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Bream(e), Jasper (1661–1697)

Bream(e) (or Braem), Jasper

London; inlayer, marqueteur, and cabinet maker (fl.1661–d.1697)

Jasper (or Casper) Bream (Braem) was a Dutch immigrant. He arrived in London in or before 1661 and was married to Elizabeth Masinde on 11 April 1664 at St Andrew Holborn. The couple had five children. On 3 June 1668 Bream received his Letter of Denization as: 'A Hollander having served 7 years in the trade of Joiner according to the laws of the Kingdom', and in May 1676 was admitted to the Joiner’s Company by redemption on order of the Lord Mayor: 'Casper Breame adminsus iut per Order Dni Mayor Sheldon 9 May 1676 [Letters of Denization; Marriage, birth & death records; Joiners' Co. freedom admissions].

From early 1677 he and his family were in Fleet Street as co-tenant to the clock maker, Thomas Tompion. The horologist, Jeremy Evans has suggested that Bream may have been one of Tompion's clock case makers, however, there is unfortunately no documentary evidence to substantiate this supposition [Evans, 2006]. Below are images of three clock cases loosely attributed to him: 

Tompion clock
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
British Museum

Thomas Tompion month-going day and date clock in dandelion marquetry longcase, possibly made by Jaspar Bream, c.1677–80 [1958,1006.2126]. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Fitzwilliam clockcase
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Fitzwilliam Museum

Thomas Tompion equation and astronomical clock in a longcase veneered with panels of walnut, olivewood, and floral marquetry panels, possibly made by Jaspar Bream, c.1677–80 [M.21-1947]. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

MET longcase clock
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Metropolitan Museum

Thomas Tompion calendrical, lunar, and tidal clock, in a longcase veneered with panels of walnut, olivewood, and floral marquetry panels, attributed to Jaspar Bream, c.1677–80 [1999.48.2]. Bequest of Marilyn Preston Graves, 1999. © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. CCO .1.0.  

One of Bream's son's, Casper, apparently became enamoured with clock-making while living next door to Thomas Tompion because he took up the trade. He bound his first apprentice soon after becoming a freeman of the Clockmakers' Company, Nathaniel Stiles, the son of Lazarus Stiles, who was a cabinet maker and minor timber merchant in the City of London (fl.1670-1724). Perhaps like his father, Casper's business involved manufacturing clock cases [Clockmakers' Co. apprenticeships & freedoms].

Jasper Bream indentured nine apprentices through the Joiners' Company over the years 1676-1691. In 1682 he apprenticed his son, William, who probably met the Dutch marqueteur, Jan van Mekeren in his father's workshop, because he was there working as a journeyman in 1682 and living around the corner in Water Lane [Joiners' Company apprenticeships; Dutch Church records; Catherine Wright, 'Social and cultural connections between the English and Dutch, 1660-1720', unpublished PhD thesis, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 2016]. An example of his work from a later date is illustrated below:

cabinet on stand
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)

Cabinet on stand, veneered with walnut, on a carcase of oak, with floral marquetry of holly, barberry, pear, sycamore, olive wood, padouk and other woods (some stained); handles of lacquered brass. Made in Amsterdam,1690-1710 [W.5:1 to 14-1986]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A notable cabinet maker who served his apprenticeship with Bream was George Nix, originally apprenticed to another member of the Joiners' Company, Thomas Halfehide, and subsequently turned over to Bream. Nix is known for providing his services to Moulsham Hall  (1728-32), Cley (1729), Ham House (1729-34), Burton Hall (1740) and Holkham Hall (1741) [Joiners' Co. apprenticeships].

Bream was recorded in the 1675 Court of Orphans' inventory of the cabinet maker, Edward Traherne, appraised by Gerrit Jensen. He evidently had some type of professional relationship with Traherne because he owed Bream £13 at his death. This may have been for supplying marquetry decorated furniture and/or marquetry veneers, however this is unknown. 

Bream is also recorded for:

  • Windsor Castle (1684–86): ‘inlaying ye step under her highness ye Dutchess of York's Bed done with several coloured woods in Resemblance of flowers, leaves etc. & for Inlaying ye step at ye foot of ye said Bedd, done with walnutt’, for which he was paid £33 6s 8d [W. H. St John Hope, Windsor Castle; V&A FTF archives].
  • 5th Earl of Bedford (1689–92): repairing and supplying furniture including three tables ‘of Gernobel wood’ (French walnut), costing £7 15s, three other walnut tables; ‘a black table 4 foot’, £9 10s; and a 34 inch glass in a walnut frame, £5 5s. On 3 July 1688 Bream was paid ‘for a Walnutt Tree Table & Stands &c.’; and on 8 August 1689, for ‘Wares delivered, and Workmanship done’, including ‘a Wainscott Table for the Dyneing Roome’: Total cost of three bills £45 17s 6d [Bedford Office, London; Bedford Inventory].

By the time of his death in the winter of 1697, Bream had moved westward from Fleet Street to the Savoy in the Strand. He described himself as a cabinet maker in his will (written on 19 September 1695 and proved on 7 February 1696/7). However, although his workshop may have carried out general cabinet-making work, it seems likely that he specialised in marquetry production. This was not altogether uncommon as evidenced in the trade card of another London cabinet maker, Philip Hunt [Probate will]. 

By Laurie Lindey

Sources: DEFM; Shaw, Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England and Wales, 1603-1700 (1911), p. 101; London Metropolitan Archive (LMA), London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812J. Evans, Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns (2006), pp. 27-30; London Metropolitan Archive (LMA), Clockmakers' Company freedom admission, 5 July 1716, COL/CHD/FR/02/0342-0346; Guildhall Library (GL), Joiners' Company freedom admissions, MS 8051/1, f. 111f. 68; GL, Joiners' Company apprenticeship bindings, MS 8052/2, f. 39; 43f. 72; f. 93; f. 97; f. 107; f. 137f. 178LMA, Records of the Dutch Church at Austin Friars, City of London, CLC/180; The National Archives (TNA), Casper Bream, 6 July 1716, Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books: Series IR 1; Class: IR 1; Piece: 4; TNA, Jasper Bream, PROB 11/430, 27 Feb. 1696/7; ; L. Lindey, ‘A Restoration London Cabinet and Looking Glass Maker: Edward Traherne’, Furniture History (2014); L. Lindey, The London Furniture Trade, 1640 - 1720 (unpublished PhD thesis), Institute of Historical Research, University of London (2016), pp. 213-255; A. Bowett & L. Lindey, ‘Looking for Gerrit Jensen’, Furniture History (2017).

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