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Moore, James snr (1670–1726)

Moore, James snr

Nottingham Court, Short's Gardens, St Giles-in-the-Fields, London; cabinet maker (c.1670–d.1726)

Moore may be the ‘James Moore’ born to James and Mary Moore, and christened on 10 December 1670 at St Dunstan's, Stepney. However, when Moore gave evidence against Henry Joynes, Comptroller of the works at Blenheim Palace (Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough having gone to law against many of the Blenheim craftsmen in 1724–25) he stated his age to be fifty-four. Thus we can assume he was born c.1670, and that his presence on jobs as an apprentice began about 1685–90.

There is no record of his apprenticeship among the records of either the Joiners’ or Glass Sellers’ Companies, but it is likely he had an early connection with the Gumleys. In 1708 he subscribed to a book by the architect John James — his translation of Claude Perrault's A Treatise of the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture.

From 1714 he was in partnership with John Gumley for royal commissions and was also undertaking private commissions from about 1700. The trade he presumably learned under Gumley included familiarising himself with the creation of carved and gilded mirrors (on two of which Gumley's name has been noted) and with all the problems inherent in the moulding and working of japan and gesso. There is a small group of gesso-covered tables and stands in the Royal Collection, or at houses such as Boughton. One stand in the Royal Collection bears the crowned cipher of George I, and is incised ‘MOORE’ on the top rim. Others are in a style reliably enough his to warrant firm attribution. These items have been illustrated, together with an incised chest formerly belonging to the 1st Duke of Marlborough.

In 1716 Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough dismissed Sir John Vanbrugh from supervising the building of Blenheim Palace. She turned then to James Moore, who became known as her ‘Oracle’ and who became as much involved with building work and the supervision of fitting out apartments as with cabinet making. By this time Moore had set up separately from Gumley at Short's Gardens in the London parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields. Insurance he purchased on 4 June 1712 ‘for his goods’ (no sums stated) was ‘over against the Golden Bottle in Shorts Gardens’ and may imply the firm date of his setting up business there. He insured further in 1714: dwelling house, £100; household goods and stock in trade, £100; stock in trade in shed, £200; glass in shed, £100; stock in hand in three sheds, and yard, £200; Total £700. From this address Moore had married his first wife, Rebecca Moss They had eight children.

In 1944 Edwards and Jourdain illustrated a gesso side-table at Erdigg which they attributed to James Moore. However, when the relevant archives were re-examined the frequent use of the phrase ‘received more’ to denote cash payments was noted as being the likely cause of the earlier mistaken attributions of furniture to James Moore (especially the State Bed, by John Belchier and John Hutt, 1720–21). The Blenheim Comptroller, Henry Joynes and his assistant Jefferson, against whom Moore had given evidence, were evidently biased in their opinion; Jefferson recorded that Tilleman Bobart (another of the Blenheim Comptrollers) and James Moore were rogues: ‘Its hard to tell which is the Biggest for Bobart has as bad a name in the country as the other has in London’. 

In 1720 Moore had in his employee a journeymen who became one of the most important in the reigns ofGeorge I and II, Benjamin Goodison and his son James Moore jnr. James Moore snr died in October 1726: ‘one day last week died Mr Moore, the King's cabinet-maker of a wound on his head, Fell when walking in the Street’. He was buried at St Giles-in-the-Fields on 18 October 1726 (church register entry). His will was probated on 21 October 1726, his executors being John Goudge (book seller) and David Audsley (plasterer) and mentions, in addition to his second wife Elizabeth and son, James, two daughters. Everything was put to one quarter shares and included ‘all my estate in Kingston on Thames and all my household goods and plate and jewells together with the … dwelling house in Shorts Gardens’. Moore's entire stock was advertised to be sold in the Daily Post, 1 July 1728, despite his son working in the business. However, he bequeathed his son ‘my Materialls of Trade, namely Woods and Tooles’ and if his wife, Elizabeth, were to follow the trade, she was to pay her son £100.

