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Goodison, Benjamin (1700–1767)

Goodison, Benjamin

‘Golden Spread Eagle’, Long Acre, London; cabinet maker (b. c.1700–d.1767)

Benjamin Goodison first came to notice on 7 September 1719 when he signed for money for ‘my master’ James Moore from the Duchess of Marlborough. Further on 1 April 1720 he signed a receipt for £6 6s for work done by ‘My Master, James Moore’ for the 3rd Earl of Burlington. We may assume he was born about 1700 and he may still have been apprenticed to Moore in 1720, but there is no record of this. The name Goodison is common in South Yorkshire, but again there is no record of the name in the York freeman rolls. However, by 1725 Goodison had set up on his own, a fact attested by his taking an apprentice Thomas Barber on 16 January, and details of the Saunderson commission (below). 

In an advertisement published in Daily Courant, 22 August 1727, repeated 23–24 August, he asked for information about ‘a large old fashioned Glass Sconce, which had been stolen from his shop at the ‘Golden Spread Eagle in Long Acre’. 

Goodison advert
Stolen out of the Shop of Benjamin Goodison, Cabinet-Maker at the Golden Spread Eagle in Long-Acre, om or about the  4th Day of this present August, a large old-fashioned Glass Sconce, in a Glass Frame, with Gold Flowers painted on the Glass Frame, and a green Ground , the Bottom Border of the Frame is wanting . This is to give Notice , that if any Person shall bring the said Glass or give any Account of it to the said Benjamin Goodison, shall receive three Guineas Reward. If offered to be pawn'd or sold , pray stop it, and give Notice as above. Daily Courant, 22 August 1727.

It might have been one he had acquired from Mrs Moore. or was repairing for her. After her husband's death she advertised in Daily Courant, 26 July 1727, the disposal of ‘all her stock’.

Daily Courant - Widow Moore
All Persons who have a Claim to any Goods in the Custody of Mrs. Moore, Widow and Executrix of Mr. James Moore, late of Short's Gardens in St. Giles in the Fields, Cabinet-Maker, are desired to fetch them away before the last Day of August next, the said Mrs. Moore designing to dispose of all her Stock.  Daily Courant, 26 July 1727,

In the way that James Moore succeeded his (presumed) master John Gumley in royal service, so Goodison succeeded Moore in 1726–27. He first comes to notice in the 1729 accounts when he supplied a lantern to Hampton Court for the Queen's Great Staircase costing £138. His name then appears with regularity, and notably with a massive bill in 1737 when payments to Mrs Moore, as her husband's executor, cease. 

It has been tempting to attribute much that is ‘Kentian’ to Goodison. The argument is worth rehearsing against the possible discovery of some documentation. From the late 1730s the Great Wardrobe was under the control of Sir Thomas Robinson, as its Master, who authorized all payments to Kent and his circle, which included Goodison. The accounts submitted by Goodison are long and involved, but provide the best clues to the range of work he was able to do. 

  • 1737: Part of an account rendered in 1737 reads: ‘Item: to Benjamin Goodison, Cabinetmaker, for two Chimney Glasses in Wallnuttree Frames, Two Pair of wrought brass Arm & One hanging Glass in a Walnuttree Frame, Eight Dressing Glasses in Walnuttree Frames, two smaller ditto, fifteen Side Glass Lanterns in Walnuttree Frames with fifteen brass Candlesticks and Shades to twelve of them. One Fire Screen in a Walnuttree Frame cover'd with India paper, Two Screens with four leaves Each in Ditto Frames and Cover'd Ditto. Two Mohogony Tea Kettle Stands, A New Glass to a Wallnut tree side Lantern, One very large Mohogony Chest of Drawers, One ditto and One other ditto, one round Mohogony Table on a pillar and Claw Foot, Two Mohogony Oval Dining Tables, Ten Mohogony Shelves for Book Cases, New Lacquering a pair of Double Wrought Arms, A Mohogony Stand on a pillar, and Claw Foot for Our Service at St James's …’. 
  • 1739: In 1739 he was asked to provide ‘a square Mohogony flat Table six feet long and three feet and an half wide to lay the Prince of Wales's Robes on at the 'Parliament House’ as well as ‘a looking Glass in a black Frame for the Dublin Yacht’. 
  • 1740: He was needed (in 1740) to newly gild ‘a large Peer Glass Frame and repairing the Carved Work of ditto, new Gilding the Frame of another Glass, repairing the carved work, silvering and fitting the Glass and Gilding the Pillasers to Dito the whole heighth of the Room’ — work he was presumably well versed in from the days of his apprenticeship. 
  • 1741: Royal preoccupations involved him in as varied provisions as a ‘Mohogony Stand & Perches for a Parrot’ (1741) and a ‘Mohogony Library Table with Drawers on one side and Cupboards on ye other ye top covered with black leather & Castors to ye Bottom — £16. 10s.’ (1750). Goodison also worked for Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his name appears in the relevant account books; for work at Hampton Court and St James's Palace and as noted in commissions below. 

