20th Century Home

A ramble through domestic history in the 20th Century

Peerless Kitchens – 1936

A look through a 1936 catalogue issued by Peerless Kitchen Cabinets Ltd of Greenford Middlesex in 1936, “the largest and foremost manufacturers of Built-in Kitchen Furniture. ”

Peerless claim they “were the original advocates of Kitchen planning and hte pioneers in England of Built-in Kitchen Furniuture standardised in sectional units. The Kitchen systems introduced by them have permanently effected the Architecture of the Kitchen. This progress in design is a scientific one and not a temporary satisfying of craving for change.”

The mention of “scientific” design is typical of this era – everything was about the modern, the new, the scientific. There was a faith in the new world and the changes science and technology could bring and people were seeing everything in terms of how application of science could improve people’s lives. Le Corbusier’s famous quote, “The house is a machine for living in” is perhaps the ultimate expression of this.

The standard colours these kitchens were available in was: Cream No 1, Cream No 3, Cream No 6, Peerless Green, Adams Green, Spring Green, Peerless Blue, Jubilee Blue, Margaret Rose, Beige.

Unsurprisingly these fitted kitchens most commonly found their place as part of modern flat developments.

flats

As recommended by Lever Bros – more about Port Sunlight here …

intro

A Breakfast Nook (“constructed in the finest quality Columbian Pine”)

colour_1

breakfast_nook

“The cost of a complete Breakfast Nook which includes: Cooler Unit, China Cupboard, Cutlery Drawers, Storage Shelves, Ironing Board, Broom Cupboard, Duster Drawers, Large Folding Table, Folding Seats, Dry Goods Shelves, is from £16 14s 10d (subject to terms)”

Dresser Unit

Peerless dresser unit

dresser

Cost for the flush panelled version of Unit 1030 – £13 18s 6d

Refrigerator Units

1930s fridges

M151 – the undersink refrigerator unit – could be yours for £2 4s 6d

Combined Unit

combinedcolour_4

The combined unit 590IB would set you back £11 14s 6d

6 comments on “Peerless Kitchens – 1936

  1. John Boothman
    February 16, 2015

    My grandfather Jack Boothman, who was originally a builder, founded Peerless having moved south from Lancashire. A purpose-built factory was constructed on Western Avenue in Perivale, near the famous Hoover building. Fitted kitchen furniture was a novelty in the early 1930s when most units were free-standing, and the company prospered. Later Peerless diversified into fitted bedroom furniture.

    Under his leadership and that of my father Tommy Boothman, the business continued to produce kitchen and bedroom units for nearly 40 years, but declined in the late 1960s through increased competition, labour disputes and high taxation and was taken over in 1972. It closed shortly afterwards.

    I still have some Peerless catalogues from the pre-war and early post-war periods.

    • caite
      February 17, 2015

      Hi John, thanks for your comment. It’s really interesting to hear from you and great to get a bit of history to put this catalogue in context. This post is one on this site that gets a lot of hits, I think people are very interested in this style of fitted kitchen. Be lovely if you could put some of your material up online too. Is the factory building still there – I’ve driven up and down Western Avenue on many occasions and there are all kinds of interesting looking buildings still there.

  2. Maria Bojanowska
    August 31, 2016

    We have an original Peerless kitchen in our 1930’s London flat. We have unfortunately had to make a few changes to make more space and now have a redundant fold-away ironing board cupboard. It looks exactly like the ironing board in the images above. We would love for it to go to a loving home and if you have any suggestions of anywhere that might be interested we would be very appreciative. I have already contacted the Geffrye Museum and they are not able to take it. I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Rodney Palmer
    January 5, 2019

    Hi John,

    I was engaged by your father – Thomas – in 1968 as Deputy Works Manager under the new Works Manager – F A (Jimmy) James. The company made extremely good quality self-assembly whitewood kitchen units but it is less well known that they also offered bespoke, fully-finished kitchens serving the top end of the fitted kitchen and bedroom market.

    Thomas certainly had some very good ideas for developing the business but as you remarked, serious competition was emerging in the form of fully finished self-assembly furniture from Hygena (Hygena QA range). We made sterling efforts to compete but the new materials and processes would have required a substantial investment in plant and equipment at a time when the intrinsic value of the site could be realised by a sale of the company to property developers.

