Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Grange Furniture Shop, Kilburn High Road

In the 1950s and 60s West Hampstead was full of reasonably priced accommodation to rent as bedsits and flats. Both our parents rented out rooms and Marianne remembers trips to Kilburn to buy new and (even more) second hand furniture. A favoured emporium, when funds permitted, was the Grange Furnishing Stores. This was a very large, well known store.

The business occupied part of Trinity House at 127-129 Kilburn High Road. The three storey building still stands, its curved fascia wrapping round the corner with Victoria Road and displaying the name ‘Trinity House’ at roof level. The name recalls this was previously the site of Holy Trinity School. When you sat in the coveted front seat of a Routemaster 28 bus, Trinity House gradually filled your view as you drove towards it, down Quex Road. Customers generally abbreviated the name of the shop saying, ‘we’re going to Grange to look for furniture.’

The Astrinsky Family
The business was started by Hyman Astrinsky who came to England at the turn of the twentieth century. The 1911 census gives Russia as the birthplace of 38 year old Hyman, his wife Rachel and their two eldest sons, Wolf (12) and Isaac, (10). The two youngest children, Marks and Joseph, were born in England. The family were then living in four rented rooms at 11 Boreham Street, Bethnal Green. Hyman was a cabinet maker (like his father) and a furniture dealer, and his lodger Percy Astrinsky, probably his brother, followed the same trade.

Astrinsky's shop in the East End (Jewish Museum)

The photo is dated 1912 and shows the family shop, Astrinsky Bros, number 136 in an unknown street, probably close to Brick Lane. Hyman was surely the man in the apron. He’d worked for various cabinet making firms before setting up on his own and this was his first shop selling second hand rather than new furniture. Maybe it’s Wolf and Percy on the left?

By 1914, Hyman had moved his business from the East End to 86 Willesden Lane. After Germany torpedoed the ‘Lusitania’ and used poison gas at Ypres, anti-German feeling became widespread. Along with all foreign born shopkeepers, in May 1915 Astrinsky was ordered to display his passport in the shop window. He accompanied it with a note: ‘I am one of the Allies. Here is my Russian passport.

The 1924 and 1925 electoral registers for the house show four people eligible to vote: the list is headed by Hyman followed by Harry, Ray and Wolf Astrinsky. Harry was one of Hyman’s other sons, using an anglicised forename. Harry and Wolf had already applied for and been granted British citizenship, taking the Oath of Allegiance on 31 December 1923. Probably because of the problems the family had experienced during WW1, in June 1925 both young men adopted the surname ‘Austin’ instead of Astrinsky.

Hyman Astrinsky prospered and by 1917 he had opened another shop on the Kilburn High Road, number 215, opposite Messina Avenue. This became the ‘Grange Furnishing Stores.’ Almost certainly, the inspiration for the name came from a large mansion, ‘The Grange,’ which stood on the other side of the main road. It was demolished after Mrs Peters the last occupant, died in 1910 and its grounds were converted into Grange Park. This opened in 1913 with an entrance on Messina Avenue. Hyman also established branches in Croydon, Harrow and Watford.

By March 1928 Hyman had moved his headquarters into the newly completed and very large premises of ‘Trinity House’ which had replaced Holy Trinity School. That month the business advertised they were looking for a ‘really smart, keen young lady; only first class Bookkeeper need apply; able to do typewriting.

The business did very well and became a landmark in Kilburn.

In 1968, the BBC made a thirty minute film of John Betjeman, taking a journey from Marble Arch to Edgware.

Still from BBC film, 1968

In the opening shot Betjeman is shown seated, reading the Daily Telegraph. He gets up, checks the time and walks towards a table of drinks. Then the camera pans out to show this apparently domestic scene in his house is in fact a room setting in the main window of the Grange furniture shop. The name ‘Grange’ is prominently displayed on the curved frontage to Victoria Road.

In the 1911 census, the Astrinskys said they had been married for 11 years. Then on 4 August 1929, 57 year old Hyman and 50 year old Rachel were remarried at Willesden Register Office. They were living at 14 Blackstone Road near Gladstone Park. The certificate records the date of their previous marriage as 18th August 1897 (a couple of years earlier than indicated on the 1911 return). The ceremony had taken place at Zaludok, Vilna, in Poland. By 1929, Hyman’s father Joseph (a cabinet maker) and Rachel’s father, Simon Shneyrovitz (a cattle dealer), were both dead. Hyman signed the certificate and Rachel made her mark with an ‘X’. One of the witnesses was their eldest son Wolf. We haven’t been able to establish why this remarriage took place.

In 1934, Grange Furnishing Stores were sued by the wonderfully named Buoyant Upholstery Company based in Sandiacre near Nottingham. The name probably reflects their use of a patented upholstery system called ‘lace web springing’. Grange was accused of ‘passing off’, in other words selling non-branded items as Buoyant products. The Kilburn Company produced no defence and ‘before looking into the matter,’ agreed to stop the practice immediately.

During WW2, rationing was extended to furniture. This explains a series of adverts placed by Grange Furnishing Stores in 1943 and 1944, ‘anxious to purchase bed-room and dining-room furniture, carpets, pianos’ and offering the ‘best market price’ for ‘furniture and household effects.

Grange Furnishing advert, 1952

In 1966, following financial problems, the business went into receivership and were eventually bought up by United Drapery Stores in 1973.

Both Dick and Marianne had bought furniture there. A 1975 bill from Grange Furnishing Ltd, Trinity House, notes that Marianne placed a ‘valued order’ for a Relyon Orthorest divan and mattress, cost £165. Businesses were more trusting then; a small deposit was paid with the balance due after delivery!

Trinity House today

Grange Furnishings had closed by 1981. Today, Trinity House is occupied by branches of MacDonalds, Corals the bookmakers and Halfords.


  1. Wow nice post. Thank you for sharing this information.
    Furniture Shop

  2. when I left the gallery I thought it was the lack of a chair for him to sit on in the gallery space that made him feel edgy. Demir Leather

  3. Dear Dick
    Interesting article: one detail though is factually incorrect.
    Grange was financially solvent throughout; UDS plc would not have purchased the company as a going concern in 1973 if this had not been the case
    Grateful you check your sources and amend your copy
    thanks Nigel Austin

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