We have noted Sir Thomas Robinson's official ‘supervision’ of Goodison's work. Two mahogany commodes made for Sir Thomas, c. 1740, are now in the Royal Collection. It seems sensible to assume that he commissioned Goodison to make for him privately what he knew he was well capable of making, and that some of the superb mahogany furniture with Greek frets and gilt enrichments — such as items at Longford Castle, Wiltshire (where Goodison's name is in the accounts) — should be credited to him. In 1932 it was noted that items (such as the commodes at Goodwood, Country Life, 26 November 1932) then held to be ‘early Vile’ might be by Goodison. The fact that Vile was still calling William Hallett I ‘my Master’ in 1749 tilts certain items of furniture prior to this date in Goodison's favour. Note should be taken of similar pieces at Chatsworth which are however by John Boson. 

The stuff of attribution is always heady but is strong in a circumstantial way in the Longford Castle and Sir Thomas Robinson commissions. From about 1743 Goodison had as an assistant Edward Grifiths. He did some work for Lord Cardigan (see commissions, below), particularly at the Dover Street, London, house. He also was employed on gilding in the Drawing Room at Longford Castle in 1747 (£88 15s). He later left to set up on his own at Dean Street, Soho. 

Two other significant private patrons were Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who employed Goodison at several houses, including her London residence in Dover Street, and her heirs, the Spencers, sometimes Earls of Sunderland, at Althorp

The various fire insurance policies Goodison took out in the 1740s (1744) and the three apprentices recorded to him are but a partial indication of success His recorded apprentices include:

  • 13 January 1736, Thomas Dawson
  • 2 May 1741, Benjamin Parran (Goodison's nephew)
  • 4 June 1746, John White

Goodison seems to have had a wide-ranging mind, and one also inclined to religion; at least his will shows him to have been unusually pious. He subscribed in 1736 to Stephen Duck's Poems on Several Occasions, and in 1748 to Thomas Warton's Poems on Several Occasions. 

He was noted in the lists as ‘Cabinet Maker to their Majesties’ but appeared in the Westminster poll books only as ‘cabinet maker’ in November-December 1749. 

Goodison's Royal service often involved preparation for various occasions. At the start of a Royal life he was ordered in March 1740 to ‘send a man to mend the Crown of Prince George's cradle and fit it on, and morbidly, in March 1751, he was required to help with the funeral arrangements after the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, his long-time patron. The death chamber and the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey were set out with black hangings provided by the upholsterer, William Reason and with eighty black sconces by Goodison. He also helped to embalm the body and lay the Prince in the lavish coffin provided by the joiner Henry Williams. 

We do not know who, or when, Goodison married, but at some time in the late 1740s one of his two daughters, Sarah, married William Hinchliff, of the family of talented sculptors and carvers who became well versed in the provision of scagliola tops for table frames. He was also serving the same royal masters as his father-in-law in the 1760s. Goodison's son, also named Benjamin, was treated well by his father. He entered Westminster School in January 1750 at the (late) age of 14, was admitted a pensioner at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1755, Scholar, 1756, and matriculated, 1758. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, and was a Bachelor of Law by 1764. At his father's death in 1767 he was left household effects and a sum of £8,000, approximately half the estate. The business was continued by Goodison snr's nephew, and erstwhile partner, Benjamin Parran, who had been app. to his uncle in 1741. For a time about 1769 he was in partnership with Goodison jnr, who in view of his legal training dealt presumably with the business side of affairs. Indeed, they seem to have serviced the funeral of the Duke of Newcastle in November 1768. It is not known whether he was the Benjamin Goodison who was a Fellow of the Society for Arts and Manufactures, 1760–77, and Chairman of the Committee of Correspondence and Papers, 1770–72. He may have died in 1783 when Parran went into partnership with William Gates. 

The final tidy act after Goodison snr's death was to present the probate of his will to the Great Wardrobe. They noted that administration of the estate had been granted on 9 December 1767 to Benjamin Goodison (son) and William Hinchliff (son-in-law), the surviving executors. Service to the Crown had already passed swiftly to William Vile and John Cobb, and at Vile's death in the same year as Goodison, to William France. We may for completeness conclude with a note of Benjamin Goodison snr's recorded fire insurance cover. He had a house at Mitcham, insured with the Hand in Hand Co. It had 2 storeys, garrets, 14 rooms, 8 marble chimneypieces, stables, a coach house. Insured £1600 brick, £200 timber. His London properties, 1740–43, are noted in vol. 60, pp. 50, 252, 340; 64, p. 146; 65, pp. 222, 238.

