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Fell, Lawrence (1766–1797)

Fell, Lawrence

London; cabinet maker (fl.1766–97)

In partnership with William Turton from c. 1770, and later with James Newton at 31 Compton Street, 1781–84, and 63 Wardour Street and 10 Bruton Street in 1797. Little is known of the firm of Fell and Turton, but that it's importance is implied by documents concerning the prestigious patronage received from Sir Lawrence Dundas of Moor Park, Hertfordshire, and Arlington Street, London as well as accounts for work done at Burghley House, Stamford for the 9th and 10th Earl of Exeter, later 1st Marquess of Exeter.


  • Dundas’s account at the Royal Bank of Scotland, Drummonds Branch, shows that he paid Lawrence Fell over £5,000 between 1765–75 for work at Moor Park and Arlington Street; but the seven surviving bills document only a fraction of this commission. Fell may have already carried out work for Dundas by 1764, as a bill of that date from France & Bradburn to Dundas suggests; but his first known bill is dated 1766, for supplying, repairing and re-gilding picture frames for a total of £86 1s. 
  • The next document is a receipt for £300 dated 31 December 1768. An undated document, c. 1770, bears a rough note in Dundas's hand of expenses for furnishing Moor Park, his house in Arlington Street, and Aske Hall, Yorkshire, and reads: ‘Fell before done £1,200’. On 12 October 1770 Fell submitted a bill for fixing paintings to ‘straining’ frames and carving and gilding new frames to be shipped to Aske Hall. 
  • Another bill of 1770 for glass frames for pictures at Moor Park totalled £299 5s 5d, with £281 10s 6d for materials, labour and shipping. 
  • In September 1771 Fell and Turton, now in partnership, provided bed furniture for Dundas's trip abroad, costing £36 18s 6d; and received £104 5s 10½d for carrying out joiner's work, making carved and gilt cornices and festoon curtains at Arlington Street. 
  • Fell and Turton's most outstanding commission from Dundas was for furnishing the famous Tapestry Room at Moor Park: the suite of carved and gilt furniture covered with tapestries executed by Jacques Neilson at the ‘Manufacture Royale des Gobelins’ between 1766–69, and delivered in 1771. Fell and Turton's account of 1771 for this suite records only two sofas, six chairs and two window stools, additional pieces (including a pair of fire screens) being supplied later. Their bill which totals £138 4s 6d invoices two sofas costing £50, two stools, £16, and six elbow chairs, £60, all ‘Carved and gilt in Burnished gold, stuff'd with Best Curl'd hair and fine linnin’, covered with tapestry, and supplied with paper cases. The tapestry suite is now split between the Philadelphia Museum of Art (illustrated below) and Temple Newsam House, Leeds. A pair of side tables made by Fell & Turton, c. 1770, for the Gallery at Moor Park are now at Kenwood, London.
Tapestry upholstered chair
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Upholstered in tapestries woven at the Gobelins tapestry manufactory, Paris (1662–present) In the workshop of Jacques Neilson (French (born England), 1714–1788). Seat tapestries after designs by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (French, 1686–1755) Backs after designs by François Boucher (French, 1703–1770) Borders after designs by Maurice Jacques (French, 1712–1784) , or Louis Tessier (French, 1719–1781). Tapestry made, 1760-80 [1939-41-18d]. Bequest of Eleanor Elkins Rice, 1939. Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Day Books at Burghley House between 3 March 1773 and 26 February 1777 record a total expenditure with Turton and Fell of £693 19s 5d and a separate additional amount of paid to Lawrence Fell & Co on 29 December 1779 of £110 5s 6d for work to 29 March 1781 although unfortunately there are no detailed records of what was supplied.

By 1781 the partnership between Fell and Turton appears to have been dissolved, and Lawrence Fell is recorded with James Newton, 1781–97. At 31 Compton St they took out Sun Insurance policies in 1781 for £2,400, £1,800 on utensils, stock, goods and workshop; and in 1783 for £2,000, £1,750 on utensils, stock and goods. Lawrence Fell alone subscribed to George Richardson's A Book of Ceilings, 1776, and his Iconology, 1779–80, and polled at Westminster in 1784. The Burghley connection with Fell’s new partnership continued, and the Day Books show payments to Fell & Newton between 15 October 1781 and Lady Day 1788 and then Newton and Fell on 20 July 1789 totalling a substantial £2,154 4s 0d.

A state bed was supplied and payments are recorded for ‘upholsterers’, ‘for one year hire of furniture of Mr Cecil’s furniture in House in Stratford Place London’, ‘for a new mahogany hand rail for the New Staircase at Burghley’, ‘joiners and carvers work done at the George Room at Burghley’ although no individual items of furniture are described. Fell’s participation in this work seems to have ceased by 1790, and from 14 March 1790 the Day Books payments are solely to James Newton.

Source: DEFM; Ellwood, Giles, ‘James Newton’ Furniture History (1995).

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