Brown, James (1747-1796)
St Paul's Churchyard, London; upholder and cabinet maker (fl.1747–96)
Traded initially at the sign of ‘The King's Arms’ on the south side of St Paul's Churchyard which had been previously used by Christopher Gibson. When numbering was introduced this became 29 St Paul's Churchyard. He was a member of the Joiners’ Company.
The trade card of James Brown at the King's Arms, the South Side of St Paul's Church-Yard, London. Makes & Sells all Sorts of the best & most Fashionable Chairs, either Cover'd, Matted or Can'd, Likewise all sorts of Cabinet Work, with Sconces, Pier Glasses, Mahogany & other Tables, Blinds for Windows made & curiously painted on Canvas, Silk or Wire, where their is good Choice of ye above Goods, c.1760 [Heal,125.11]. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Brown purchased licences to employ non-freemen at various periods from 1755–58, but never more than two men at a time and on a short term basis only. His business must have been substantial by 1779, the year purchased insurance cover for £2,000 of which £1,400 was for utensils and stock [London Metropolitan Archive (LMA), Sun Insurance archive].
Directories record the business from 1768–96 and in 1793 he subscribed to Sheraton's Drawing Book.
The long length of time during which the business traded suggests that perhaps more than one James Brown was involved, possibly a father and son. The business attracted some patronage from wealthy members of the aristocracy and gentry. As early as 1747 he was supplying the Duke of Gordon with two ‘compas elbow chairs Spanish leather £2.14s’ and a mahogany ‘bewrow dressing chest £2. 10s’.
His name also appears in the Croome Court accounts as the supplier (23 June 1781) of six green and white japanned rout chairs at £4 2s 6d; and in 1785 a mahogany tea chest with canisters, £3 6s.
He appears to have marked some of his furniture by the use of trade labels though only two instances are so far recorded: a mahogany side table on slender cabriole legs of c. 1780 and an urn stand in satinwood and mahogany with a brass rim, c. 1785, illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs 154-56 and sold at Sotheby’s, 7 July 186, lot 998.
Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).