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Vile, William (1740-1767)

Vile, William

Castle Lane (later 72 St Martin's Lane), London; cabinet maker (fl. c.1740–d. 1767)

William Vile was probably born in Somerset in the early eighteenth century. A search of local records shows the name of Vile in profusion, but it may always elude us as to which William Vile (of the many) was the cabinet maker. The problem will perhaps only be solved by the chance discovery of revealing documentation. The clues which might have been afforded by his father's will are sadly impossible; it was destroyed - along with other wills proved in the Taunton Archdeaconry - during Second World War air raids on Exeter. Twenty-four had been listed in 1912.

It is assumed Vile was born in Somerset because the name is common there and also because in his will, he left money to a relative who lived in the Somerset parish of South Petherton. Their registers contain many references to various Vile families and moreover, there is a tomb to a Thomas Vile (d. 8 July 1788) near the South Petherton church entrance. However, genealogical browsings are not hard evidence. The first documented appearance of William Vile is on 10 August 1749 when he wrote to George Selwyn, the letter making it clear that his ‘Master’ was William Hallett snr. There is, however, no other documentary evidence which proves the apprenticeship. Vile was though working as a journeyman in Hallett's workshop in 1748, when the firm fulfilled a commission to Chevening House. Lucy Wood commented in her article, 'William Hallett's lantern stand for Chevening', that 'when working as a the principal journeyman ... it is tempting to speculate about what Vile may have contributed to its design and/or its execution. Two years later with John Cobb, Lady Stanhope paid £6 13s 6d to "Mr Vial for Mr Hallet" for further items for Chevening' [Lucy Wood, 'Hallett' (2005), p 22].

Vile married a Sarah (surname unknown but almost certainly Strickland) in the late 1730s. A child, William Waldron Vile, was born to them and baptised at St Paul's, Covent Garden on 2 June 1740. Sarah outlived her husband and was paid money by his surviving partner, John Cobb, in 1767–68. The new partnership turned to William Hallett snr to back them with finance when they set up on their own. The rate bks show that they set up in the New St ward of St Martin-in-the-Fields. They show for 1751 ‘William Vile & Co’. By 1752 they were paying rents of £62, £29, £29 and £30 on 4 premises in Castle Lane. On 5 June 1752 William Hallett had left Newport St and moved to St Martin's Lane. He took the house next door to ‘William Vile & Co’. On 4 June 1755 Hallett's name is crossed through and John Cobb took it over, a further indication of Hallett moving into ‘retirement’.

In these early years the firm bound as apprentice Thomas Plaistowe on 23 December 1752 for £60; and John Daniel on 27 February 1753 for £63. In the same years John Cobb apprenticed James Lewis on 13 June 1752 and as ‘John Cobb Upr’, Martin Freeland on 20 December 1754.

Intermeshed activity led them forward with Hallett's backing. The firm evidence for this is in the bank accounts of Hallett, Vile and Cobb (Drummonds). Vile opened his account in 1758, and Cobb did so in 1759. It might be assumed that as they became successful, they started to pay money to the elder Hallett, but some of the entries are for money to Hallett jnr. From 1756 Hallett snr's account shows cash in from Vile and Cobb in amounts of £150 to £300, almost monthly. For example, the 1758 account reads:

  • Jan. 21. from Will Vile £200
  • 26. ” ” ” £200
  • 28 “ “ ” £200
  • Feb. 2. rec'd of Jn Cobb £200
  • 27. „ „ „ £200
  • March 2. Wm Vile £319
  • May 25. Cobb £300
  • May 27. Vile £300
  • June 10. Vile £100
  • 19. Vile £300
  • July 1. Cobb £200
  • 8. Vile £200
  • Sept. 18. Cobb £200
  • 23. Cobb £200
  • 28. Vile £100

In 1758 William Hallett jnr. received from Vile £100, and on 5 April 1760 his father received ‘Cash from Vile £500’. The 1761 payments are heavier: 3 March, £1,000, 26 June, £350, 10 July, £400, 28 December, £600. In 1763 there was a payment on 7 March from Vile of £1,000, but I have noted no further payments. This accords with Vile's own ‘retirement’ in 1764, and payments out to Hallett & Vile are then only in Cobb's account — for example £500 to Vile on 19 February 1767, and £500 to Hallett 19 November 1768. Money was paid to Mrs Vile by Hallett after her husband's death, in accordance with the terms of his will. Further support for the ‘& Co’ of the title is shown by Samuel Reynolds receiving money for Hallett, and then moving into Vile & Cobb's service.

