Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.
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The Soho Tapestry Makers
English tapestries of the eighteenth century are commonly known by the generic title of Soho tapestries, which reflects the fact that the most prominent makers lived and worked in Soho, or in areas adjacent to it. The history of tapestry weaving in this period is, however, obscure, and it is difficult to distinguish the products of the different workshops, because so many of the works are unsigned. During the eighteenth century the taste for tapestries gradually declined, but in the first half of the century most great houses still had pictorial hangings in at least one of their principal rooms. Although the majority of these tapestries were imported from Flanders and France, English manufacture was still fairly active, and by no means negligible in quality.
Tapestry weaving in Soho derived ultimately from the workshops which had been established under royal patronage at Mortlake in 1619, and which were themselves modelled on the works in Paris, founded by Henri IV in 1607. By 1620 the Mortlake manufactory had recruited some fifty Flemish weavers and for the next fifteen years its work was 'unequalled in quality anywhere in Europe'. (fn. 7) Although the Mortlake works struggled on until 1703, its last years were chequered and many of the weavers had dispersed before 1700. (fn. 8) Some of them, like William Benood at Lambeth, set up on their own account. Others passed into the employ of the Great Wardrobe, (fn. 1) whose tapestry workshops were at this time in Great Queen Street, in the parish of St. Giles in the Fields. (fn. 7) (fn. 2) The tapestries produced at the Great Wardrobe in Great Queen Street were not actually produced in Soho, but are nevertheless usually referred to as Soho tapestries.
The Vanderbanks and John Ellys
John Vanderbank was the yeoman arrasworker at the Great Wardrobe from 1689 (fn. 7) until his death in 1717. (fn. 9) He may probably be identified with the John Vanderbank who was naturalized in 1700, having been born in Paris, the 'son of Arnold Vanderbank by Mary, his wife'. (fn. 10) The tapestry workshops of the Great Wardrobe were at Vanderbank's house in Great Queen Street, Holborn (at approximately the present No. 69), from at least 1698 onwards. (fn. 11) He was the leading tapestry weaver in England and by the introduction of the lighter and less formal style now referred to as chinoiserie he exercised a powerful influence on the style of the Soho weavers.
In his will he bequeathed his house in Great Queen Street and his lands in Hertfordshire to his wife Sarah, (fn. 12) who evidently continued to draw his salary from the Great Wardrobe (fn. 13) until her death in 1727. (fn. 14) She bequeathed all her property to her younger son, Moses Vanderbank, (fn. 15) who succeeded to the post of yeoman arras-worker in 1727. (fn. 13) He sold a share in the post to the painter John Ellys, (fn. 16) who succeeded him at the house in Great Queen Street in 1730. (fn. 17) In March of the following year Ellys took over all the duties of yeoman arras-worker, (fn. 18) and by 1734 Moses Vanderbank, described as a painter of Charing Cross, was bankrupt. (fn. 19) (fn. 3)
The yeoman arras-worker's salary was £36 10s. a year (fn. 20) regardless of whether any work was done, each job being paid for separately on completion. There were also about a dozen arrasworkers employed by the Great Wardrobe; they were paid at the rate of two shillings a day until Michaelmas 1749, (fn. 21) when payment ceased. Thereafter the yeoman arras-worker evidently employed his own men.
Ellys remained in Great Queen Street until 1742. (fn. 17) For the next two years Richard Chillingworth was yeoman arras-worker, and during this period the tapestry workshops of the Great Wardrobe were removed to Poland Street, in the parish of St. James. In 1744 Ellys became the yeoman arras-worker again. (fn. 22) Neither Chillingworth nor Ellys are recorded in the ratebooks for Poland Street, but their premises were probably on the site of the present Nos. 52 and 53, which were occupied from 1741 to 1748 by unnamed tenants. (fn. 23)
The Lord Chamberlain's accounts show that payment of rent for rooms in Poland Street, like the payment of the workmen's wages, ceased at Michaelmas 1749. (fn. 21) The workshops may have been removed to Ellys's own house, which in 1747 was in Covent Garden. Ellys died in 1757, (fn. 24) and was succeeded as yeoman arrasworker by Paul Saunders (see below).
Joshua Morris is regarded as one of the best of the Soho tapestry makers. He occupied a house and workshops at the south-east corner of Frith and Bateman Streets, approximately on the site of No. 11 Frith Street, from 1720 to 1728. These premises had been referred to as dancing schools in the ratebooks of 1693, and as 'the great Dancing Room' in an advertisement of 1712. (fn. 25) It seems likely that Morris converted the dancing room into a workshop for his looms.
