dragons. They frequently used the old Roman name 'Barum' for Barnstaple as their trademark, but their marks are extremely varied, from incised markings in cursive script to impressed markings in capital letters, often using the words 'Made for Liberty'. Early pieces are usually signed in a cursive script with the date, and often the initials of the designer such as J.D. (John Dewdney) or W.B. (William Baron).
In 1882 Liberty & Co became the sole agent for C.H.Brannam and remained so until 1914, when control of the firm passed into the hands of Brannam's two sons. They continues to supply Liberty with pottery until the 1930s.

Giuseppe Cantagalli, Florence
Italian pottery whose wares were sold by Liberty & Co in the late 1880s and 1890s. They made earthenware with painted decoration in bronze lustres and blues.

Compton Pottery, Guildford, Surrey
Mary Fraser Tytler, wife of the Victorian painter George Frederick Watts, founded the Compton Pottery in 1902 and produced a range of garden pottery for Liberty & Co, many items from Celtic designs originally created by Archibald Knox.

Messrs Connell & Co of Cheapside, London
Liberty sold off many exhausted lines of pewter to this firm who produced their own adapted versions, often from the original designs by Archibald Knox. Their shapes, however, were always traditional and the use of blue and green ceramic tablets was seldom as effective as the electric blue and marine green so often employed by Liberty & Co. Most of the Knox designs were sold to Messrs Connell around 1909 -10 when demand for this type of pewter began to wane.

James Couper & Sons, Glasgow
Makers of Clutha Glass, mainly designed by Christopher Dresser and sometimes by George Walton, and extensively used by Liberty & Co as liners for their pewter ware, particularly for designs by Archibald Knox.

Della Robbia Pottery, Birkenhead
This factory was started in 1894 by Harold Rathbone and Conran Dressler and closed again only 7 years later in 1901. The firm specialized in tiles, earthenware and particularly relief plaques inspired by the panels, reliefs and fountains created in Florence by the sculptor Luca della Robbia and his family. Mark 'della Robbia', incised or impressed with ship device and often the initials of designers and decorators. For example: 'C' for Charles Collis, 'C.A.W.' for C.A.Walker, 'C.M.' for Carlo Manzoni, 'L.W.' for Liza Wilkins and 'R.B' for Ruth Bare. Their work was widely sold by Liberty & Co between the years 1894 and 1901.

Farnham Potteries, Farnham, Surrey
Managed by A.H. Harris & Son and operated as early as 1893, Farnham Pottery was sold in large quantities by Liberty's. Their ceramics appear in the Liberty catalogues of the day as 'Green Ware'. The shapes are often simple and similar to those of the Brannam Ware produced around 1915-16.

Gouda, Arnhem
This Dutch pottery centre produced highly colourful and distinctive pottery, frequently bearing the mark 'Made for Liberty'.

W.H. Haseler, Birmingham
Goldsmiths, Silver smiths and jewelers, founded in 1870 by William Hair Haseler. The firm of Haseler & Co went into formal partnership with Liberty & Co when the two firms joined forces to launch the Cymric silver scheme under the title Liberty & Co (Cymric) Ltd.

J.P. Kayser & Sons, Krefeld, Germany
German metalwork form founded in 1885 near Dusseldorf by Jean Kayser. From the mid 1890s they manufactured pewter Jugendstil objects such as ashtrays lamps, beakers, vases, tea and coffee sets best known as 'Kayserzinn'. Their main designer was Hugo Leven, a name to e compared with that of Liberty's main pewter designer, Archibald Knox.

L.Lichtinger, Munich
German pewter manufacturers from whom Arthur Liberty imported pewter, mainly tableware, for sale in his Regent Street shop from 1899.

E. Littler & Co, Merton Abbey, Surrey
Block printed textiles and scarves were printed for Liberty by Littler & Co. (William Morris had his print works at Merton Abbey but his property was downstream form Littler's works. 'We sent our dirty water down to Morris!' was a favourite Liberty remark.) In 1904 Liberty took over the works, and they acquired the freehold in 1922. By the 1890s Liberty were taking up the whole of Littler's production. The firm continued to hand print there until 1973 when the premises were sold.

Loetz Witwe, Klostermuhle, Austria
Founded in 1836, Loetz were glass manufacturers, particularly celebrated for their fine iridescent glass, comparable in type with Tiffany. It was sold by Liberty & Co in the 1890s. Marks: two crossed arrows with a star in each intersection, with 'Loetz, Austria'; crossed arrows in circle with 'Lotz'; crossed arrows in circle with 'Lotz, Klostermuhle'.

