Skip to main content

Morgan & Sanders (1801–1820)

Morgan & Sanders

16 and 17 Catherine Street, Strand, London; cabinet maker and upholder (fl.1801–20)

A partnership of Thomas Morgan and Joseph Sanders, both former employees of Thomas Butler of 13 and 14 Catherine St. Before joining Butler, Thomas Morgan had traded as a linen draper in Newgate St and later in Newport Street. He was employed by Butler as an under-clerk in his counting house. Joseph Sanders was employed for a time by Elward & Marsh, the Royal cabinet maker, at 13 Mount Street, and had altogether four years’ experience before joining Butler. He was well regarded and for eight years prior to setting up in business with Morgan had superintended the manufacturing side of Butler's enterprise. He claimed to have been in sole management for the last three years and to have made a number of improvements to the sofa beds, chair beds and four post bedsteads that featured in Butler's range. He also claimed to be the inventor of the Imperial Dining Table.

In 1800 Butler decided to retire and Morgan and Sanders expressed an interest in purchasing the business. Butler however sold it to Thomas Oxenham, a patent mangle and napkin-press maker of 354 Oxford Street. Infuriated by this double-dealing, Morgan and Sanders set up business at 16 and 17 Catherine Street and claimed to be the true successors to Thomas Butler. Oxenham may not have been happy with this situation of hostility and fierce and immediate competition, and by early April 1802 had moved the production of the ranges of patent furniture to the Oxford Street premises where he made items to the Butler specifications using some of Butler's former staff.

With Oxenham's move Thomas Butler recommenced the business at 13 and 14 Catherine Street and all the ill will was revived and openly expressed in advertisements and advertising broadsheets. An elaborate engraved billhead of 1801 claims that Morgan and Sanders were ‘Manufacturers of their New Invented IMPERIAL DINING TABLES & PORTABLE CHAIRS, Improved Sofa Beds, Chair Beds, four Post & Tent Bedsteads, Furniture, Bedding &c. complete at their Upholstery & Cabinet Ware Rooms, Nos. 16 & 17 Catherine Street, Strand’ (illus. Sebag-Montefiore, Furniture History (2017), fig. 18). In 1807 they bought George Remington’s Globe Table patent and adapted it to form a combined writing desk and globe table known as ‘Pitt’s Cabinet Globe Writing Table’. In 1808 they began to manufacture a circular bookcase patented by Benjamin Crosby in 1808.

Much is known about the business of Morgan & Sanders because of their involvement with Rudolph Ackermann, print seller, art dealer and publisher of the Strand. For his monthly periodical The Repository of Arts they supplied a succession of furniture designs which were published between 1809 and 1815 and they also took advertising space. In August 1809 a coloured illustration of their upstairs warerooms was published in the Repository with accompanying letterpress no doubt provided by the partners.

They had by this date named their premises ‘Trafalgar House’ to capitalise on the death of the naval hero Lord Nelson for whom they were providing furniture for his house at Merton, Surrey in 1805. Amongst the furniture shown in the plate is a wardrobe, pole screen, lyre-back chairs, a cheval glass, pier and convex glasses, a globe writing table, or work-table, a Gothic bookcase and a fine bed embellished with naval motifs. They also promoted French fashion in, for example, a design published by Ackermann in May 1814 (illus., Canepa, FurnitureHistory (2002), fig.11) which showed an asymmetrical arrangement of the drapes of the curtains based on a design of de La Mésangère in Collection de Meubles.

Butler finally retired from the trade in September 1814 and by April 1816 Morgan & Sanders were advertising that they had ‘taken a considerable part of Mr Butler's late Ware-rooms in Catherine-street adjoining their own and communicated the same’. Sanders appears to have died in 1818 and although the business continued to trade as Morgan & Co. until 1820 it was early in that year sold to John Durham, Thomas Morgan's foreman.

Morgan & Sanders aggressively promoted the ranges of patent furniture that they produced. This was done by advertising not only in London newspapers but also a wide selection of the provincial press. They also produced elaborate broadsheets illustrating the ranges of patent furniture that they were able to offer (illus. Gilbert (1996), fig. 663). They claimed royal patronage but on rather flimsy grounds. The only entry for this firm in the Lord Chamberlain's records was in the quarter to 5 April 1814 when they supplied ‘2 whole length figures of his Majesty in Brass finely chased’ at £52 10s. In the Repository of February 1810 the partners did however claim to have supplied their Pitt's Globe Writing Table to the Royal family and the illustration used by Ackermann was said to be based on one ordered by the Princess Augusta. Thomas Morgan also claimed that whilst in Butler's employ he had visited Buckingham House and showed a model of his Imperial Dining Table to the King, Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

The partner's claim to have supplied furniture to Nelson is supported by a payment of £549 in 1810 to Morgan & Co, from money provided by the Marquess of Queensbury to clear part of the debts of Lady Hamilton who had inherited Nelson's house at Merton. One of the items that Morgan & Sanders claimed to have received an order for from Nelson was a patent sideboard, so constructed that the dining table and leaves when not in use could be stored underneath. The partners emphasised the suitability of their furniture for army and naval officers and it is likely that Nelson bought such items for his use at sea. Several items of furniture at the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth are said to have belonged to Nelson, but none can with certainty be attributed to Morgan & Sanders.

A number of other patrons have been identified. In July 1811 two large mahogany armchairs were supplied for the new County Hall at Lewes, Sussex. They were charged at £21 each and two footstools at £2 2s each. The remainder of the account amounting to £71 10s was for upholstery materials. An unexecuted design for a chair in connection with this commission survives. For H. H. Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, a set of Imperial Dining Tables were provided on 4 May 1819 at £29 8s and earlier on 3 November 1817 Mrs Leigh was invoiced with a patent folding chair bed and cushions at £11 11s. It is possible that Sir Joseph Banks bought from the firm as one of Morgan & Sanders's broadsheets is addressed to him. Another client may have been the Marquess of Winchester.

Not all the furniture provided was of the type loosely known as ‘Patent’, but it was these items which featured in their advertising. Expanding tables, portable bedsteads, chairs converting into beds were extensively featured. The Metamorphic Library Chair which performed equally as a set of library steps or as an armchair was featured in Ackermann's Repository in July 1811. It was derived from Robert Campbell’s patent of 1774 which had lapsed in 1788. Pitt's Cabinet Globe Writing Table was featured in February 1810. Morgan & Sanders were also interested in invalid furniture and in September 1801 were offering William Pocock's ‘patent Boethema or rising matress’ and in October 1811 supplied Ackermann with the illustration of ‘Merlin's Mechanical Chair’ published in that month. A number of tables, beds and library steps have been found with brass plates affixed indicating that they were of Morgan & Sander's manufacture. Marked examples of their patent and other furniture are illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs 664-678.

Source: DEFM; Kirkham, ‘London Furniture Trade’, Furniture History (1988); ); Furniture History (1979); Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996); Canepa, ‘French Empire influences on curtain design in Ackermann's repository of Arts’, FurnitureHistory (2002); Sebag-Montefiore, ‘A Regency Collection: Luke Foreman (1757-1814) and his Wife Mary (1764?-1834)’, Furniture History (2017).

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