On 26 November 1726 The Daily Journal announced that 'A large Quantity of Curious, Fine, New Tapistry Hangings are to be Sold by Auction, by Mr. Joshua Morris, TapistryMaker, at his House in Frith Street'.
Joshua Morris was noted for his Arabesque and Chinoiserie tapestries. His signature is on a set of the latter at Up-Ottery Manor, Honiton, Devon (formerly at Erleigh Court, near Reading). (fn. 26) A fine set of Arabesques, which Clive had at Perrystone Court, are signed 'I. Morris' and dated 1723. (fn. 27) There is a signed set at Hagley Park, and another at Grimsthorpe (formerly at Normanton Park) which is said to date from 1721. (fn. 26)
Mr. Croft-Murray has suggested that the high quality of Morris's tapestries may be due to their having been designed by Andien de Clermont, a French painter active in England from about 1716 to 1756. Clermont was employed on decorative painting by, amongst others, the ninth Earl of Pembroke, the fourth Earl of Radnor, and the sixth Lord Baltimore at Woodcote Park in Surrey. (fn. 28) There are three panels of tapestries at Squerryes Court, Kent, with floral ornaments, grotesques, and singeries typical of Clermont, which may be a product of collaboration with Morris. (fn. 29)
An advertisement which Clermont placed in The London Daily Post and General Advertiser of 18 December 1740 shows that he was a tapestry designer. The advertisement announced that his pictures would be 'sold by auction on Monday next and the following day at the Black Lyon in Thrift Street, St. Anne's' and that amongst the pictures would be 'Designs for Screens and Chairs in Needlework or Tapestry'. He returned to France about 1756 and died in Paris in 1783. (fn. 29)
Further information about Joshua Morris's activities as a tapestry maker is provided in the evidence which he gave to the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster on 28 May 1728, when he was sued by William Hogarth, for failing to pay for a design for a tapestry of the element Earth, which he had commissioned from Hogarth. The latter sued for thirty pounds and won his case. In defence, Joshua Morris, who described himself as an 'upholsterer and tapestry-worker', said that Hogarth had been recommended to him as a person skilful in painting patterns for tapestries, and had agreed to execute the design for twenty guineas. Soon afterwards Morris had heard that Hogarth was an engraver, not a painter, and had sent his servant to inquire whether this was true. In reply Hogarth had told Morris's servant that designing a tapestry was 'a bold undertaking, for that he never did any thing of that kind before; and that, if his master did not like it, he should not pay for it'. Morris several times asked Hogarth to deliver the picture to him at his home, but instead it was delivered to 'a private place where Defendant keeps some people at work'. (fn. 4)
Uncertain of the usefulness of Hogarth's painting, Morris then consulted the workmen whom he employed. He describes these workmen as 'some of the finest hands in Europe in working tapestry, who are most of them foreigners, and have worked abroad as well as here, and are perfect judges of performances of this kind'. Perhaps inevitably they agreed with their employer that Hogarth's design 'was not finished in a workmanlike manner and that it was impossible for them to work tapestry by it'. The names of these workmen were Bernard Dorrider, Phillips, De Friend, Danten, and Pajon. Another wellknown Soho tapestry maker, William Bradshaw (who is discussed below), also gave evidence on behalf of Morris, while Thomas King, Vanderbank (probably John junior, but possibly Moses), Le Gard, Sir James Thornhill and Cullumpton supported Hogarth. (fn. 30)
This description of his business by Morris is typical of the other leading Soho tapestry makers, such as William Bradshaw, George Smith Bradshaw and Paul Saunders, who were all primarily upholsterers or cabinet-makers, but who also regarded the supply of tapestries as part of their trade. They employed skilled weavers to make the tapestries, but used their own judgement (or perhaps that of their clients) in selecting the artists to design the tapestries.