NORTH CRAY, Lincolnshire (Hon Wrey and Lady Mary Saunderson; Lord Monson). 1725–51: ‘May 2. Pd Mr Goodison a bill for chairs etc.’ (£19 12s) includes ‘For a Great Japan'd Chair with elbows’ (£2 10s). Goodison also worked for Lord Monson in 1738–39, 1741, 1747 (bill not settled until 1754). On 1 March 1738 he provided ‘A Mahogany Dining Table to holde from eight to twelve people (£8 10s) and in July 1739 ‘Six walnut chairs with stufft seats covered with black Spanish leather and brass nails at 28s (£8 8s). In 1747 he repaired a large library table and provided ‘2 Wallnutt Chairs with French Elbow & Stuffed backs & Seats at 39s. ea’. The check linen cases for them cost 9s each, and sacking 7s 6d. Goodison was still active for the family in 1751. 

ROYAL PALACES. 1729–68: The National Archive (TNA), LC books record in great detail Goodison's activities. His first account in 1729 included tables, glasses, sconces, etc., 

  • For St James's, Kensington, Kew and Windsor Castle. The following is a brief selection. Three pages of items in 1733 alone amounted for expenditure of £2,604 15s 6d, with an equal division between use of walnut and mahogany. His accounts run almost without interruption to 1760 with huge bills in various years — for example when Prince William and Prince Henry's house in Leicester Square was being embellished, 1757–58. 
  • In 1735 Goodison provided a mahogany case for an organ and mechanical harpsichord to Kensington Palace, which was altered in 1763 to a cabinet by William Vile. F
  • For the Prince of Wales at Carlton House, Leicester House, Kew, Pall Mall, Cliveden, Park Pl., etc., 1747–50, in the Windsor Royal Archives, namely: 1747: RA 54545–54553: £355 16s; incl.: carved pillar and claw screen (£3 3s), 4 carved frames for Indian glasses (20 gns each), picture frames, 1 mahog. 3-part map press (£24). Also repairs. 1748: RA 54556–54561: £730 3s 6d, incl.: carved and silvered table frame (£24), 2 carved and gilt picture frames with flowers and mosaic work (£126). 1749: RA 54863–54869: £459 13s, incl.: large mahog. library press (£46), picture frames and repairs. March 1750: RA 55287–55293: £388 8s. 6d, incl.: cheap mahog. furn., cleaning and alterations. Also ‘three long handles for garden Tools’, 7s.
  • Windsor, Abstract of Augusta, Princess of Wales Annual Expenses 1/7/1740–1/7/1741 (55426) April 1741, £10 13s. Items in the Royal Collection attributed to Goodison are illustrated in GCM, pls 37–43, and include a fine Japanese lacquer cabinet on stand, two tables, three looking-glasses (one for Frederick, Prince of Wales) and various pedestals or stands. However, several of these have now been reattributed to the Pelletier family of carvers (Murdoch, Burlington, 1997 & 1998). A carved and gilt mirror bearing the Prince of Wales's feathers is now in the V & A. A pair of George I giltwood torchères attributed to Goodison was sold Sotheby's, 8 November 1963, lot 166, and resemble those in the Royal Collection. The Robinson commodes are noted in the biographical text above. With related items they are also well illustrated by Coleridge, Thomas Chippendale, but understandably, in the light of earlier research, attributed to William Vile (pls 2–7). LONGFORD CASTLE, Wilts. (1st and 2nd Viscounts Folkestone). 1737–50 The Longford accounts (at Castle) note names and payments only. 1737, 23 Dec. Mr Goodison — Cabinet-maker — a bill with some old goods exchanged£148 1740, 21 Oct. Goodison furniture£413 1741, 1 Dec. Goodison£71. 11s. 1742, 21 May. Goodison£100.–. 1743, 28 May. Goodison cabt maker £90.—. 1743, 15 Dec. Goodison£342. 5s. 1745, 22 Feb.21. 3s. 6d. Gallery at Longford Goodison400.

