During the years 1869-1935 there were well over 250 registered bamboo furniture producers in Britain. The earliest recorded firm was Hubert Bill of 14 Little Camden St, London N.W., who claimed to have been `the original makers, established 1869', while Daniel Jacobs & Sons of Hackney Road, London, were still in business in 1915, after 45 years of production. Design, quality, price and methods of construction were fairly consistent throughout the whole period, but it was the imaginative and often eccentric choice of subject matter that marked a differentiation between the various firms. While most produced standard tables, stands and fire-screens, the more adventurous offered for sale such delights as `Cosy Corners', charcoal barbecue grills and musical tea tables. It could easily be said that some designers became over-enthusiastic and a writing-desk-cum-jardiniere-cumstandard-lamp complete with frilled and fringed shade was probably too much for even the most acquisitive Victorian householder. Although most pieces were relegated to the bedroom, hall or conservatory, some extremely fine 'drawing-room' pieces were produced and the low prices emphasized in manufacturers' advertisements did not reflect a quality too low for use in more formal rooms.
The majority of firms were based in North and East London where considerable numbers of furniture manufacturers had congregated by the last third of the 19th century. Other producers were in major provincial industrial towns such as Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham. Most firms advertised their goods wholesale, selling in bulk to general furniture retailers.
The materials used for making bamboo furniture came almost solely from Japan. Several firms were importing bamboo poles alone, which, when considering their cheapness, gives an indication of just how great demand must have been. Lacquer panels were imported in various sizes and appear to have been of two major types, the most common having predominantly gold and red decoration in high relief on a black ground, and the less usual being black and gold designs on a red and yellow ground. Most panels were divided diagonally into two sections, one portraying birds and flowers and the other a star design. The second red and yellow type is often sharply divided by a wide black diagonal line. Lacquered trays, commonly of a deep red colour, were used for removable table tops and plant stands. A more unusual form of decoration seen frequently on small boxes and cabinets made in Japan for export to Europe, but only rarely on furniture, consists of thin panels of marquetry veneer with a random geometric pattern. Sometimes these appear on upper surfaces of furniture with a lacquer panel set in the centre. Lacquer was generally used for the most important parts of a piece of furniture, the less noticeable areas, shelves etc., being covered with embossed `leather' paper. This was originally imported from Japan in large rolls and then cut to suit requirements. When it became particularly popular for wall hangings, English manufacturers began to produce it.
Next to lacquer, woven grass matting was the most common form of covering and