John MontcrieffLtd, Perth, Scotland

Scottish glassmakers founded by John Montcrieff, c1864. They produced heavy glassware, mainly Art Deco, streked with various colours and inclusions within the body of the glass, which was sold by Liberty & Co in the 1920s and 1930s and earlier. Monart Glass, as it was known, was unmarked except for a paper label affixed to the base.

William Moorcroft, Staffordshire
Arthur Liberty first encountered Moorcroft in 1898, when the latter was in sole charge of the art pottery workshop of the firm of James Macintyre & Co at Burslem. The two men rapidly became friends, and Liberty's began to sell Moorcroft's earliest range of 'Florian Ware'. After 1913, When Moorcroft left James Macintyre & Co to start his own workshops at Cobridge, he continued to supply Liberty with such lines as 'Hazeldene' (trees in a landscape setting), 'Claremont' (toadstools) and the green and red 'Flaminian' ware which he created specially for Liberty. Some pieces of Moorcroft, such as vases and tazzas, were set in Tudric pewter bases. Many pieces carry the mark 'Made for Liberty'. Signature W.Moorcoft in bold script always appears. Until the 1920s this is in green, after which it is mainly in blue.

Alexander Morton & Co, Kilmarnock, Scotland
Morton's power loom carpet and textile factory produced carpets and tapestries designed by William Morris (not for Liberty) and C.F.A. Voysey. The man responsible for the association between Liberty and both Littler's hand printing works and Alexander Morton's factory was the imaginative and enterprising young Welshman John Llewellyn. Morton's became weavers for Liberty in the 1890s, manufacturing all styles of Liberty designs in woven fabrics.

'Osiris', (See Walter Scherf & Co)

'Orivit', Cologne, Germany

General pewter manufacturers whose products Liberty sold in the early 1900s. Mark 'Orivit'.

Pilkington Lancastrian Pottery, Clifton Junction, Lancashire
Established in 1892, Pilkington's were manufacturers of tiles, vases and bowls, some pieces with designs by Walter Crane, the tiles often by Crane and Voysey. They were sold by Liberty & Co in the early 1900s.

James Powell & Sons, Whitefriars, London
Glass makers who provided Liberty & Co with distinctive green glass liners for their metalwork.

Royal Doulton, Staffordshire and London
Liberty sold a variety of Doulton lines, many decorated with characteristic Art Nouveau designs such as stylized plant motifs.

Walter Scherf & Co, Nuremberg, Germany

Manufacturers of pewter produced under the trade name of 'Osiris' and sold by Libert & Co at the turn of the century. Mark 'Osiris'.

Silver Studio, Hammersmith, London
General design studio established in 1880 by Arthur Silver (1853-96). These studios provided Liberty & Co with textile designs, pewter, silver and jewellery, and many designs for Cymric ware. Later, Arthur's eldest son Reginald 'Rex' Silver directed the practice, at first with his brother Harry and then by himself. After Arthur Silver's early death, it was continued by Harry Napper until Rex came of age. It continued until 1963.

William Howson Taylor, West Smethwick, Birmingham
English Art potter who established the Ruskin Pottery in 1898, producing 'Buttons' which were often set into Liberty mirror frames or into the lids of boxes. Colours, rich and high-fired, ranged from dark blues and greens to turquoise, apple green, purple and mauve.

Thomas Wardle, Leek, Staffordshire
Fabric printers to Liberty & Co in the 1880s, specializing in oriental silks

Directory of Artists and Designers

M.H. Baillie-Scott (1865-1945)
English architect, furniture and textile designer, Baillie-Scott also worked with metal and ceramics, producing designs for Liberty & Co from 1893.

Oliver Baker (1856-1939)
A Birmingham painter and designer, and a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1883, Oliver Baker was a key figure in the Liberty Cymric scheme for which he produced many designs. He also designed pewter for the firm.

William Birch
William Birch, a furniture maker of High Wycombe, provided Liberty & Co with chairs and some cabinet furniture at the turn of the century. In 1901 he was joined by E.G. Punnett.

Lindsay P Butterfield (1896 - 1948)
A fabric designer who worked for Liberty & Co in the 1890's. His work was based mainly on stylized floral motifs.

Walter Crane (1845 - 1915)
A designer and illustrator, Walter Crane was closely associated with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. He designed fabrics for Liberty & Co in the 1890's

H. C. Craythorn (1881 - 1949)
Craythorn was a silversmith and designer and a pupil of Arthur Gaskin. His brilliant talents were recognised by W. H . Haseler in 1898 when Craythorn was seventeen. He worked for Haseler's for some forty years and produced most of the designs executed by them for Liberty & Co. His most distinguished and now celebrated work, designed by Archibald Knox and executed by Craythorn, is the silver casket supplied by Liberty to the Rockefeller family c 1900 and is now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Bernard Cuzner (1877 - 1956)
A silversmith and jeweller who designed many items for Liberty & Co around 1900 - 5.

