Seddon, T & G; Seddon & Co. (1815-1870)
Seddon, T & G; Seddon & Co.
Aldersgate Street and Gray’s Inn Road, London; cabinet makers and upholsterers (fl.1815-1870)
After the death of George Seddon II in 1815 the firm of Seddons was run by his nephews, Thomas II (b. 1792 – d. 1864) and George III (b. 1797 – d. 1857); the sons of Thomas Seddon. Thomas was apprenticed to his uncle (1806-1813) and was made free of the Upholders' Company in 1815. George III completed his apprenticeship in 1817 and together they ran the family business until the 1850s. The name of the firm changed several times to reflect different partnerships and the exact date of changes is not always clear. Although the name of Seddon & Sons does appear in certain documentation after 1815, the firm under this name does not appear in contemporary directories as such. Little is known of the business between 1815 and 1826 when the brothers signed a prefatory recommendation to P. and M. A. Nicholson's Practical Cabinet Maker, 1826.
In 1827 George Seddon III went into partnership with Nicholas Morel, who had been chosen by King George IV as furniture maker in charge of re-furnishing Windsor Castle. Morel did not join the Seddon family firm. It was only George Seddon who initially went into partnership with Morel in 1827, although Thomas stood surety for his brother and Morel when they signed a bond with George IV for £10,500 in the same year, and Thomas joined the partnership in September 1830.
The firm of Morel and Seddon used Morel's address, 13 Great Marlborough Street, but the work was produced at the Seddon family workshops in Aldersgate Street; Thomas & George Seddon were listed at 149-151 Aldersgate Street in Robsons London Directory (1830). Morel needed the co-operation of a large established firm for the Windsor commission, which was eventually to amount to nearly £200,000. Seddon probably had the largest workshops in London as well as experienced draftsmen, managers and skilled workers. Within the partnership, Morel generally took charge of the major artistic decisions while George Seddon ran the business side, negotiating advances and agreeing delivery details with the Treasury and Lord Chamberlain's Office. Morel and Seddon employed designers who worked with assistants in the ‘artists’ room’ in Aldersgate Street. They included Bogaerts; J.-J. Boileau; F.-H.-G. Jacob Desmalter (furniture and furnishings in the Neo-classical style) and A. W. N. Pugin (furniture and furnishings in the Gothic style).
In June 1830 the Treasury refused to pay more than the balance owing on Morel and Seddon's original estimate of £143,000 rather than the sum of over £200,000 which they by then demanded. The whole question of cost was examined by a Select Committee which reported to the House of Commons in February 1831, but it was not until the end of that year that it was decided to accept a final bill of £179,300 18s 9d.
Apart from a very large commission to supply furniture worth over £15,000 to Stafford House for the Marquess of Stafford in 1830, the work of Morel and Seddon appears to have been restricted to royal work. Windsor Castle was the main commission, but work was also done for other royal houses and palaces. Royal patronage continued after George IV's death and the firm altered a rosewood dining table for William IV in 1831.
Morel's name disappeared from the royal accounts in 1831. The work then passed to George and Thomas Seddon alone although they were not officially given the royal warrant until 1832. The delay in payments relating to the Windsor work caused problems and in February 1832 creditors of Morel and Seddon requested the suspension of payments to the firm by the Lord Chamberlain's Office until its affairs were sorted out. In August and October 1832 T. and G. Seddon experienced difficulty in extracting payments for royal work and complained of having to meet ‘heavy engagements’. The latter may have referred to expenditure involved in a move to Gray's Inn Road from Aldersgate Street. Robson’s London Directory listed Thomas & George Seddon as upholsterers and cabinet manufacturers at 150 Aldersgate Street and Grays Inn Road (1835) and at Calthorpe Place, Grays Inn Road (1840).
