This leather on softwood Domed Topped Trunk was made by William Chapple. As was the style at the time, it has numerous dome headed studs set in patterns to both decorate and offer some protection. The initials MS, to the top, are also formed by studs. The interior is lined in newspaper which has been over printed with polka dots and has Chapple's label to the inside of the lid. The Chapple family were established trunk and camp equipage makers, active for most of the first half of the 19th century. William senior, born in 1789, was later joined in the business by his son William junior, born in 1813.
They had a few different premises in London but typically ran 2 shops at once with addresses at the corner of St. Paul's Church Yard, Cheapside, 85 Long Acre and 37 and then 31 Piccadilly and 14 High Holborn. Some of their labels and trade directory entries give the business name of William Chapple, others William Chapple & Son and yet others William Chapple Jnr. It is probable that they all over lapped each other in use with the father in one shop and the son in the other. They took on 14 High Holborn in 1819 after they gave up their Long Acre address and some of the family seemed to have lived there.
By 1857, the shop was leased out to a Mr. Maidment, a saddler and a photographer and a writing master were also using the premises. William senior and his wife also lived in there and in fact, that year a fire broke out at the property, killing William. The trunk is domed so that rain water would run off it on a coach journey and the style suggests it is circa 1825.
William Chapple & Son
The company of William Chapple & Son worked in London in the early 19th century and advertised themselves as Camp Equipage Manufacturers. It would seem that the company was first known simply as William Chapple and a label to a small red leather box describes him as a Trunk Case and Box Maker from Cheapside, London.
As the company grew, his son (also called William), joined the business and one of his label's notes 'Removed from the Original Shop of the corner of St. Paul's Church Yard', showing a change of premises from Cheapside. The label to a box we have had shows that they moved again and expanded with two premises at 85 Long Acre and the fashionable 37 Piccadilly. The London Postal Directory of 1815 confirms these two addresses on the box's label. The Postal Directory also describes them as 'Camp Equipage - manufacturers to the Prince Regent'. It is interesting that they put this down as their business rather than Trunk Makers, the usual listing for campaign furniture makers at this period. Their work must have been considered good, as not only did they enjoy the patronage of the Regent but also William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, the 4th Duke of Portland. Invoices held by Nottingham University from the Duke of Portland's estate show that in June and July of 1817 a leather portmanteaux, travelling bag and trunk amounting to £ 8.6.6 and a leather portmanteaux at £ 1.4.0 were purchased from William Chapple and Son at 37 Piccadilly. Final payment was received nearly a year later in May 1818.
The second label in our archive is very similar to the first but gives the name of William Chapple Junr. The back of this label, which is probably from a trunk, shows that spotted lining paper was used on top of a lining of newspaper. We are fortunate that the newspaper gives a date of March 3 1824 so we know that the son started his own business at the latest by this date. However, the 1828 Pigot's Directory, under Trunk Makers, separately lists William Chapple and Son at the changed address of 31 Piccadilly and William Chapple Jnr. at 14 High Holborn. It is probable that William was still in business with his father as well as their having a second shop under his own name. Of course it is also possible that William Jnr. set out completely on his own and either another son joined the father or he didn't bother to change his business name.
Father and son both used virtually the same descriptions on their labels which show that not only did they make portmanteaus and 'Gilt Red Leather Morocco & Solid Leather Nest of Trunks, Sea Chests LIQUOR CASES & in great variety' but also 'Imperial Carriage Trunks, Patent Chain Belts & Luggage Straps'. The label illustrations also show that they made fitted plate canteen cases, buckets, wig stands and undertook 'Funeral Furnishing in both Town and Country'. However perhaps the most interesting illustrations to the labels are the tents to the top right corners inside of which appears to be a camp bed with canopy that folds out of a trunk on a series of five pairs of legs. We do not know the full extent of the range of camp equipage that William Chapple & Son produced but it would seem unlikely that they took their manufacture of Camp Beds for Officers one step further to include furniture making.
They are however included amongst the important suppliers of trunks and other personal travel kit to the Army & Navy and the East & West India Merchants that include such good names as William Day, Thomas Handford, Samuel Pratt and John Shepherd amongst others.