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Channon, John (1711–1783)

Channon, John

109 St Martin's Lane, London; cabinet maker (b.1711–d.c.1783)

In the 18th century there were many Channons living in Exeter and Tiverton, and it is not always possible to establish their precise relationship to each other. However, it is likely that John was the younger brother of Otho, an Exeter chair maker, and that both were the sons of Otho Channon who on 8 October 1697 married Anne Sone and who appears in the Exeter poor rate books (1699-1732), described as an innkeeper (1714 & 1719); and as a serge maker (1725–26).

Otho Channon snr lived in St. Sidwell parish where his sons were baptised: Otho (4 November 1698); and John (21 May 1711). John Channon was apprenticed in 1726, at the age of fifteen, to his elder brother Otho ‘of Exeter joiner’ at a consideration of £8 and presumably completed his training in 1733. The next citing of him was in London in 1737, when he set up a cabinet-making business ‘upon the Pavement’ on the west-side of St Martin's Lane, later numbered 109. His name first appears in the Westminster poor rate book for the last quarter of 1737. He lived in this house until 1783 when he was succeeded by Hugh Channon who vacated it after a year. The church registers of St Martin-in-the Fields record the baptism and subsequent burial of five children born to John Channon and his wife Martha between 1758 and 1771.

There are no documented Channon trade cards or labels, but it is possible that his shop sign was ‘The Golden Fleece’ because the inner hinge plate of a cabinet-on-stand attributed to him at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is engraved with a ram pendant from twisted snakes, and hearsay has it that in 1742 and 1747 a house ‘on the Pavement’ in St Martin's Lane displayed the sign of ‘The Golden Fleece’. However there is no mention in the following advertisement in The Craftsman, 24 July 1742: ‘This is to give Notice, that Furbur's Collection of Twelve Monthly Flower Prints are now reprinted, and to prevent the Public being imposed upon, by spurious Copies sold about Town, the original Prints are Sixteen inches and a Quarter by Twelve, with a Handsome Title Plate of the Subscriber's Names, and under each Plate is engrav'd these words, From the Collection of Robert Furbur, Gardener at Kensington, design'd by P. Cassteels, and engrav'd by H. Fletcher; and now sold colour'd for Two Guineas a Set by Samuel Sympson, Engraver and Print Seller, in Maiden-Lane, Covent Garden; John Channon, Cabinet maker and Frame Maker, in St Martin's Lane and George Lacy who colours the said Flowers, in Red Lion Court, Long-Acre. NB At the above Places are sold Mr. Furbur's Collection of Fruit Pieces’.

Another notice mentioning Channon appeared in the Daily Advertiser, 23 November 1742: ‘Mr Eade having left off his publick school in St. Martin's Lane, continues to teach (only abroad) some few Persons Writing, Arithmetic and Merchants’ Accounts, in a very short and easy Method. His Lodgings are at Mr. Channon's, a Cabinet-Warehouse, upon the Pavement in St. Martin's Lane’.

Both Channon senior and junior were subscribers to Chippendale’s Director (1754).

John Channon's fire insurance policy, dated 9 January 1760, valued various items in his dwelling:

  • Household goods, utensils and stock in trade £500
  • Glass in trade £100
  • Household goods, utensils and stock in trade in a house behind £150
  • Wearing apparel £50
  • Glass therein not exceeding £50
  • Utensils, stock in trade in shop only in the yard behind £150
  • Total £1,000

The 1741 apprenticeship records describe John Channon as a joiner, but in 1752 he was listed as a cabinet maker when apprenticing Rowland Jackson, charging a consideration of £25 and £15 respectively. An indication of his increasing prominence is seen in 1762 when he apprenticed Edward Henry Williamson at a consideration of £50.

The only signed or labelled pieces of furniture by John Channon are a pair of brass-inlaid bookcases at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon, bearing brass tablets engraved ‘J Channon Fecit 1740’.

Powderham bookcase
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
John Channon supplied this bookcase and its pair to Sir William Courtenay in 1740. They were made for his new library, on the first floor of Powderham Castle, Devon [V&A W.1A-1987]. Now on loan to Powderham Castle. Purchase funded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)

In 1965–66 John Hayward published a group of furniture which, on account of design, type, quality of wood, manner of construction, and similarities in brass inlay decoration and ormolu mounts, appeared to come from the same workshop. He consequently attributed them to John Channon on the evidence of stylistic analogy and technical parallels with the Powderham bookcases. However, during conservation work in preparation for the 1993 Channon exhibition, it became apparent that the gilt dolphin feet, used as the basis of the visual link with the other attributed Channon pieces, were actually nineteenth-century additions. Further, the rest of the group was veneered with either mahogany or padouk, whereas the signed bookcases were of Indian rosewood. Although the exhibition brought to light a number of new brass-inlaid pieces, it actually succeeded in weakening Channon’s claim to authorship and revealed, instead, a number of other makers specialising in brass inlaid furniture, such as Abraham Roentgen, Fredrick Hintz and Landall & Gordon. Consequently, the long list of furniture attributed to Channon published in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers (1986) is now much shorter, with the Powderham bookcases the only firmly attributed pieces. The maker or makers of the rest remain to be identified, although Channon himself cannot be ruled out.