The furniture that Vile made, in partnership with Cobb, was done between about 1751 and 1764. The large body of furniture attributed to Vile which is of the 1740–50 period must probably be given to his master, Hallett snr. or perhaps to Benjamin Goodison or John Boson (d. 1743). It may well be that the carved foliated ovals which appear on some documented Vile furniture (e.g. the breakfront bookcase, 1762, for Queen Charlotte) was a Hallett characteristic. For example a mahogany secretaire cabinet, of which the breakfront upper part was surmounted by a broken pediment, with a centre portion with carved ovals, Vitruvian scroll, the lower part with three doors centred by an oval from the collection of the Duke of Buckingham at Stowe and which relates to similar cabinets at the V & A, and Portsmouth Museums — must be by Hallett, or are very early Vile in a Hallett style. There are also commodes and a rosewood one which have been attributed to Vile on stylistic grounds. The whole problem awaits a documented breakthrough: the large literature on furniture attributed to Vile is useful mainly only for the illustrations. Finally, to add some further confusion the foliated oval which, as noted, has become almost inseparable from attributions to Vile appears on the sides of a mahogany table press supplied to Holkham by Benjamin Goodison in 1757.

Vile's royal service (with his partner Cobb) did not begin until 1761 — (warrant dated January 1761) — and his name first appears in the accounts for the quarter ending Lady Day of that year. His involvement with several important pieces still in the royal collections has been told often enough and the items are listed below. However, a careful collation of the surviving archives and several in the Royal archives at Windsor throw up several problems in respect of these celebrated examples of Vile's fine workmanship.

Vile's royal accounts had been variously signed on his behalf by John Bradburne and William France, but seemingly for the last time on 13 December 1764. On 31 May 1763 the Master of the Great Wardrobe appointed William France ‘in the room and place of William Vile and John Cobb discharged’. No reason was given for their discharge when the appointment of France was confirmed on 25 June 1764. In the first quarter of 1763 Vile's account had an entry, ‘deduct £75 for over charge in the Japan Room’ (in the Queen's House) and his bill was reduced from £858 18s to £783 18s. This however could have had little to do with the matter, but perhaps Cobb's known overbearing manner proved too much for George III and his officers. However, the St James Chronicle note of Vile's death (below) recorded that he was ‘formerly an Upholder … but had retired’, and this may have been the sole reason for the cessation of the Warrant — a man near 65 years?

We know very little of Vile's private life. His will gives some indication of his style of living, with two houses in ‘town and country’. He was made a Fellow of the Society for Arts and Manufactures in 1758, retaining it until his retirement six years later. Apart from Cobb's continuation of their business, Vile's nephew William Strickland joined with Jenkins ‘late foreman to Cobb’ to set up. Their trade card noted the relationship and employment. The carver and gilder William Beaumont succeeded ‘Mr Vialls’ whom Heal confused, incorrectly, with William Vile. He was Thomas Vials who worked for Adam at Lansdowne House.

Vile & Cobb's name first appears in the London directories in 1750, and it is entered until 1765. They are noted at 72 St Martin's Lane, on the corner where it joins Long Acre. Chippendale's premises were near. Most of their bills are headed ‘Messrs Vile & Cobb, Cabbtt Makers, Upholders &c. The Corner of Long Acre’, (variants occasionally put Cobb's name first, and note their services as undertakers). Cobb occupied the premises after Vile's death (1767) until his own in 1778.

The firm's fire insurance record has been first noted for 1752. (a) ‘… on their Household Goods, Utensils and Stock in Trade, and Goods in Trust in their now Dwelling houses, being Three Houses, Land together and in & over the Warehouses & Workshops, only Communicating with the Same, part Timber, situate as aforeside, not Exceeding Seventeen Hundred Pounds. On their Glasses therein only, not Exceeding Three Hundred Pounds. On their Stock in their Yard only, belonging to the Said Dwelling … (Total £2,600).’ (b) 11 June 1755. Insured for £4,500, Glass £500, Stock in Yard £1,000. Total £6,000 — a further policy in the same vol. is ref. 147142. Cobb took out insurance on his household goods in the house he had ‘over a gateway, leading into the yard of Messrs Vile & Co in St Martin's Lane’ in 1755.

Together with the sculptor (John or Henry) Cheere, Sir William Chambers, James Paine and Ince & Mayhew, Vile & Cobb were directors of the Westminster Fire Office.

Vile's will of 24 August 1763, with a codicil of 9 November 1764, was proved on 23 September 1767. Vile had died on 22 August 1767. He described himself as ‘of the parish of Saint Martin in the Fields, Cabinet Maker and Upholder’. He bequeathed to his wife, Sarah, two houses at Battersea Hill, together with all household effects and the sum of £300. His nephew John Strickland was left his gold watch, and his other nephew William Strickland his wearing apparel. Those in his employ ‘John Bradburn, Samuel Reynolds and William Eversley’ received £20 each. The will continues: ‘whereas for many years past I have been and am now engaged with my Copartner John Cobb in very extensive Branches of Trade and not having lately made any sort of stock to enable me to judge with any certainty of the Totall Value of my Estate and Effects, and I having the greatest opinion of the honour ability and Integrity of William Hallett of Cannons … and of my friend Charles Smith of Portugall Street … Upholder and Cabinet Maker give and bequeath … all my Estate Goods Chattels … upon the Trust and for the purpose herein declared … the trustees being empowered to settle … accounts depending between me and the said John Cobb’.