It has not been possible to trace the whereabouts of Joshua Morris after his removal from Frith Street in 1728. (fn. 5)
William Bradshaw and Tobias Stranover
William Bradshaw moved into Joshua Morris's workshops in Frith Street when the latter vacated them in 1728, and in 1730 he was joined by the artist Tobias Stranover, who was possibly his partner at this time. (fn. 31) (fn. 6) A settee, formerly at Belton House, with a tapestry cover showing a small mythological scene and pots of flowers, parrots and fowls in a landscape, is signed by both of them. Another tapestry signed by both Bradshaw and Stranover is a hunting scene reminiscent of the paintings of John Wootton. (fn. 26)
In 1732 Bradshaw and Stranover separated, Bradshaw moving to the 'great house' at No. 27 Soho Square (see page 106), and Stranover moving a short distance up Frith Street to No. 8, from which he moved again in 1733 to an unknown address. (fn. 31) He died at Bath on 23 February 1756. (fn. 32)
The separation of William Bradshaw and Stranover does not necessarily mean that the latter ceased to provide tapestry designs, but the work for which William Bradshaw is best known, a tapestry called Dance, one of a set of four hangings based on excerpts from paintings by Watteau, is signed by him alone. These tapestries are in the Cabal Room at Ham House, and there is also a set at Holkham. (fn. 33) The other three subjects in the set, Fountain, Swing, and Fruitgatherers, are unsigned, but presumed to be by Bradshaw. The whole set has been described as 'among the most beautiful tapestries ever produced, a masterpiece of English craft'. (fn. 34)
William Bradshaw, like Joshua Morris, was an upholsterer by trade, and his business expanded steadily while he was at No. 27 Soho Square. At some time before June 1735 Paul Docminique assigned the thirty-five-year lease of the house to Bradshaw. (fn. 35) The back premises of the house extended southwards down the west side of Greek Street to include the sites of Nos. 60 and 59. It is probable that William Bradshaw had workshops there, although these were not separately rated in Greek Street until 1748 and 1752 respectively, when they were probably rebuilt (see page 189).
In 1736 the second Earl of Stanhope's accounts show Bradshaw supplying furniture at Chevening, Kent, and in the following year he first appears in Lord Folkestone's accounts for Longford Castle, Wiltshire. He supplied furniture and hung tapestry there at different times until 1750. The first Earl of Leicester's household accounts for Holkham contain the entry for 1740 to 'Mr. Bradshaw for mending tables, cabinet work and furnishing Mr. Coke's apartment in the London House £85'. (fn. 36)
Bradshaw also completed an unfinished series of tapestries by Vanderbank at Holkham, for in a description of the house published in 1773, the architect Matthew Brettingham says that Mr. Coke's bedchamber was hung with tapestry executed by Vanderbank, from designs by Francesco Albani, 'excepting the two Door-Pieces, (Venus, Vulcan, and Cupids) which Additions were manufactured by the late Mr. Bradshaw'. (fn. 37) Since George Smith Bradshaw also worked on tapestry at Holkham there has been some confusion about which Bradshaw Brettingham was referring to, especially since both were still alive in 1773; but as William Bradshaw died only two years later, and was almost certainly in retirement at Halton in Lancashire at the time, Brettingham may well have assumed that he was already dead—an assumption that would not have fitted George Smith Bradshaw who was still in business in 1773, and did not die until 1812. (fn. 38)
In a lawsuit after his death, William Bradshaw was referred to as having been in the 1740's 'in a large way of Trade as an upholsterer'. (fn. 35) His financial success is attested by his purchase of the manor of Halton near Lancaster, in 1743. (fn. 39)
In 1747 he gave up his house in Soho Square, but retained the back premises in Greek Street, where he was rated for a house at No. 60 from 1748 to 1751, and for workshops at No. 59 from 1752 to 1754. He is recorded as the occupant of a house in Princes Street, St. George's, Hanover Square, from 1756–7 to 1762, (fn. 40) and his will, proved in 1775, shows that he still owned property in that parish. (fn. 41) His workshops at No. 59 Greek Street were taken over in 1755 by 'George Smith Bradshaw and Company', (fn. 31) the 'Company' probably denoting his partner Paul Saunders; both George Smith Bradshaw and Saunders may have also been partners of William Bradshaw before this date.
William Bradshaw died, probably at Halton Hall, in 1775. In his will he named George Smith Bradshaw as one of his executors and as a trustee of his considerable estate. The two Bradshaws were therefore probably related, although not closely, for the estate was left in trust to William Bradshaw Fletcher (who later changed his name to Bradshaw), the son of William Bradshaw's niece, and her husband Robert Fletcher, later the rector of Halton. William Bradshaw Fletcher's heirs and a large number of other Fletcher relatives were next in line of succession, and only at the end of the list comes George Smith Bradshaw's son, who mysteriously was called John Bradshaw Smith. (fn. 39)
In addition to his manor of Halton, William Bradshaw possessed houses and lands in Hardhorn-with-Newton, Stubb Hall in Halton (which he had recently purchased), lands and tenements in the parishes of Kellett and Lancaster and a fishery in the river Lune (possibly part of the manor of Halton), all in Lancashire. His estate also included Damyns Hall in Upminster, Essex, houses and lands at Rainham, Wennington and Ockendon in the same county, and 'divers Leasehold Messuages … in the parishes of Saint Ann and Saint George Hanover Square and elsewhere in the County of Middlesex'. (fn. 41)
Paul Saunders and George Smith Bradshaw
Paul Saunders was the son of John Saunders, citizen and skinner of London. He began his career as an upholsterer on 7 December 1738, when he was apprenticed to Michael Bradshaw, citizen and upholder of London, for seven years for a consideration of thirty pounds. (fn. 42) It is possible that Michael Bradshaw was related to William Bradshaw in some way.