Channon's furniture is often said to display strong Continental influence, an assumption compounded by the fact that his father was called Otto. However, no continental connections have been discovered and the most direct design source for the Powderham bookcases is in fact plate 27 from Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones and others (1733). They were originally placed in the Old Library at Powderham Castle, where the fireplace and chimney piece are taken from the frontispiece of volume II of Palladio’s Quatro Libri dell’ Architettura republished by Isaac Ware in 1738.

POWDERHAM CASTLE, Devon (Sir William Courtenay). The massive and very richly styled pair of rosewood library bookcases with fine engraved brass inlay work and gilt carving, each bear a brass plaque inscribed ‘J. Channon Fecit 1740’. The Powderham Castle papers record under 29 April 1741 ‘Cash to John Channon part on acct — £50’. The bookcases, now in the ante-room on the ground floor, were commissioned for the library on the first floor of the north east wing, created 1739–46. The room still retains its original chimney piece, possibly by Otho Channon.

HORNBY HALL, Lancashire (Mrs Anne Fenwick). A bill, some letters and a receipt spanning the years 1766–69 survive. The account dated 18 June 1766 totals £6 8s 5½d and itemises ‘2 pictures in carved and gilt, frames £5.5.0.’ and ‘a small pair of garrendoles painted flack white with brass norsels, hold fasses and screws 15s 6d’. At the bottom of this bill Channon wrote: ‘If you have a Desire for any Perticular Picture or Pictures please do lett me know what will sute for it Offon falls in my way to Meet with Some Very Good I shall take A pleasure to Oblege you Without any fee or Reward’.

In a further letter to Mrs Fenwick, (4 August 1766), written by John's wife, Martha Channon, it is stated that ‘Mr Channon has been in pursuit of some Vast Curious and Valuable pictures which at last he has purchased its our Blessd. Savour and Six of his Apostles Supposed by the best Judges to be done by Raphel Urbin the Size of the pictures and frames together is 19 by 14 in neat Carvd. frames the price is thirteen Guineas in all probability worth three times the Money but Mr. Channon was Requested by you he would take no Advantage and if you please to Desire it they shall be sent Down for you to see and if you dont like them Mr. Channon will keep them himself he Coud not Get them to Send without Buying them and their being a great bargain he will take them if Dislikd. by you’.

The seven pictures were sent up to Hornby but were returned. Friendly relations evidently continued since there is also a receipt dated 19 December 1769 for £7 worth of Channon's lottery tickets.

HENRIETTA STREET, Covent Garden, London (Richard Crosse, miniature painter)

1773 June 20: To Repaireing a Mahogy Clock case head a New frett to Do. Cleaning & Lackering the Capitles & bases & varses & polishing Do. alover Screwes & c 0 – 6. 6; To Repaireing a Serpentine teatable a New frett; To Do. scrapeing & polishing Do. Alover 0 5.6

1773 July 12: To a 5ftt. Bedstead Stout Mahogy Pillers fine Wood Carv on Strong Castors the best Double horsecloath Ticking bottom & Laceing line Compas rod & base latts & a Scerpintain Cutt cornis &c Compleate6 – 16 – 6; To 55yds… of the best Crimsen Moreene at 2s 9p. Yard 7 – 11 – 3; To 102yds of the best Coverd, lace 1 – 9 – 3; To 8yds of brown hesings to Back line the head & teaster 0 – 10 – 6; To 2 Torsels0 – 3 – 0 Buckram to back line the Vallens & Bases & tamme to back line Do. 0 – 17 – 0 Brass Rings Silk tape thread Studs tax &c– 10 – 6; To Makeing the Furniture and Covering the Cornishses 2 – 12 – 6; To 3 Men & fixing up the bedstead & furniture at Yr House tax &c 0 – 5 – 0; Cash paid for a Bedwrinch left at Yr House 0 – 2 – 0; To a paper case to the teaster of Cateredge paper 0 – 2 – 0

1773 Octobr 18 £21 – 11 – 6. Recd, the Contents in full & all Demands John Channon

Sources: DEFM; Gilbert & Murdoch, Channon Revisited’, Furniture History (1994); Snodin, ‘Thomas Bowles and Baroque Ornament: Some More Printed Sources for Engraved Brass Inlay’, Furniture History (1994); Bowett, ‘Design Sources for the Powderham Bookcases, FHS Newsletter (November 2002).

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