Trade label of T. & G. Seddon, Gray's Inn Road, London (Heal 28.204), c. 1839. © The Trustees of the British Museum
The decision to move was made after a fire of 1830 did extensive damage to the premises: 100 tool chests belonging to Seddon workmen were destroyed. The new premises were designed by J. B. Papworth, who added large open sheds for drying veneers in 1836 (illus. Gilbert, Furniture History (1998), fig 1). The firm's finances remained in a delicate position. In 1840 a charge of bankruptcy was brought but annulled. The London Post Office Directory 1845 listed Thomas Seddon, as a cabinet maker, upholsterer, undertaker & house agent at Calthorpe Place, Gray’s Inn Road. An interesting glimpse of the family and firm at this time can be found in J. Seddon, Memoirs, 1858.
Thomas Seddon III (b.1821-d.1856) joined the family business in 1836 and in 1841 he travelled to Paris to study as a designer for a year. On his return he systematically set about trying to improve Seddon’s designs, attending a course in architecture taught by Professor Donaldson of University College. Thomas’s design for an ornamental sideboard won a prize at the Society of Arts in 1848. Together with his friend, the artist Ford Madox Brown, Seddon established the North London School of Drawing and Modelling in 1850. Its patron was Prince Albert and Professor Donaldson was one of the lecturers. The initial enrolment of two hundred included carvers, upholsterers, cabinet makers and gilders. But the venture ran into financial difficulties and Seddon himself was forced to give up teaching because of serious illness.
- STONELEIGH ABBEY, Warwickshire (Henry Leigh). 1819: rosewood dressing table £24.
- HAMPTON COURT, Leominster, Herefordshire (John Arkwright). 1829: Bill for furniture including ‘rosewood occasional table £18 and Davenport £21. Total £42 3s. In 1840: Bill for a 9′ mahogany wardrobe £112.
- WINDSOR CASTLE. 1827–32: Morel & Seddon, 13 Great Marlborough Street.
- JAMES MORRISON, 57 HARLEY STREET, LONDON.[To be consistent, name of house should be in bold, with name in brackets after but as Morrison is so famous perhaps better to leave] 1830s. For James Morrison a suite of bookcases lined with green silk, matching marble-topped table. In a letter of July 1832 to Papworth, Seddons wrote of set of mahogany dining tables which were over 5ft wide and 16ft long sold to Morrison for eighty guineas by Seddons & Sons.
- BASILDON PARK. March-June, 1844: Seddons & Sons made up for the James Morrison two pairs of curtains with tapestry fabric, gold silk and worsted gymp and supplied 2 large sofas, a centre ottoman, five carved ebony chairs all covered in purple utrecht velvet for the Octagon Room (illus., Dakers, Furniture History (2010), figs 14-17).
- LIVERPOOL TOWN HALL 1829 set of armchairs supplied on the recommendation of the architect, John Foster, costing £501 3s 6d. Ten survive.
- STAFFORD HOUSE (Marquess of Stafford). 1830: Receipted bill 30 March 1830, £15,410 8s.
- GOLDSMITHS HALL, LONDON In 1834-5 T & G Seddon were contracted to supply furniture for the new Goldsmith’s Hall, designed by Philip Hardwick. The commission was split between William & Charles Wilkinson, who furnished the Court Room, Court Drawing Room and Court Dining Room, and Seddons, who furnished the Livery Hall, Entrance Hall and Livery Tea Room. There is some evidence that Seddons were disappointed not to be given the whole job. A good deal of the furniture survives and is illustrated in Shrive, Furniture History (2019), figs 16-22.
- ROYAL COMMISSIONS T. & G. Seddon, 1829–40: work at Brighton Pavilion; Belvedere, St James's Palace; Royal Lodge, Windsor; Kew Palace and Cumberland Lodge. Early work was mainly jobbing and repairs. Other work included: December 1832 (Brighton Pavilion) for Her Majesty's own use. A Spanish mahogany writing table £26 and September 1834 (Windsor, for corridor) 6 square framed scagliola thermes £78, December 1835. 8 wainscot sofas in ‘Elizabethan character’ very similar to specification for Thomas Turner December 1835) covered in crimson plush £374, 1839/40: Among bills for ‘Extra Expenses for the Accommodation of HRH The Prince Albert’ at Windsor prior to his marriage with Victoria is one for a 6’ maple 4–post bedstead with richly carved pillars and footboard and elaborately inlaid cornice and centre ornaments £124. March 1839: Suite of maple wood bookcases and cabinets inlaid with purple wood statuary £430. December 1840: A rich mahogany and gold cot and two mahogany wash handstands. Total £300.