Dr Christopher Dresser (1834 - 1904)
Botanist, designer, metalworker and writer on art and the principles of art and design, Dresser, born in Glasgow, was a key figure in the history of modern design. IN contrast to his early enthusiasm for the Japanese taste and the Aesthetic Movement, he was a radical and revolutionary designer of glass and metalwork who fully accepted the machine and the approach to modern methods of mass production, and demonstrated a remarkable ability to anticipate the Bauhaus manner as early as 1879. He was a close friend of Arthur Lasenby Liberty who owned shares in the Bond Street firm, the Art Furnishers Alliance, of which Dresser became manager in 1880. In 1883 this firm went into liquidation, and in 1889 Dresser moved to Barnes in West London where he ran a studio with the help of some ten assistants. Among them were Archibald Knox and almost certainly Rex Silver of the Silver Studio. His son Louis joined the furniture department of Liberty & Co in 1896. Dresser's main practical association with Liberty was through the design of Clutha glass.

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1871 - 1945)

A designer and enamel painter for Liberty & Co who specialized in figurative painting, such as friezes for bowls, depicting figures in landscape settings. She was also a book illustrator and painter.

Arthur and Georgie Gaskin (1862 - 1928 and 1868 - 1934)
A husband and wife team - painters, illustrators and metalworkers - who designed jewellery for Liberty & Co during the first decade of the century from their Birmingham Studios.

E. W. Godwin (1833 - 86)
An English architect and furniture designer, widely known for his Anglo- Japanese style furniture, Godwin was a passionate supporter of the cult of Japonisme. He was appointed supervisor of the Costume Department at Liberty & Co on 17 January 1884 at an agreed fee of 'one guinea for each hour in the studio. The hours in any one week were not to exceed six hours…'

A. E. Jones (1879 - 1954)
Jones, a Birmingham jeweller, produced a number of designs for Liberty & Co. Less well known than his contemporary and associate Bernard Cuzner, he was considered very promising in his day.

Jessie M. King (1876 - 1949)
A Scottish painter, designer and book illustrator, Jessie King studied at the Glasgow School of Art and became a prominent member of the Glasgow School. She designed jewelry and silverwork for Liberty's Cymric range, and also textiles.

Archibald Knox (1864 - 1933)
Born in Cronkbourne on the Isle of Man, Knox, the principal silver and pewter designer for Liberty & Co, created Celtic designs of the highest quality for the Cymric and Tudric schemes. He had previously worked for the Silver Studio and for Christopher Dresser's Design Studio in Barnes, south-west London, and had taught design at the Wimbledon and Kingston-on-Thames School of Art. At Kingston his teaching methods were considered too unorthodox by the South Kensington Examiners and he resigned his post in 1911.
A description of Knox's new Celtic range from a Liberty catalogue of 1899 - 1900 shows how keen Arthur liberty was to promote his work:
The especially interesting feature… is its complete and unmistakable differentiation from all other descriptions of modern silverwork. The suggestion, as it were, having its origin in the work of a far earlier period than the greater part of the gold and siler plate ornaments to be found even in the Royal Collections today, the bulk of which only dates back to the Restoration. Cymric silver, although original and initiatory of a new school of work, is suggestive of a more remote era than this, and simplicity is the keynote of its design…
After 1912, when Knox ceased to work for Liberty's, he went to America where he designed carpets for Bromley & Co of Philadelphia.

Max Läuger (1864 - ?)
German architect, engineer, sculptor, and artist potter chiefly known for his glazed bowls, vases, wall plaques and jugs in stylized Art Nouveau designs. Liberty & Co were the first to import Max Läuger's pottery into the country in the late 1890's. Mark: M.K.L. in monogram with arms of the Grand Duchy of Baden.

W. R. Lethaby (1857 - 1911)
English architect, metalworker, furniture and pottery designer, Lethaby was also a founder member in 1884, of the Art Workers Guild, and Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art in 1900. He designed simple, unpolished furniture, primarily in oak, sometimes in rosewood, and some of it decorated with floral marquetry in ebony, sycamore and bleached mahogany. He also designed fabrics for Liberty & Co in the 1890's.

Ernest Léveillé (flourished 1885 - 1900)
French Art Nouveau glass designer. Pupil of E. Rousseau with whom he produced experimental glass including many pieces of sculptured crackle glass sold by Liberty & Co at the close of the nineteenth century.

Sidney Mawson (c1876 - 1937/8)
A textile designer for Liberty & Co in the first decade of the last century.