On 5 December 1751 Paul Saunders was admitted to the freedom of the Upholders' Company, and on the same day he took his first apprentice for a consideration of sixty guineas. (fn. 43) It was probably at about this time that he entered into partnership with George Smith Bradshaw.
In May 1753 Saunders and Bradshaw took the lease of the Earl of Carlisle's house on the east side of Soho Square (fn. 44) (see page 73). In the lease they are described as upholsterers of Greek Street, but they do not appear in the ratebooks for Greek Street until 1755, when they succeeded William Bradshaw at No. 59. It is therefore probable that in 1753 they were already at No. 59, working with William Bradshaw.
In 1755 the second Duke of Portland as ground landlord granted them a reversionary lease of Carlisle House which extended their term to 1853. The usual fine for a new lease was remitted, in consideration of 'His Grace's regard for their loss by a late fire'. (fn. 45) It is not clear whether this fire was at Carlisle House or at No. 59 Greek Street.
Carlisle House extended eastwards to include a coach-house and stables in Hog Lane (now Charing Cross Road), where they established their workshops in 1754, (fn. 31) after letting Carlisle House to the Neapolitan envoy. Paul Saunders took the lead in the tapestry side of the business and rose to considerable eminence as a tapestry worker; George Smith Bradshaw was also concerned with tapestry making to a lesser extent.
Paul Saunders is known for Oriental-type landscapes of 'softly defined trees, classical buildings, ruins and watercourses enlivened with small figures'. The most famous design is The Pilgrimage to Mecca, of which several examples survive, notably at Alnwick Castle, Petworth and Holkham. The Petworth set is inscribed P. SAUNDERS LONDINI F. ZUCCHA[RELLI] PXT. (fn. 46)
Some details of the making of the Holkham set have survived from the Holkham accounts. The tapestry was made by Saunders and Bradshaw between 1756 and 1758, and was designed by Francesco Zuccharelli, who on 30 June 1758 was paid £80 for 'the Painting done for his Lordship's tapestry'. (fn. 47) Zuccharelli was a Tuscan painter who enjoyed a great success in England between 1752 and 1773 as a painter of decorative landscapes. He was patronized by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and was an original member of the Royal Academy. (fn. 48) In their joint bills Saunders and Bradshaw described The Pilgrimage to Mecca as a 'very fine History Tapestry made to a design enriched with gold and silver in the drapery', and charged £54 5s. for it. The bills were receipted by Saunders alone 'for himself and partner'. The painter Edward Penny, who lived at No. 48 Leicester Square in 1746(?) and 1750–6 (see page 512), was also paid for work on the designs. (fn. 47)
Before the completion of this work Saunders and Bradshaw had ended their partnership. In October 1756 an announcement in The London Gazette stated that 'the Business will continue to be carried on as usual, by Mr. Bradshaw in Greek Street Soho, and by Mr. Saunders in Soho Square, the Corner of Sutton Street'. (fn. 49)
In October 1757 Saunders secured the post of yeoman arras-worker to the Great Wardrobe in succession to John Ellys (fn. 50) (see above). Saunders apparently called his premises 'The Royal Tapestry Manufactory, Soho Square', for this was the address which his successor here, Samuel Norman, a cabinet-maker, who took over the workshops in 1760, used on a bill which he sent to the Duke of Bedford in connexion with refurnishing Woburn Abbey. (fn. 51) There may have been some business association between Saunders and Norman, because on 13 September 1760 Saunders was called to Woburn (with Thomas Woodin) to make a valuation of the 'large Glass in the Blue Drawing Room'. (fn. 52)
In April 1760 Saunders let Carlisle House to Mrs. Cornelys (see page 74) and in May 1761 his assignees sold the lease of the whole site, including the workshops, to her. (fn. 53) In the same year he removed to the house in Great Queen Street which had formerly been occupied by John Vanderbank and John Ellys, where he remained until 1767. (fn. 17) Also in 1761 Saunders obtained a second post in the Great Wardrobe, when he succeeded John Vanbushell as yeoman tapestry taylor. He held this post concurrently with his position as yeoman arras-worker until his death in 1771. (fn. 54) Both posts were mainly concerned with repairing and cleaning the royal tapestries. In 1761, for instance, he cleaned, repaired and restored The Spanish Armada tapestry in the House of Lords and several tapestries in St. James's Palace including Hero and Leander and Mars and Venus. (fn. 55) Saunders did also make new tapestries, for in 1761 he supplied a 'fine Tapestry being the King's Arms proper, with Borders, etc.', for the Court of Chancery in Westminster Hall. (fn. 56)
