Plaster Coving Manchester – Made in Manchester, the story of Manchester Art Plasterers.
More than half a century ago whilst making his way home from school, a young Charlie Warren stopped to look in through the iron gates of an art plaster workshop. Situated under the arches adjacent to New Bailey street Salford, this was the home of the renowned Manchester Art Plasterers.
A man emerged from the premises and approached the schoolboy. Advanced in years and diminutive in stature, this was John Treaby who had founded the organisation many years before with his business partner Lance Reid.
An offer of work was met with an acceptance from the fascinated youngster and the company had taken on a new apprentice fibrous plasterer and site fixer.
Approaching the 1970’s
As the 1970’s arrived, Vic Bebbington, the nephew of Lance Reid, was now in control of Manchester Art Plasterers. An excellent draughtsman and owner of a library of ancient plastering books.
Vic Bebbington had taken the company forward, contacts had been established with the Rank organisation, who owned over 600 cinema and theatre-type buildings, most of which were embellished with decorative plaster work, which required inspection, refurbishment, restoration and repair, Manchester Art Plasterers got the work. Works were also undertaken on contemporary projects such as the Manchester Arndale Centre.
Charlie Warren, who had been taught by foreman Harry Fairclough, was now a foreman himself on site and was preeminent amongst fibrous fixers in the North West. Charlie had also worked with with Charlie Shaw, Joe Stevens and Clifford Platt, all capable tradesmen at the company. Manchester Art Plasterers were successful finding a niche market as competitors failed to keep pace with changing times.
The Crossing of Paths
By the mid 1970’s, Vic Bebbington, was into his 60’s and when a rival company called Phillips from Leeds moved to buy-out Manchester Art Plasterers, looking to gain a foot-hold in Manchester, the company was sold and a takeover completed. Vic Bebbington was no longer in sole control of the organisation but stayed on as a consultant and manager.
Phillips were a profit-driven ambitious company with real financial clout. Private planes and Directors with connections in London were the order of the day.
Using these connections, Phillips were able to recruit a shop foreman who had been trained in the fibrous shop of FW Clifford on the Vauxhall Road in London. Clifford’s had a reputation for employing and training some of the finest craftsmen in the country.
This was a time when Manchester Art Plasterers could have reached their zenith but it was not to be. One of the managers at Phillips left to set up a rival company, taking shop foreman Terry King with him.
Charlie Warren left after a disagreement with another of Phillips managers.
With the best craftsmen gone and the old boss no longer in control, the company was no longer in safe hands and the writing was on the wall.
Charlie Warren became a freelance fixer and was joined in later years by his son Charles.
Whitechapel Art Plaster Company
After a period of time spent working overseas Terry King returned to England to set up White Chapel Art Plaster company limited.
I was invited to join the company in 2003 as business partner and joint director. Terry made the decision to step down as a director and shareholder in 2013 but remains available to the company on a consultancy basis as and when required.
All products supplied and fixed by Whitechapel Art Plaster are made in our workshop. Our plaster coving and cornice is high quality and we aim to give value for money, this being reflected in the cost of plaster coving and cornice.
Whitechapel Art Plaster have worked on Manchester Arndale Centre, Kendals Department Store, Mottram Hall, Bredbury Hall, Mere Country Club and many other prestigious residences and public buildings.
Hopefully this blog will answer the question What is Plastering? and gives a brief history of art plastering in Manchester and the disciplines involved.
The skills and knowledge of the craftsmen that went before, live on a Whitechapel Art Plaster. We DO NOT import cheap container-loads of inferior products from overseas and remain committed to service and quality.
As Terry King said to me when I first started work with him, “It can take ten years to build a reputation, but only ten minutes to destroy it”.
Whitechapel Art Plaster has an excellent reputation and we intend to keep it intact.
Director, Whitechapel Art Plaster
Finally it should be noted that, plaster coving should really be called by its correct name of plaster cornice. But in an age of search engine optimsation and colloquialisms, it was considered necessary to start the blog in this way.