    As my father was a small scale property developer himself, I saw the writing on the wall and in 1970 left when I was headhunted by Christie Tyler Ltd (later plc), to manage and develop their central woodworking plant in South Wales.

    Peerless products were excellent, honest and well made products. Thomas pursued quality vigorously and went to great lengths to select the best materials and fittings for his products. The company was a good example of an integrated company incorporating many activities which today would be sub-contracted out to specialised suppliers such as printers, publicity companies, manufacturers, finishers, designers and other related activities.

    The company claimed that you only needed a hammer and a screwdriver to assemble its products and this was indeed true. However, a visit from the then Board of Trade (I believe) brought a complaint that this claim was untrue as it was impossible to open the excellent packaging without a pair of tin snips to cut the steel banding. We promptly adopted the newly emerging polypropylene strapping which needed a new machine but could be cut with a knife of pair of scissors.

    I very much enjoyed my time there where I deployed my logistical and trade skills to good effect. When I left, I bought my kitchen for my new house in South Wales from Peerless where it served me well for the first 15 years of my married life. I also bought some bedroom furniture which is still serving me well nearly 50 years on – eloquent testimony to the quality of materials and manufacture which underpinned the company’s good reputation.

    One place I never visited was Lake House where some of our prototypes were tested. I would be intrigued to know if it still exists. Also, there was a rumour that the De Havellind Mosquito wings might have been made there during the war years but Peerless is not mentioned in any published list of contractors that I have seen. it seems odd that a substantial and strategically placed manufacturer of wooden products would have escaped the attention of the government but it may be that the sophisticated manufacturing processes needed for the Mosquito were more abundant in High Wycombe where I trained.

    Perhaps someone out there might know more?

    There are many amusing tales of life at Peerless which you might enjoy hearing, if you would like to hear more do get in touch.

    Regards,

    Rod Palmer

  4. tony raymond
    March 4, 2019

    I worked in the drawing office at Peerless from 1957 to 1964 first as an office boy general run around etc then progressed to colouring drawings for sending out to clients and finally promoted to draughtsman,this was done on tracing paper a print taken of this copies to sales and coloured to clients.
    Chief draughtsman was Bert Hookey,others i remember were Roy Radmore,Ron Sartain Tony Worsfold,great memories super place to work lots of happy times.
    One occasion i remember Bert and myself were driven by Mr Boothman in his Rolls Royce to a house he had acquired at Virginia Waters to measure up for new kitchen and bedroom,(very posh).
    Christmas always good time up to canteen being treated to champagne,chocolates for the ladies and cigarettes for the men.

  5. John Boothman
    November 4, 2020

    Hi Rod and Tony – I don’t look at this site very often and missed your posts last year, it was only an enquiry from someone with an old Peerless kitchen that caused me to take another look.

    I was very fond of my father but he was not a natural entrepreneur unlike his father (my grandfather, and company founder) Jack Boothman. After Dad took over as MD in the mid-1950s it was business as usual for a time but things got far tougher in the late 1960s as competition intensified, there was labour trouble, a loss resulting from fraud and as Rod said a lot more investment was needed. My father had a very fertile brain but struggled with the day-to-day challenge of managing a business under growing pressure.

    Lake House on the Wentworth Estate near Virginia Water was intended to become the new family home. Typically Dad initiated far-reaching work but by then didn’t really have the income to pull it off, so we never moved there, much to my mother’s despair. I believe Lake House was sold at the same time as the business in 1972. The firm that bought Peerless (Tremletts?) demolished the factory with a view to redevelopment but I believe went bust in the mid-1970s property crash.

    Going back to the war years yes, Peerless did indeed make timber-based airframe components including wing sections I believe. My father who would then have been quite young spent time in (I think) Portsmouth with another firm learning the process.

    The sale of Peerless after 40 years in the family was poignant but for Dad definitely the right decision, he and Mum went on to have a long and happy retirement in Jersey living in the house my grandfather had bought in 1959, and where my wife and I live now.

    It is always pleasant to hear from past Peerless employees, especially when their memories are happy ones, and I hope Rod and Tony you are staying well in these troubled times.

    John B

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