Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Plane Man

I took this picture in the Victorian section of York Cemetery because I was intrigued by the name Summers Varvill. On further investigation I discovered that Summers was the eldest son of Michael Varvill who started a planemaking (woodworking tools) business in 1793. By 1829 this company was known as Varvill & Sons but Summers and his brother Fraser decided to go their own way in June 1838 as this notice in the local paper stated

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Co-partnership lately subsisting between us the undersigned, Michael Varvill,Summers Varvill, and Fraser Varvill, as Plane-Makers and Joiners' Tool-Makers, at the city of York, trading under  the firm of M. Varvill and Sons, has been dissolved by mutual consent, as far as regards Michael Varvill; and that all debts due or owing by the said copartnership will be received and paid by the said Summers Varvill and Fraser Varvill, by whom the said business will in future be carried on, at their warehouses in Saint Martin's-lane, York; As witness our Hands this l l t h day of June 1838.
Michael Varvill.
Summers Farvill.
Fraser Varvill

By 1840 Summers Varvill had set up a business at Without North-Street Posten known as the Ebor Works and this link to an advert he took out is a fascinating glimpse into how business was conducted in the mid 19th century. I dare say he would be sued today! The company operated from the Ebor Works, North Street, York from 1840-1867. As we can see above Summers died in 1862 but his wife, Mary, kept the firm going until they were eventually incorporated into Robert Varvill & Son. The tools his company made are still for sale today albeit in antique rather than joinery shops.

Taking part in Taphophile Tragics


  1. Yes I doubt you will these days see an advert making similar claims about the competition. I like Summers as a name, I saw Pickles as a first name for a man on a headstone a couple of days back.

  2. Wonderful old gravestones and some impressive research you have unearthed (no pun intenfed)there Deb!

  3. The advertisement is outrageous! What a claim! I too would be drawn to the name of Summers Varvill. The business seems to be quite a family affair being passed down to Robert and his son.

  4. A funny one! You never know what might end up on your tombstone. :)

  5. These small, personal bits are what make history so interesting. Wonderful post.

  6. Great detective work on this one!

  7. 'Sheffield Steel' would have been ropeable, no doubt. I had to look up what a 'CS Gimlet' was (a small tool with a screw point, grooved shank, and cross handle for boring holes) only to realise that my father had one when i was a child.

    Both Summers and Fraser would have been unusual for those times, I suspect. But the name 'Varvill' sounds a bit Scandinavian to my totally untrained ears.

    I like the fact that the company went from father to son to grandson. However, the fact that both Summers and Fraser took out an advert to tell everyone this, indicates to me that they were marketing types.

    Great finds again, Deb. I love finding out stuff about little people. This for me, is what makes history so engrossing.

  8. Interesting name, and very interesting story!

  9. Really enjoyed research having today bough an old plane stamped summers varvill ebor works York . It also has F G Pearson acute Cast Steel blade workings.

  10. Really enjoyed research having today bough an old plane stamped summers varvill ebor works York . It also has F G Pearson acute Cast Steel blade workings.


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