London; upholsterer and cabinet maker (b.1829-d.1888)
Forster Graham, a younger brother of Peter, was baptised on 22 February 1829 at Kirk Andrews Upon Esk, Cumberland. He probably arrived in London in the late 1840s to work for Peter’s firm, Jackson & Graham, becoming a partner before 1859 and remaining so until 1882.
In 1857 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Arts. The 1861 census recorded him as 32 years of age, residing at 38 Oxford Street and an ‘upholsterer/master, employing 198 men, 10 boys and 37 women’.
The Post Office London Street & Trades Directories of the 1860s & 1870s listed Forster Graham, as an upholsterer or merchant, at 35, 37 & 38 Oxford Street although these were also a few of the addresses given for Jackson & Graham at the time.
He had other interests in addition to his work; in a newspaper article (publication unknown) of 1870 there was a report of the annual festival of the servants at The Langham Hotel (built in 1863-5. It was mentioned that Graham and his brother were board members. It was at the hotel’s address that Forster Graham was recorded in the 1871 census. He also retained an interest in his birth place as he was a subscriber to the memorial to the late Mr Coulthard of Croft House, Carlisle in 1870 [Carlisle Patriot, 23 February 1872]. The 1881 census placed him at Poyle Rose Cottage, Burnham, Buckinghamshire and described him as an upholder, cabinet maker and builder. The Westminster Rate books 1881-8 recorded him at 16 Grosvenor Street, St George, Hanover Square.
The Furniture Gazette, 29 July 1882, reported the failure of Jackson & Graham and the liquidation of Forster Graham’s affairs, but he seems to have established a new business by 1885 because the London Post Office Directory of that year included a listing for Forster Graham, ‘formerly senior partner in the late firm of Jackson & Graham’, describing him as a cabinet maker, upholsterer, house & estate agent and valuer at 67 New Bond Street, the same premises listed for Johnstone, Norman & Co.
Graham died in Paris on 9 April 1888. The probate notice described him as an upholsterer and cabinet maker. His will was proven on 12 July 1888 by John Graham, of Bryckden Waldron, Sussex, his brother and sole executor. His personal estate was valued at £3,583 6s.
Moncure Daniel Conway, Travels in South Kensington with Notes on Decorative Art and Architecture in England (1882) gave a noteworthy acknowledgement of Graham’s work, ‘In Mr. Forster Graham, Owen Jones found a man able to enter into his ideas and to give practical effect to them. Indeed, the famous architect and decorator acknowledged his indebtness to Mr. Graham for some effective suggestions for the improvement of the original designs’. Both Forster and Peter Graham were on the Owen Jones Memorial Committee, formed after Jones’ death in 1874.
It was unusual for Jackson & Graham to stamp their furniture, however, examples do exist of pieces marked Peter Graham & Forster Graham. They were indeed recorded as the makers of a display cabinet in 1866, of ebony with inlaid decoration, formerly in the Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read collection, now at the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum, Bedford (HAGM:F.77 1-2).
Source: Private correspondence with Martin Graham.