The accounts of the Lord Chamberlain's department do not specify how many men Saunders employed on tapestry work, but in 1766 he had six men cleaning tapestries in the King's apartment at St. James's Palace, and seven men doing the same in the Queen's apartment. (fn. 57)
In 1767–8 Saunders moved from Great Queen Street to a large house at the corner of Charlotte (now Bloomsbury) and Streatham Streets, in Bloomsbury. (fn. 58) By 1770 he had become a member of the Court of Assistants of the Upholders' Company. (fn. 59) In his will, which was proved on 28 August 1771, he left the lease of his 'dwelling house work shops warehouses and premises' (all evidently in Charlotte Street) in trust to his wife Ann, his son Hugh, and his 'worthy friend' Theodosius Forrest, gentleman, of York Buildings, St. Martin in the Fields. (fn. 60) The latter was a lawyer with artistic talents, who exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy, and was a successful song writer and singer. He was solicitor to the Covent Garden Theatre, a friend of Garrick, and the son of Ebenezer Forrest, one of Hogarth's companions on the five days' peregrination to the Isle of Sheppey in 1732, of which Ebenezer Forrest wrote the account. (fn. 61)
In 1755 (before the dissolution of his partnership with Saunders in 1756) George Smith Bradshaw took a house at No. 80 Dean Street, and in 1756 he acquired a number of sites on which Nos. 90, 91 and 92 Dean Street, and No. 17 Carlisle Street, now stand (see page 139). During 1757 he rebuilt houses and workshops on this site, and in 1758 he moved in, having vacated No. 59 Greek Street and No. 80 Dean Street. (fn. 31) On 25 March 1758 he mortgaged all this property to William Bradshaw and Robert Andrews (both described as of St. George's, Hanover Square, esquires), presumably to raise money for his building operations, (fn. 62) and on 23 November 1763 William Bradshaw assigned the property back to George Smith Bradshaw. (fn. 63)
In July 1765 George Smith Bradshaw insured his brick 'dwelling house and Warehouses under one roof' for £3,200 plus £400 for his stock of wood in the yard. (fn. 64) His business seems to have been successful. Between 1764 and 1774 he was employed by the Admiralty for the supply of furniture to the First Lord's house. (fn. 36) He was also buying up leases. In January 1765 he took leases of Nos. 4–6 Carlisle Street (and also No. 7, now demolished). He paid £388 in fines and covenanted to rebuild, and in the same year he rebuilt No. 17 Carlisle Street, of which he had taken the lease in 1756, paying a fine of £65 and covenanting to rebuild before 1770 (see page 147).
He continued at No. 91 Dean Street until 1795, (fn. 31) when he probably retired to Pershore, Worcestershire. He was living there in 1799 when he purchased the site of No. 1 Crown (now Diadem) Court (adjoining No. 92 Dean Street) from the Duke of Portland. (fn. 65) He died at Pershore in 1812 in his ninety-fifth year. (fn. 66)
His will casts no light on the puzzle of his name except to show that he left two sons and two daughters, all with the surname Smith. He left £1,500 in trust for his eldest son John, and £2,500 in trust for his second son, George Smith, who was rated for part of his father's property in Dean Street as an upholsterer and cabinet-maker from 1795 until 1797. (fn. 67) George Smith may be the well-known cabinet-maker of the same name, who published A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration in 1808, and lived in Princes Street, Cavendish Square, and styled himself 'Upholsterer Extraordinary to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales'. In 1826 a George Smith of No. 41 Brewer Street described himself as 'Upholsterer and Furniture Draughtsman to His Majesty', and published The Cabinet-Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide, Drawing Book and Repository. (fn. 68)
George Smith Bradshaw was the last of the Soho tapestry makers. The Great Wardrobe was abolished in 1782, and by the end of the century 'the English tradition of tapestry-weaving came to an end. The newer, lighter styles of decoration which made rapid progress after 1760 were unfavourable to pictorial hangings, and the rare English commissions for tapestries in the later eighteenth century were executed by the infinitely more accomplished weavers of the Gobelins'. (fn. 26)