Vile then left smaller legacies to his niece Sarah Strickland, to William Strickland (who was apprenticed to him in 1762), to ‘James Humphrey and Sarah Humphrey late of South Petherton … Somerset, but now of London, my cousins’, to ‘William Humphrey of Middle Lambrook … Somerset, farmer, my Kinsman’, and to ‘Betty Hulett, wife of William Hulett of Sherborn … Dorset, Brasier’ £100 ‘apiece for the trouble they may have’. The name does appear to be Hulett and not Hallett (a reading which would compound the enigma of the liaison). The codicil stipulated that Bradburn, Reynolds and Eversley were to be ‘my servants at the time of my death’ to receive their £20, implying some, or one, of them had quitted Vile's employment. This may refer to the establishment of an independent establishment by John Bradburne, and to his succeeding to the Royal Warrant. A later marginal addition shows that in 1782 Hallett was deceased — he died in December 1781 — but Sarah Vile was still living.

It is a measure of the rigorous training enjoyed in a good apprenticeship that Vile should rise in a comparatively short time to provide fine furniture to the Royal family, and to noble patrons. He may have owed some of this in both training and financial support to William Hallett snr and to his equally talented but imperious partner, John Cobb.

  • THE VYNE, Hampshire (Anthony Chute). 1752–54: 2 accounts for furniture and furnishings, supplied by Vile & Cobb in 1752– 53, similarly worded — one for £120 16s 4¾d — the other for £121 13s 4¾d. The first for £121 plus starts on 19 May 1752, ‘Due on a bill deliver'd’ 19s, and therefore implies earlier work. The bills include the whole range of furnishing provision; carpeting, festoon curtains, beds, bedding, ‘neat Mahogany Chairs Stuff'd in linnen’; globe lanthorns on Mahogany fluted pillers; bell Lanthorns on brass Armes’; Chamber, Corner and other tables, a ‘Wallnuttree Buerow on Castors’, and even bellows and hearth brooms. In 1754 (2–5 August) Vile also took an inventory of Mr Chute's effects, assisted by the London auctioneer John Prestage.
  • CANONS ASHBY, Northamptonshire (Revd Edward Dryden) 1753: Honble. Sir John Dryden Bart Bott. of Messrs Vile & Cobb Cabtt makers & Upholders at the corner of Long Acre. June 29 For two good mahog Dineing tables to Joyn£5–15–0 packing etc 8–0 Two mahog. bottle boards 3–0 6–6–0. June 29 1753 Recd of the Revd Mr Dryden for Vile & Cobb Samll Reynolds
  • BADMINTON, Gloucestershire (4th Duke of Beaufort). 13 August 1753: Received £48 10s.
  • CLEVELAND HOUSE, 19 St James's Square, London (2nd Duke of Cleveland). 1753–54: Vile and Cobb supplied looking glasses. The house was being amended by Daniel Garrett 1746 —; it was demolished 1895.
  • LADY CAROLINE BRIDGES. 1753–55: 6 June 1753. To a Neat Mahogy Box with Partitions to hold 21 Cupps & 2 Glass Bottles a Drawer an Ivory Pallat & a Cover at Top £3.10s To a Neat Mahogy Dressing Table on Castors with Cuttwork'd Sides & a Glass with Partitions within Side£6. 6. For a Case &c to pack Do7s.6d. 13 Jan. 1755. For a Japann'd Tea Chest1.15. £11.18.6. Received May 3 1755 for self & Co. Wm Vile. The reference to Cuttwork'd Sides’ is interesting in view of the Holderness and other cabinets below.
  • BRUTON STREET, London (Sir William Proctor). 1754: January-October Supplied furniture to value of £130 14s 5d which included ‘mahog dressing table with folding top & a cabinet at top with doors & drawers with inside glass to draw forwards’, £14 10s. Paid 24 December 1754, less £11 8s abatement. See also 1758–61 below, Langley Hall.
  • COBHAM HALL 3rd Earl of Darnley. Payments amounting to £305 9s between 1759 and 17771 paid to Vile and Cobb (Roberts, Furniture History 2015)