- GOVERNMENT HOUSE, Prince Edward Island, Canada. 1835: Some of the furniture supplied by Seddon.
- LONDON HOUSE, Aldersgate Street. THOMAS & GEORGE SEDDON. n.d. c. 1825, small writing table. T. & G. Seddon label bears no. 1214. n.d. c.1825, rosewood tea caddy, label bears no. 1901. n.d. rosewood in Empire style Davenport, brass mounts. n.d. rosewood escritoire, Regency period. n.d. rosewood escritoire, Regency period, label bears no. 6048.
- GRAY’S INN ROAD. THOMAS & GEORGE SEDDON. n.d. rosewood writing table on two end supports. Frieze fitted with six drawers. Label no. 2151 inscribed ‘Roso’ in manuscript. n.d. writing table on two end supports recorded with label no. 2866 inscribed ‘H— Lowther’ in manuscript.
See Gilbert, Marked London Furniture (1996), figs 810-830, for images of stamped or labelled furniture of various dates by T & G Seddon.
After the death of George in 1857 Thomas continued the firm until his own death in 1864. The firm then became known as Seddon & Co. with addresses at 70 Grosvenor Street and 58 South Molton Street as listed in the 1866 Post Office London Street Directory.
They were makers of much furniture designed by Thomas’s son, John Pollard Seddon (1827-1906) and from 1860 made Gothic furniture designed by William Burges. As Seddon & Co. probably, the firm exhibited in the Medieval Court of the International Exhibition of 1862. The furniture included a walnut and painted chair decorated by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe painted by Emily, probably Seddon’s sister, (sold Sotheby’s September 1999 with the provenance of the Myles Birket Foster family, illus. Gere & Whiteway (1993), p. 84); two organ cases designed by J. P. Seddon and made by the firm; and 'King Rene’s Honeymoon Cabinet’.
King Rene's Honeymoon Cabinet, 1861 [W.10:1-28 – 1927]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This cabinet was a most elaborate piece, which had been designed & made for John Pollard Seddon’s collection of architectural drawings and embellished with painted panels by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Madox Brown and Val Prinsep. The V&A tried unsuccessfully to buy the cabinet from the Exhibition and it was finally acquired from Seddon’s daughter in 1927. Also a Gothic-style desk, inlaid oak and pine, possibly also made for J. P. Seddon's office, and now at the National Museum Wales, Cardiff.
Roll-top writing desk. The desk is one of several pieces designed by Seddon that were shown at the 1862 International Exhibition in London, c. 1862 [NMW A 50583]. © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
The Lord Chamberlain’s accounts recorded work by T & G Seddon of 67 New Bond Street and Calthorpe Place, Grays Inn Road until 1870. The firm was also recorded as exporters of furniture worldwide.
Sources: DEFM; Aslin, 19th Century English Furniture (1962); Joy, ‘The Royal Victorian Furniture-Makers, 1837-87’, The Burlington Magazine (November 1969); Rogers, ‘A Regency Interior: The Remodelling of Weston Park’, Furniture History (1987); Kirkham, ‘The London Furniture Trade’, Furniture History (1988); Gere & Whiteway, Nineteeth-Century Design from Pugin to Mackintosh (1993); Dean, ‘The Regency Furniture in Liverpool Town Hall’, Furniture History (1989); Gilbert, Marked London Furniture (1996); Meyer, Great Exhibitions. London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia. 1851-1900 (2006); Dakers, ‘Furniture for James and Alfred Morrison’, Furniture History (2010); Donnelly, ‘Rapture and Ridicule – Furniture in the 1862 Medieval Court’, The Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the Present (2014); Knox, ‘The Elusive Mr Morel: A Portrait of a Regency Arbiter of Taste’, Furniture History (2015); Shrive, ‘‘Better Than That Ordinarily Seen’: Furniture Supplied to the Third Goldsmith’s Hall by William and Charles Wilkinson and Thomas and George Seddon, 1834-35’, Furniture History (2019).