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Say, Francis; Say & Kay, Quintin (1738–1792)

Say, Francis; Say & Kay, Quintin

Ludgate Hill, London; upholders, undertakers and cabinet makers (fl. 1738–1792)

The son of Richard Say, a freeman of the Upholders’ Company who traded from an address in Racquet Court, Fleet Street until his death in 1762.

Francis Say was apprenticed to his father on 4 October 1738 and made free of the Upholders’ Company by patrimony, 10 October 1745. He was subsequently to take an active part in the affairs of the company becoming Junior Warden in 1772, Senior Warden in 1773 and Master, 1774–75 [Guildhall Library (GL), Upholders' Company records].

He was initially at an address next to ‘The Crown Tavern’, Ludgate Hill, subsequently numbered 83.

trade card
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
British Museum

Trade card of Francis Say Upholsterer & Cabinet Maker, next ye Crown Tavern in Ludgate Hill LONDON. Makes & Sells all Sorts of Upholsterers & Cabinet Makers Goods, in the best manner & at yLowest Prices, Likewise Appraises Buys & Sells all Sorts of Goods by Commission or otherwise Funerals Performed, c. 1770 [Heal,125.101]. © The Trustees of the British Museum

His name first appears in London directories at 83 Ludgate Hill in 1753 and he remained here until 1763.

As early as 1750 Francis Say was taking out licences to employ six non-freemen for periods extending to six months but by 1753 the number employed had reached twenty. On 13 January 1756 he took out licences for seventeen men increasing the number to twenty just six week later at which time his workforce may have been as many as forty [City Licence books, vol. 1]. He also was responsible for the training of an impressive list of apprentices and the premiums commanded suggest that the business was well-respected.

In 1763 he engaged in partnership Quintin Kay and in 1767 the partners moved to 14 Ludgate Hill where they continued to trade as Say & Kay until Francis Say's death in 1778 at ‘Hadley’ after which Kay continued the business under his sole control from this same address. Evidence suggests that the business was conducted on an extensive scale.

Francis Say's apprentices included:

  • George Good (1745–62)
  • Lynnel Eames, the son of John Eames, apprenticed in 1749, premium £50)
  • Peter Davidson (1755– 63, premium £100)
  • Joseph Read (1759–68), the son of a farmer, William Read of the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire
  • Robert Orton, the son of William Orton of Hampstead (apprenticed on 10 March 1760, premium £84).

Francis Say subscribed to Chippendale's Director, 1754.


  • George Bowes for Gibside, County Durham, 1753–60. Francis Say supplied furniture. An account dated 17 July 1753 totalling £33 6s was for ‘10 Mohog Chairs Stufft back & seat, the frames richley carved in the Chinese manner’ at £18 10s, a ‘large sopha to match w Bolsters’ £10 18s, ‘brass Burnished Nails’ £2 14s, and packing. Correspondence exists dated 1759 regarding the purchase of a bed and its delivery by sea to Gibside and in the following year payments were made on 1 March 1760 on behalf of George Bowes’ late sister, Jane (£22 1s) and 19 June for furniture for Gibside (£67).
  • Mrs Crow, 1763/64. There is a two-page bill of from Say & Kay totalling £22 14s 4d. Items include ‘Advertising your House’ and charges for storing furniture during a house move.
  • Sir Francis Gosling, Esq., 7 January 1769. For the funeral  (see below):
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
British Museum

The account and invoice from Say & Kay for the funeral of an Alderman of the City of London and the founder of the Gosling's Bank in Fleet Street, Sir Francis Gosling, dated 7 January 1769 [Heal,124.65]. © The Trustees of the British Museum

  • Probably for Gould House, London, May 1768-May 1769. Correspondence survives for a 'Receipted Bill of Charles Gould for furniture supplied by Messrs Say and Kay' [Tredegar House, MS 105/192].
  • Tythegston Court, Glamorgan, In 1770 a desk and a pair of chests of drawers were supplied to Henry Knight. The desk and the original design survive.
  • Robert Clive, Claremount, Surrey. The partners supplied a travelling bedstead and other furniture to the value of £144 18s in 1771-73 to. Francis Say appraised the value of furniture and other goods at Clive’s home on Berkeley Square, London after his death in 1774 at just under £4,000.
  • Ruperra Castle, Caerphilly, 25 July 1787-April 1792, 'Bill of Messrs Quinton & Kay to the executors of John Morgan, Esq., deceased for furnishing and for cleaning and polishing articles of furniture at Ruperra, 1787 July 25-1792 April. Endorsed: Bill for furnishing Ruppera after the fire'. [Tredegar House MS 165/193].

A short biography of the Say family was written in 1948 by L. G. N. Horton-Smith with the title The Old City Family of Say.

Source: DEFM (by Brian Austin); Kirkham, ‘The London Furniture Trade 1700-1870’, Furniture History (1988); Medlam, ‘William Greer at Gibside’ Furniture History (1990); Fairclough, ‘A Suite of Furniture for Clive of India’, Furniture History (2000); BIFMO is most grateful to Sarah Medlam for passing on correspondence (dated 7 June 1984) from David Freeman, Keeper of Tredegar House, Coedkernew Newport, Gwent, to Peter Thornton, V&A, Keeper of Furniture & Woodwork, regarding details of Gould House and Ruperra. June 2023.  

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