Frank Miles (1852 - 91)
Miles was a textile designer for Liberty & Co in the late 1880's and 1890's when, possibly to meet the competition of Morris & Co, began to commission work from leading artists and designers of the period.

Harry Napper (1860 - 1930)
Textile, furniture and metalwork designer with the Silver Studio (c1893-8), Napper provided Liberty & Co with many of their finest fabric designs. He managed the design production of the Silver Studio after Arthur Silver's death in 1896. Mario Amaya wrote: 'Around 1900 the strongest personality at Liberty's appears to have been Harry Napper whose fabrics depended less on undulating curves that drifting geometrized motifs, strident with angular petals and thorny leave.'

John Pearson (flourished 1890 - 1910)
A designer and metalworker whose imagery was often fantastic and highly original. Pearson was the first instructor in metalwork at C. R. Ashbee's Guild of Handicrafts and was dismissed in 1890 because 'Mr Pearson had been outside the Guild supplying Messrs Morris and others with goods…' He was reinstated but again failed to honour his undertaking not too deal with other firms, and was allowed to resign on 29 August 1892. Thereafter he worked for William Morris and later at the Newlyn Class in Cornwall. Although there is no conclusive documentary evidence that he did supply Liberty & Co, there is some circumstantial evidence that he did supply Liberty with designs.

E.G. Punnett (flourished 1900)
A furniture designer known to have worked for Liberty & Co from the fact that he joined William Birch of High Wycombe in 1901. This firm supplied Liberty with a great deal of furniture and many of their surviving pieces bear Punnett's signature.

E.G. Reuter (1845 - after 1912)
A designer of fabrics for Liberty & Co in the 1890s. 'Liberty & Co were regular exhibitors in the various Arts and Crafts Society Exhibitions beginning with a stand at the New Gallery (Regent Street) in 1893. The company exhibited a large selection of fabrics designed by Arthur Silver, Thomas Wardle, E.G. Reuter and W.R. Lethaby. It is from this source, and not the company that the names of the various designers were made known.

Richard Reimerschmid (1868 - 1957)
A furniture designer whose work was imported by Liberty & Co in the 1900s, Reimerschmid first became generally known after his participation in the Paris Exhibition of 1900.

J. Scarratt-Rigby
Provided Liberty & Co with textile designs in stylized floral patterns in the late 1880s.

Arthur Silver (1853 - 1896)

Designer and craftsman, founder of the Silver Studio in 1880 and father of Reginald 'Rex' Silver and Harry Silver. The Silver Studio specialized in every aspect of design form plasterwork, metalwork, furniture and book jackets to the design of complete interiors, and they provided Liberty & Co with a great number of furniture designs.

Harry Silver (1882 - 1972)
Metalwork and textile designer with his father's studio. Influenced by Archibald Knox, he executed designs for Liberty Cymric silver after 1906, and supervised the design production of the Silver Studio from 1901 to 1916, when he joined the army.

Reginald 'Rex' Silver (1879 - 1965)
The son of Arthur Silver and the brother of Harry, he administered the Silver Studio from 1901 until its closure in 1963.

David Veazey
Liberty & Co are known to have put into production at least one deign by David Veazey: the winning design for a silver tea caddy in a competition organised by Liberty through 'The Studio' magazine in 1899. It was produced both in silver and, later, in pewter, bearing the number 049C. The signature used by the artist on this occasion was 'Tramp'.

C.F.A. Voysey (1857 - 1941)
An English architect and designer of furniture, textiles, carpets, tapestries, wallpapers, ceramics and metalwork. His furniture was generally austere and architectural, using straight lines and very little ornament except for a characteristic pierced heart shape, and other cut-out motifs, in the backs of chairs. He produced many textile and wallpaper designs for Liberty & Co between 1890 and 1910. Charles Voysey and George Walton were among a distinguished group of furniture designers who worked directly for Liberty.

George Walton (1867 - 1933)
Scottish architect and member of the Glasgow School, he collaborated with C.R. Mackintosh on the Cranston Tea rooms, Glasgow, in 1897. Walton was closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, and worked as a furniture designer in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Leonard F. Wyburd
Although Leonard Wyburd set up the Liberty Furnishing and Decoration Studio as early as 1883, at the height of the Aesthetic Movement, it was not until the late 1890s that he began to design the avant-garde furniture which was to help revolutionize the whole concept of furniture design, not only in England but also in Vienna, Berlin and Paris (where in 1889 Liberty opened a branch, at 38 Avenue de l'Opera). Leonard Wyburd is as much a part of the creation of Liberty Style as Archibald Knox.
Information from 'Liberty Style' by Mervyn Levy


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