Gateway Object: Registered Designs

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‘General’ and ‘Registered’ Coffin Furniture

There are two types of coffin furniture designs, ‘General’ or ‘Registered’. ‘General’ refers to common designs that stayed in fashion and were produced by many manufacturers. ‘Registered’ designs, on the other hand, were exclusive to a particular manufacturer so copying was prohibited. 

In order to obtain copyright protection, companies like Newman Brothers registered new designs in London with the Board of Trade, each new design received a unique number. From 1884 onwards non-textile designs were issued a single number. This series of numbers started from 1 and carries on to the present day. Registered objects typically have ‘RD’ or ‘Reg Des’ on them followed by their number.

Newmans design ledger with sketches and cut out images stuck in with handwritten text on page

The image above of Newman Brothers’ Registered Design Book. It is a photo taken by English Heritage in 1998 when official documentation of the collection began. Unfortunately, the book has since disappeared and we dont know whether it has been lost, or whether Joyce Green (owner of Newman Brothers) took the book with her. The book included original draughtsman’s designs along with each object’s ‘RD’ number and its date of issue. This book would have made our efforts in dating the collection a lot easier.

We have managed to find a few of those unique numbers on a a few objects in the Newman Brothers’ collection. The handle below was registered with the Board of Trade in 1914. Such dates allow us to place the Newman Brothers’ catalogues and therefore products within fixed date ranges.

For example, the image comparison below shows the 1914 child’s sized handle with its associated Registered Design number ‘634008’ on the back. The images below illustrate the same design, alongside the original draughtsman’s drawing of the larger, adult sized handle.

worn silver coloured coffin handle

reverse of silver coloured handle displaying patent no