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Bastard, Thomas, John and William (1689-1771)

Bastard, Thomas, John and William

Blandford, Dorset; architects, joiners and cabinet makers (fl.1689-c.1771)

The family firm was probably established in Blandford in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Thomas, father of the three brothers, was said to have come from Belchawell, five miles north of Blandford. Thomas was prominent in local politics and administration, serving as one of two overseers appointed by the Corporation in 1689 and in 1713 as Bailiff. He married Bridget Creech, daughter of Thomas Creech, gentleman, and brother of Thomas Creech, poet and fellow of All Souls. Thomas and Bridget had six sons and four daughters, and when he died in 1720 he left a property in the town to each of his six sons. A memorial was erected to his memory in the parish church of St. Peter & Paul which recorded that he was ‘eminent for his skill in architecture’.

When Thomas jnr, John, and William took over the business in 1720 it was already thriving, with the firm’s name occurring in the accounts for Blandford Corporation and for nearby Kingston Hall. Thomas Bastard jnr died in July 1720 and thenceforth the business was run by John and William. This included wainscoting, fitting chimney pieces, interior and exterior decorating. They also carried out work for Dorset churches including a Table of Affinity for Sturminster Newton in 1728 and pulpit, canopy and pews for Hampreston Church in 1731. By 1728 they were located in one of the town’s main streets, directly opposite the parish church. Their plot contained dwelling house, brewhouse, stable, workshops, cellars, counting house, warehouse and timber storage.

A great deal of information about their business, its premises and its various branches is given in an inventory drawn up in 1731 to record their losses in the Blandford fire of 4 June 1731. Further information, including elevations and ground plans, comes from new leases granted by William’s Charity, the owners of the land on which the Bastards’ business stood. There is no doubt that the rebuilding of the town after the fire was immensely beneficial to the firm, once their initial losses had been overcome. John Bastard served as Chamberlain to the Corporation from 1732-1736, crucial years in the rebuilding. Many of the principal buildings of the town were rebuilt by the brothers, including the almshouse, the church, the town hall, the Greyhound Inn (which they owned) and their own premises.

In 1731 the Bastards’ range of work included undertaking, surveying and design, supply of clocks, barometers and other instruments, carving, house joinery and a full range of furniture making, including japanning. Chair making was particularly productive with over 260 in stock or making when the fire occurred. They also performed upholstery. Their wood stocks included oak, both local and imported, deal, mahogany, walnut, elm, ash, cherry, plum, boxwood and holly and peartree veneers.

A walnut set of settee and six side chairs was sold by Lawrences Auctioneers in Crewkerne, Somerset on 21 January 2022, Lot 1860. It is possible that the chairs and settee could have been made by John and William Bastard of Blandford at the time of the alterations to the south front of Creech Grange carried out in 1739-40 by another Blandford man, the architect Francis Cartwright. It is known that the two worked together on other houses of the gentry in the area. In Nathaniel Bond's account book for September 1741 is an entry 'pd. Bush for carriage of chairs from Blandford' and for May 1742 'paid Mr. Bastard's bill £14.9.0' (illustrated below):

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Lawrences Auctioneers
Walnut settee possibly made by John and William Bastard, c. 1740.
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Lawrences Auctioneers
One of a set of six walnut side chairs possibly made by John and William Bastard, c. 1740.

Known clients of the firm were:

  • Thomas Pitt of Swallowfield (1723)
  • John Bankes at Kingston Hall (1727-1739)
  • The Weld family, Lulworth Castle (1727-1770s)
  • Carew Harvey Mildmay of Hazelgrove House (1732-1733)
  • Lord Wardour at Wardour Old Castle (1747)

An account rendered to John, 4th Duke of Bedford, on 30 July 1756 invoiced nine small items: a tea board, coffee board, two trays, a plate basket, two punch ladles and a knife box, totalling £1 13s 3d, and is marked ‘To go to Camp’. The Duke was in camp as a militia commander during the summer of 1756. The account also names George Rawson, personal servant to Francis, Marquess of Tavistock, the Duke's son, then aged 17 and probably in camp with his father. Some of the articles may have been for his use.

Deeds featuring John Bastard’s name are known, dated 19 May 1740 and 14 July 1752.

William Bastard died in 1766 and John in 1770. Neither had married so their principal heirs were two nephews, Thomas ‘the elder’ and Thomas ‘the younger’. These two inherited the business and the lease on the property, together with other leases and freehold property and £25,000 in mortgages and stocks. More than £11,000 had been left in legacies to family and friends.

Thomas ‘the elder’ died in 1771 and Thomas ‘the younger’ soon closed the business and retired to a nearby estate at Charlton Marshall, inherited from his wife’s family.

Source: DEFM; Legg, Polly, ‘The Bastards of Blandford: an Inventory of their Losses in the Fire of 1731’, Furniture History (1994); Legg, Polly & Michael, ‘An Account of Some Eighteenth Century Communion Tables in Dorset’, Regional Furniture (2007); The Mark of the Blandford Architects; Personal correspondence with Jay Stiefel, 19 February 2022.

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.