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Crouch, Caesar (1722-1763)

Crouch, Caesar

The Black Swan, south side of St Paul's Churchyard, London; joiner and cabinet maker (fl.1722–63)

Caesar Crouch was born on the 13th of November 1707 in Ringwood, Hampshire, the son of a deceased minister, also Caesar, who was a Fellow of King's College Cambridge, having earned a BA (1663), a MA (1668), and subsequently incorporated as a vicar of Ringwood. His son was fifteen when apprenticed to John Belchier on the 1st of May 1722 for seven years, at a fee of £40. It was twenty-three years later, the 3rd of October 1752, when Belchier gave consent for his apprentice to become a freeman of London. Belchier died five months later [15 March, 1753; City of Westminster Archives Centre: Westminster Church of England Parish RegistersSTA/PR/6/3]. 

freedom admission
Joiners' Company freedom admission paper, 3 October 1752 [LMA: COL/CHD/FR/02/0770-0-777]

Why did Crouch fail to enrol as a freeman of London for twenty-three years? Where was he after presumably completing his apprenticeship in John Belchier's workshop and paying a considerable amount for the privilege? Becoming a freeman was expensive; quarterly dues were required in addition to the initial admission fee, however, it is unlikely that finances acted as a deterrent considering his background.

The Joiners' Company stipulated that after completing an apprenticeship, newly trained artisans were required to seek work as journeymen for a mandatory two years before setting up as independent tradesmen. Evidence suggests that these rules were mostly adhered to until 1725, when the Joiners’ Company lost a legal action that only freemen of the Company could practice their trade. The Common Council of the City of London was meant to oversee these regulations, but enforcement became increasingly fitful and discontinuous by the early eighteenth century, with the duty of imposing the gilds’ monopoly having devolved very largely upon individuals. That Crouch became a freeman in the 1750s, more than twenty years after his apprenticeship, presents an interesting conundrum for London historians.

Hopefully in time evidence will be uncovered to explain what Crouch did over the years. Could he have worked all that time as a journeyman in Belchier's workshop? Perhaps he left London or travelled abroad? Whatever the case, the first documentary evidence of his whereabouts was a month after becoming a freeman. On the 13th of November 1752, he was married to Frances Humphreys at St Anne and St Agnes in Aldersgate [London Metropolitan Archives; London, England: P69/ANA/A/006/MS06766/001]. Frances was the widow of John Humphreys, an upholsterer who had also worked in St Paul's Churchyard until his death in 1750 [25 Sep, 1750; LMA: P69/MIC3/A/002/MS11368].

Crouch Marriage Allegation
Marriage allegation between Caesar Crouch and Frances Humphrey [LMA: DL/A/D/24/MS10091E/65]


Land taxes show that Caesar and Frances Crouch resided at 'The Black Swan' on the south side of St Paul's Churchyard from the winter of 1753, a neighbourhood filled with scores of furniture makers at the period [LMA; London Land Tax Records, Castle Baynard, City of London, 1753-1763].

In 1754 he subscribed to Chippendale's Director and the following year he helped to organise an appeal (hosted at his home) for funds to replace tools belonging to Chippendale's journeymen that were destroyed in a fire in his workshop in 1755. Did he host this event to help the journeymen in Chippendale's workshop because he too had been a journeyman there? The illustration below is an invitation for the event by Matthew Darly.

Photograph of an engraved invitation inscribed 'T. Chippendale INV M. Darly Sulp Northum'd Court Strand', 1755 [C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale (1978), plate 12].

He also subscribed to Poems by John Miller on several occasions which included dramatic epistles from the principal characters in some eighteenth-century English tragedies. 

Caesar Crouch was nearly fifty-six when he died. He was buried at St Gregory by St Paul on the 19th of October 1763 [LMA: P69/GRE/A/007/MS18935].

Laurie Lindey

Sources: DEFM; England births and christenings, 1538-1975, 0994051 IT 3-5; Foster's Index Ecelesasaticus, 1890; L. Lindey, 'The London Furniture Trade, 1640-1720' (unpublished University of London PhD thesis, 2016).

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