These payments amount to £1,585 19s 6d and allow attribution of the mahogany and gilt day-beds, stools, armchairs and chairs upholstered in green damask in the Long Gallery and elsewhere, (and those in Genoa cut-velvet) to Goodison. A pair of pedestals, similar to those at Hampton Court, are after a drawing by John Vardy. SARAH, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH. 1739: After her daughter Isabella had been left a widow in 1739 Sarah purchased a property for her in Dover St, London. Goodison bid for it in July 1740 (£1,915). He did repairs there and provided 4 walnut elbow chairs at 18s 6d each and 9 chairs at 8s 9d each. He also provided chimneypieces, pier-glasses and several marble tables with walnut frames. 275 yards of green damask and enough white damask for a bed were not included in Goodison's bill or that of the u Sherard Paxton. The architect in charge was Henry Flitcroft. HOLKHAM HALL, Norfolk (1st Earl of Leicester). Scrutiny of the Holkham ‘Weekly Departmental Accounts’ produces several payments to Goodison. The first is in 1739 (1st quarter)

for ye temple at Holkham pd Goodison for making 8 mahogany stools8.16.0. do for cases & packing—16.0. do for two wrought brass moulding frames fitting & fixing 2 Porphyry tables for the drawing room at London (Thanet House)15.10.—. for repairing & fixing the seat in ye water closet at London —12.—. (1739) May 5. to Mr Goodison for 8 mahogany stools with composts & seats at 22s.8.16.—. for cases & packing the same16.—. (1740) Feb. Goodison for the hire of chandeliers at Holkham6.16.— (1757–59) Jan. 1757, Mr Goodison for a Mahog. table press carved & gilt with wire doors for ye Gallery 14.16.0. Do 2 card tables to do12.10.0. Do 4 high stands for do11.12.0. Do for 4 carvd & gilt branches for candles12.16.0. Do for a gilt frame to ye Picture of Corialanus (This painting is by Pietro da Cortona) 74.0.0. Do for covers, lining, packing &c (Goodison receipted the account £131 19s on 11 June 1757)6.5.0.

Apart from the abstract in the ‘Weekly Departmental Accounts’ there is a 4-page bill from Goodison together with a letter of 29 January 1757 to Lord Leicester apologizing for some damage in carriage and continuing ‘the table for the drawing room is in forwardness …’. DITTON, Bucks. 1739: Paid three sums of £22, £245 17s and £42. MANSION HOUSE, London. 1739: In the accounts by contractors, 1728–44 is a draft agreement, 20 February–5 March 1739 between the Mayor and various tradesmen including ‘Benjamin Goodison of Long Acre, Cabinet maker’. DEENE PARK, Northants. (4th Earl and Countess of Cardigan). 1739–45: The Earl engaged Goodison at Deene and at Dover House, London. His accounts (now at Deene) record him supplying (1743–44) picture frames, and doing repairs. In 1741 he supplied a ‘carved and gilt dolphin table frame to match another’, new glass (allowing for old glass) to a chimney frame and ‘painting the frame white’. The transaction cost Goodison ‘above 2 pounds a looser’.] BLENHEIM PALACE, Oxon. (1st Duchess of Marlborough). A note in the 1740 inventory states ‘looking glasses paid for in Mr Goodison's bill by the Duchess of Marlborough’. ALTHORP, Northants. (Earl Spencer). 1746: Goodison and the London u, Richard Freelove drew up an inventory. It would seem Goodison would not have been invited to do this unless furniture had been obtained from him. This is itemized in Apollo, March 1968, pp. 182–83, and includes, possibly, two white-painted tables (Ent. Hall), and the stand for the terra-cotta bust of Van Dyck by J. M. Rysbrack, 1743. 3rd EARL OF BURLINGTON. c. 1747: The Earl's quarto green vellum account bk (Chatsworth) includes minor payments, 1747–51 to Goodison, e.g. ‘Goodison for a box £1. 10. 0d.’. BEDFORD HOUSE, London (4th Duke of Bedford). 1750–51 December—January: Taking down a picture & taking to ‘the painter’ A two-leaf fire screen — mahogany frame — Indian pictures to the back and colouring a map of London & putting it on the inside. Returning picture from painter & re-hanging. Total £26. Goodison probably did work for the 4th Duke at Woburn Abbey as a suite at the house (4 daybeds, pair of settees, 12 stools) resembles closely the suite at Longford Castle, attributed to Goodison because of the large payments to him (see entry above). The Woburn suite illus. Apollo, December 1955, pp. 203–05. 2nd DUKE OF GRAFTON.

1755–57: ‘Goodison Cabinett makerb£19.6.4. £31.15.0. The sums, being ‘debts of his late Grace Duke of Grafton for his expence in London’ are repeated in MS 10WS/23, 2 July 1761, and coupled with a payment to ‘Hinchcliffe & Co. Silk Mercers’ NO DATE. Finally, we may note a pair of mahogany chairs at Hardwick Hall, Derbs., covered in Genoa velvet. A velvet of identical pattern, supplied through Goodison, covers chairs at Holkham Hall.

Source: DEFM; Murdoch, ‘Jean, René and Thomas Pelletier, a Huguenot family of carvers and gilders in England 1682-1726’, The Burlington Magazine (November 2007 & June 1998); Katherine Hardwick, 'Furnishing Holkham Hall' Furniture History (2023).

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