  • DALKEITH PALACE, Scotland. 1700–01: ‘Worke done for her Grace ye Dutches of Bucclough by James Moore.’ Moore supplied ‘pedestals for china, black and gold corner slabs; poles to carry them; 2 Pedistalls for the Jarrs under the Cabinetts; a speckled Cabinett & frame with black & Gold hinges & Locks; a Buro made of Japan & Locks; 3 black & Gold frames for the Glas Painting; 4 guilt Pedistalls for Bottles; 2 flowerd Japan Cabinetts & frames with Locks & Hinges’.
  • BLENHEIM PALACE, Oxfordshire (1st Duke of Marlborough). c. 1705–20: A gesso chest (ex coll. 1st Duke) was illus. Burlington, July 1977, pl. 11, and is similar to one at Boughton (GCM, pl. 23). The 1740 inventory of Blenheim stated ‘Long Cabinet, a black lacquired table of Mr Moores’; Little Round Room before the Three Cornered Room ‘a folding black lacquer table of Mr Moore's’. Some was noted in the C. Life article (below).
  • ROYAL PALACES. 1707–26: With John Gumley he provided pier-glasses, hanging glasses, bureaux, tables and did repairs. Two carved and gilt stands were provided for Kensington Palace in 1707. The main commissions were for St James’s Palace, 1714-15, and Kensington Palace, 1719-27. Associated with these commissions are a gesso side-table with the crowned cipher of George I, incised ‘Moore’,, and a second, again carved with the crowned cipher of George I on the apron. This cipher also appears on the top and is incised ‘Moore’. Various stands are also incised ‘Moore’ or attributed to him on stylistic evidence. A walnut side table, one of four made for Kensington Palace, was attributed to Gumley and Moore by R. W. Symonds, Country Life, 14 March 1947, p. 473, but he noted that in their accounts there ‘appears no item that from its description would allow it to be identified as relating to them’. See however Ian Caldwell, The Antique Collector, October 1985, pp. 79–80, for a further comment on these tables. GCM, pls 18–26 gives a good idea of Moore's gesso furniture but the attribution of furniture to him at Erddig (pls 31, 35–36) is not substantiated, being as noted in the foregoing biographical account, a misreading of accounts, ‘more’ meaning more money.
  • RALPH, 1st Duke of Montagu. 1708: DEF, 11, 369 notes that reference to Moore occurs in the domestic expenses of the Duke's household. It has not proved possible to trace the text, but a chest and table at Boughton in his style is some indication of a possible service by Moore.
  • NORTH CRAY, Lincolnshire (Hon. Wrey and Lady Mary Saunderson). 1708–15, 1716–17, 1722: June 15, 1708. ‘Pd Mr Moore's Bill. £18. 10s.’ June 16. ‘Pd Mr Moore for adding more gilding in my cabinet and for mending a mitre coap & giving to his man. £10.’ Further payments appear in each year 1709–15 (with further items in 1716, 1717 and 1722) for japan dishes, glass and stands, gilding a cabinet frame, putting up pictures, including ‘Indian Pictures … in blew & gold frames’ and ‘4 Black & Gold frames’; ‘altering a scriptor’, ‘4 Dutch Fasheon Chaires’, ‘a sweet meate presse’. Moore charged on 15 September 1715 for ‘a day my selfe and horse, £1. 5s.’ and ‘2 dayes for a man. os. 10d.’. It is idle to speculate if this ‘man’ may have been Benjamin Goodison who was calling Moore ‘my master’ as late as 1720.
  • MARLBOROUGH HOUSE, London (1st Duchess of Marlborough). 1709–11: Provided furniture and also some supervision during building.
  • UNSPECIFIED LOCATION. 1720: 24 December. £20 paid.
  • BURLINGTON HOUSE, Piccadilly (3rd Earl of Burlington). 1720: 1 April, Sconces and Branches £6. 6s. ‘received for the use of my Master, Mr James Moore by me Benjamin Goodison’.
  • HARCOURT HOUSE, Cavendish Square, London (1st Viscount Harcourt). 1724: Unspecified work.

Source: DEFM; Bowett, ‘George I’s furniture at Kensington Palace, Apollo (November 2005); Bird, ‘The Furniture and Furnishing of St James's Palace, 1714-1715’, Furniture History (2014).

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