19 St Paul's Churchyard, London; upholder, cabinet maker and undertaker (fl. 1772–1839)
George was the son of the surgeon and apothecary, John Simpson of Chatham, Kent, born in 1757. He was apprenticed to Noah Chivers of London on 2 December 1772 and made free of the Upholders’ Company by servitude in February 1780.
By 1787 he had established his own business at 19 St Paul's Churchyard where he continued to trade until 1839. The long length of residency there might suggest that he was assisted by a son towards the end of his career and for the period 1835–39 some directories do list ‘Simpson & Son’ (see below).
In 1793 he subscribed to Sheraton's Drawing Book and in 1803 was included in the list of master cabinet makers in the Cabinet Dictionary.
The business was evidently of substantial size because in June 1792 insurance cover of £1,700 was purchased on utensils and stock. The total insurance cover came to £2,700 with the premises in St Paul's Churchyard described as consisting of no fewer than seven properties adjoining no. 19. A house at Peckham was also included in the property covered. Insurance was to remain high reaching £6,000 for stock and utensils alone in October 1808. By August 1822 the total was £10,000 which included £8,200 for stock and utensils, a small quantity of which were kept in a stable building in Little Carter Lane. Earlier, in January of that year, insurance of £1,600 had been taken on 2 Prospect Place, Chelsea which may have been Simson's dwelling house.
Little is known of Simson's customers. Payments were made to him by the 2nd Viscount Palmerston possibly in connection with Broadlands, Hampshire. A bill dated 13 February 1809 for £324 16s 10¼d for upholstery goods supplied by Simson is in the accounts for Gorhambury House, Hertfordshire [Hertfordshire Record Office, Gorhambury account books, XI 81].
Trade label of George Simson, UPHOLDER, Cabinet-Maker & Undertaker, No. 19 South side St Pauls Church Yard, LONDON, after c. 1800. Published in C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture, 1700-1840 (1996), p. 423.
Much of his furniture is known from pieces marked with his trade label. The marked furniture appears to be in the styles of the last two decades of the eighteenth century and the early to mid-Regency and it is possible that this practice was discontinued in the later years of trading. In its place furniture was marked with a stamp reading ‘GEORGE SIMPSON UPHOLDER CABINET MAKER & UNDERTAKER, LONDON’. This stamp has been recorded on a rosewood writing desk dating from the 1830s. The quality of the furniture bearing Simson's label is generally high.
On the plainer pieces fine figured mahogany and other timbers such as satinwood and sabicu were used. Marquetry and painted decoration was featured on pieces of late eighteenth-century date such as a table with Neoclassical decoration including:
- A fine central roundel featuring Venus and Cupid.
- A labelled Pembroke table with a shaped top is veneered with sycamore and has an inlaid central patera.
- A pair of Regency calamander and rosewood card tables are embellished with ormolu and brass inlay was used on a mahogany cabinet in the Egyptian taste.
- A bookcase in the Egyptian style has also been noted.
- Chests of drawers with Simson's labels are either bow or serpentine fronted and fitted with slides.
Items that have been noted with his label range in size from wardrobes and sideboards to a cutlery box and an inlaid two division tea caddy. A fine inlaid secretariat cabinet of c. 1800 has close resemblances to the style of work used on cabinets sold by Weeks's Museum, Titchborne Street (Figs 22– 23). It is therefore probable that these fine fitted pieces of furniture supplied through the business of Thomas Weeks were made in Simson's workshops.
Simson’s two labels, both of which have the same wording but one probably introduced c.1800, the other later, and a number of labelled pieces of furniture are illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs. 840-866.
George Simpson died in 1840 at eighty-three years of age and was buried at St Gregory by St Paul on 30 July [London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P69/Gre/A/016/Ms18938/003].
Source: DEFM; London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) London, Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P69/Gre/A/016/Ms18938/003, Guildhall Library (GL) Upholders' Company archives; LMA, Sun MS vol. 388, p. 81; vol. 444, ref. 821734; vol. 487, ref. 978846; vol. 489, ref. 987506, ref. 995571; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996), pp. 422-431; Antique Collecting, September 1979; Antique Collector, March-April 1946, p. 58; Country Life, 10 June 1939, p. lxviii, 10 April 1975, supplement p. 48; 29 January 1981, p. 290; Connoisseur., vol. 104, p. 160, November 1969, p. cxxxviii; V&A archives; Anderson Galleries, New York, 8 December 1921, lot 333; Christie's, 26 January 1984, lot 133; Phillips’, 18 May 1976, lot 189; Sotheby's, 26 March 1965, lot 114.