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Stiles, Lazarus snr (1656-1724)

Stiles, Lazarus snr

St Mary Aldermanbury, London; cabinet maker and timber merchant (b.1656-d.1724)

Born in September 1656, Lazarus Stiles was the son of a yeoman of Langley Marish, Buckinghamshire. Apprenticed through the Joiners’ Company at fifteen years of age to Thomas Needler (1670), he was made free of the Company in 1679 and established in business by 1681 when he bound his first apprentice. By 1692 he was located in the parish of St Mary Aldermanbury, where he remained over his forty-four-year career. He indentured thirty-nine apprentices.

Stiles married twice, first to Elizabeth Legg in 1681, by whom he had one son, John, born 23 August 1683. His first wife having died, Stiles remarried in 1688 and the couple had eight children (six boys and two girls), not all of whom survived. His second wife predeceased him. At his death in August 1724, his will records two minor daughters and four adult sons: Joseph (b. 1690), Benjamin (b. 1694), Lazarus (b. 1696), Mary (b. 1699), Nathaniel (b. 1700), and Susanna (b. 1704). Nathaniel was apprenticed to a clockmaker in 1700 and made free in 1716, Joseph was apprenticed to his father in 1704 and made free in 1711; Benjamin was apprenticed to his father in 1709 (no recorded freedom) and Lazarus jnr. in 1710, before being turned over to John Elkington (no recorded freedom). Joseph and Lazarus jnr. took over their father’s business. Benjamin’s career is unrecorded.

In addition to cabinet making, Stiles also acted as a minor timber merchant selling an impressive and broad range of timber. The first London tradesman known to have sold mahogany, he also stocked Virginia walnut, veneers of various kinds. and other woods that were scarce, like ‘sugar-chest’ (a type of chestnut), which was rarely used for furniture, but more often for joinery work like dado rails and fireplace beams, and yew veneers which were used when creating the finest quality marquetry for furniture and parquetry for floors. In addition to dealing in timber, he also rented out space in his yard for others to store their wood.

The total value of his estate at his death was £1029 4s 9d.

Sources: Joiners Company Records; Cross, ‘The Changing Role of the Timber Merchant in Early Eighteenth Century London’, Furniture History (1994), pp. 57-64; Lindey, ‘Apprenticeships in the London Joiner’s Company, 1640-1720’, Regional Furniture (2008), pp. 1-26; Bowett, Woods in British Furniture Making, pp. 62, 121-2; Lindey, ‘The London Furniture Trade 1640-1720’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of London (2016), pp. 246-56.