Queen Victoria and Hull – Thomas Richardson and ‘The Royal Chairs’

Posted: 25th November 2022

Humber Museums Partnership - Queen Victoria and Hull – Thomas Richardson and ‘The Royal Chairs’

As part of the Ferens Art Gallery winter exhibition, Queen Victoria and Hull, Hull and District History Research Group have been researching Victorian Hull. This blog is the latest in a series revealing the hidden stories from Victorians from Hull.

Thomas Richardson was born in Hull on the 5th February 1781.  He married Hannah Jagger in 1811 and they had five sons.

Thomas Richardson founded his business around 1812, working in Castle Street. He was later joined by three of his sons, John, William and Joseph.   By 1840 the business was based on Bond Street. They had additional showrooms in Albion Street and Waltham Street, and a timber yard in Baker Street.  In the 1851 census it stated that they employed ten men and eleven apprentices. By 1903 Richardson & Sons had been appointed upholsterers to King Edward Vll. They became the largest and most prestigious furniture manufacturer in 19th century Hull.

In 1854 Queen Victoria came to Hull on an official visit. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to visit Hull since King Charles I had been refused entry to the city in 1642.

It was a huge event with many celebrations. The Directors of the Railway Company placed their magnificent hotel at the disposal of the Corporation for the accommodation of the Queen and her suite.

The Clifford Constable family of Burton Constable Hall loaned many items to the hotel, including a chair for Queen Victoria to sit on.  This chair can still be seen today on display in the Long Gallery at Burton Constable Hall.

Richardson & Sons were appointed to carry out the refurbishment work for Her Majesty’s visit.  Upholsterers were set to work to fit up in a becoming manner a throne-room, bedroom, drawing-room, and boudoir for the Queen. The throne room consisted of three chairs for her Majesty, Prince Albert, and the Prince of Wales, and included a foot stool. The throne was of a French style. These chairs, which were elegantly carved in gilded softwood, were covered with crimson silk velvet, were placed on a dais of three steps, covered with purple cloth with gold fringe.

Richardson & Sons kept the chairs after the visit to display in their show rooms. They gave the chairs to the city in 1880, after another royal visit by The Duke of Edinburgh.

Their reputation was further enhanced in 1855 when they acquired the patronage of Sir Clifford and Lady Constable of Burton Constable Hall and provided them with fine mahogany furniture for the Hall, the legacy of their work can still be seen today at Burton Constable Hall.

Thomas Richardson died in 1857 but his sons carried on the business in his name.

Richardson & Sons had the skills, materials and machinery to undertake major projects in Hull.  In 1863 they furnished the Council Chamber in the new Town Hall. They made the Mayor’s chair and the Doorkeeper’s chair. Another major commission was to furnish the Hull Exchange Company when it opened in 1866 with solid oak tables, reading desks and Chairs.

Sadly, the First World War largely destroyed Hull’s furniture industry.

Written by Hazel Wilkinson – Hull Local History Group

You can now view The Royal Chairs, on loan from the Guildhall, in the Queen Victoria and Hull exhibition from 20 October 2022 until 19 February 2023.