Learn about our journey from the shores of Lake Como to Macclesfield.
Our story begins in 1854, with a long journey on foot from the shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy, over the Alps and across central Europe. Our young adventurer, Antonio Arighi, heads for the silk town of Macclesfield in the North West of England. On arrival, he sets up shop, making clocks and barometers which he lends out to farmers on sale or return – a canny innovation that proves a real money-spinner.
The fledgling business soon takes off and he’s joined by Antonio Bianchi, a master craftsman and cabinetmaker from the same Italian village of Casnate. Together they create Arighi Bianchi, which gains a nationwide reputation and the patronage of Kings. Based in Sutton, a small village just outside Macclesfield, they manufacture and sell high quality, handmade furniture upholstered in locally sourced silks and materials.
As the business expands, the partners decide to move premises and buy an old silk mill in the centre of Macclesfield with a prime location on what is now called the Silk Road. The building is more practical, with more space, but lacks the style and panache customers have come to expect.
Determined to inspire and innovate, the partners commission a local builder, George Roylance, to renovate the mill and construct a new four-storey building to complement the existing structure. Inspired by Joseph Paxton’s famous Crystal Palace built for the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, Roylance designs an iconic façade featuring large Italianate plate glass windows.
After years of depending on horse drawn carriages to deliver their goods, Arighi Bianchi is the first store in Macclesfield to use a motorised vehicle, a huge innovation. This poignant photograph shows the vehicle’s very first driver, Edward Connolly, who sadly died at the Battle of the Somme in 1917.
Between the wars, Antonio Bianchi’s eldest son, Enrico, sees an opportunity and begins to import beautiful, unusual fabrics. Customers are excited to see new tapestries, damasks, velvet and lace from all over Europe. The wholesale fabric division does so well it threatens to swamp the furniture side of the business, but Enrico’s youngest brother, John Ernest, manages to keep things afloat.
After Enrico’s death in 1956, John Ernest (or ‘Mr John’ as he’s known) is joined by his sons, Anthony and Paul. They secure investment and begin a programme of refurbishment, including a new rear entrance and lift. Although the post-war years have been difficult, things start to look up again.
In 1970, the store is threatened with a compulsory purchase order to make way for the new North-South Macclesfield ring road. Anthony and Paul Bianchi fiercely defend their right to stay put and are joined by some prestigious supporters, including the soon to be Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, The Architectural Review and the Victorian Society, as well as hundreds of local people who sign a petition. The protest is successful and Arighi Bianchi receives the official recognition it deserves, becoming a Grade II* listed building.
After Enrico’s death in 1956, John Ernest (or ‘Mr John’ as he’s known) is joined by his sons, Anthony and Paul. They secure investment and begin a programme of refurbishment, including a new rear entrance and lift. Although the post-war years have been difficult, things start to look up again. The van appears live on the BBC’s 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock news programmes, both prime time slots with millions of viewers.
Following a visit to Chicago in the US, Mr Paul returns to Macclesfield intent on opening a new eatery at Arighi Bianchi. Inspired by the café at Marshall Field’s department store, he opens Café Bar Arighi, selling freshly made cakes and refreshments. The café is celebrating 30 years in 2018, and now serves throughout the day, including Sunday lunch with wine and spirits.
To commemorate our 150th anniversary, Arighi Bianchi commissions local brewery, Storm, to create an artisan beer, AB150. This easy drinking session ale is available to buy in cask. They also created an AB160 to celebrate our 160th birthday in 2014.
Arighi Bianchi is always looking for new fund-raising opportunities. Launched in September 2007, one of our 7.5 tonne vehicles is painted pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness: over three months, the newly painted van is used for deliveries and with every delivery we donate £5 to the charity. This photo shows our van in Monte Carlo making a VIP trip! We also host a Gala Ball at the store with special guest, Coronation Street star Jenny McAlpine. With a huge effort by staff and customers, we raise over £20,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness.
To celebrate our 160th year, Arighi Bianchi exhibit at the Ideal Home Show in Manchester. Our prime location gives new customers, traders and designers the opportunity to discover more about our brand.
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