  • LORD ARCHIBALD HAMILTON. 1754: 20 May (Public Advertiser): ‘Auction. By order of the Executors. On Tuesday the 23rd inst and the following Days, Sunday excepted, All the entire genuine rich Household Furniture, large wardrobe of Linnen and China, of the Rt Hon Lord Archibald Hamilton, Governor of Greenwich Hospital, deceased, at his late House in the Hospital at Greenwich in Kent: collection of rich Genoa Damask and other furnishings, in Red and W-CIs, large Pier and Looking Glasses, Mahogany Tables, Chairs etc. likewise his Coach, Chariot and Post-Chaise. Catalogues … At Messrs Vile & Cobb's Cabinet and Upholstery Warehouse, the corner of St Martin's Lane, Long Acre, and at the Place of Sale.’ (Vile & Cobb had presumably supplied much of Lord Archibald's furniture. His pictures were advertised in Public Advertiser, 29 June 1754 — catalogues from Vile & Cobb.)
  • DUKE OF MONTROSE. 1755: Received £24 17s for unspecified work.
  • HOLKHAM HALL, Norfolk (1st Earl of Leicester) 3 May 1755. pd Vile for a Pattern Chair like ye Duke of Devonshire's08.00.00 to ditto for another pattern chair 6.06.00 to one to match ye Parlour chairs lac'd bottom gilt5.11.00 for 2 strong cases1.9.6 for a muhogany table with a drawer2.18.00 Pd for a dome Bed stead & making the furniture, fringe etc & 39 yards of lawn for lining15.14.00 for 2 mattrasses4.01.00 for mats, paper, packing, painting, shades1.03.06
  • DUCHESS OF NORTHUMBERLAND Vile’s name appears on two lists compiled by the Duchess of ‘Ebenistes’ without specifying whether any work was undertaken (Gilbert, Chippendale, pp. 153-4)
  • BRITISH MUSEUM, London. 1756: Received £159 for a cabinet after winning the commission by competitive tender — ‘to see the Cabinet already finished and to deliver in proposals sealed up.’ Minutes, 19 October 1757, II, p. 437: ‘that Mr Vile is desired to attend at next meeting of the Committee with patterns of chairs’; p. 443–9 June 1758: ‘That three dozen Chairs of Virginia walnut-tree be provided by Mr Vile according to the pattern agreed upon with banister-backs, at sixteen shillings each chair’. Minutes, 2 May 1760, III, p. 616: ‘Resolved that Mr Vile's Bill for Furniture amounting to eighty-four Pounds & eighteen shillings be paid’.
  • BRAXTED PARK, Essex (Peter Du Cane). 1756: 8 May ‘To Cash pd Vile & Cobb for a Mahogany Frame to a Marble Table etc. £4. 15s. 6d.’ CAME HOUSE, Dorset (Hon. John Damer). 1756–64: One bill is cited in GCM, p. 118.
  • SANDON HALL, Staffordshire. (1st Lord Harrowby). 23 July 1756. to Vile Cabinet maker a bill £1.16.0. 27 Oct. 1762. To Vile Cabinet maker by Bill£21.12.0. 1 June 1763. To Vile Cabinet maker£15.2.6. 15 June 1763. To Vile for a Commode Table & packing case £8.18.0. 27 Ap. 1764. To Vile Cabinet maker £8.9.6.
  • CROOME COURT, Worcestershire (6th Earl of Coventry). 1757–72: This was Vile & Cobb's most prestigious contract (apart from work in the Royal palaces) and brought them into contact with Robert Adam. The account opened in May 1757 and continued beyond Vile's death (1767) in Cobb's name. It contained well over 1300 items, and concluded circa July 1772; (1758) 19 May 1758 For 12 Good Mahogy Chairs, the Seats Stuff'd & Cover'd with Leather and Brass Nail'd16.16.–. For a Good Mahogy Library Table made to take apart, the top Cover'd with Leather12.–.–. July 1758 for 8 Neat Bamboo Arm'd Chairs with Can'd Seats and Loose Cushions, Cover'd with Your India Damask, and Check Cases14.12.–. For a Good 4 post Bedsd on Castors, Sacking bottom and Compass Rod6.10.–. For a Sett of Carv'd Cornishes to Ditto5.–.–. For 51¾ yards of Green Lutestring to Line your India Damask for Furniture a 4/2d10.15.7½ For 8 yards of Silk fringe a 9/6d3.12.–. For 105 Yards of Silk Lace a 4d1.15.–. For Cloth to Line Lead Cloth and Teaster–.9.–. For Stuff to Line the Vallens and Baces–.7.–. For Buckram to Ditto–.10.–. For Rings, Silk, thread, tape, Glew, paste &c–.14.–. For Makeing Your Damask into a Furniture Lin'd and Fring'd & Covering the Cornishes Compleat4.–.–. Another bed was provided in blue damask, and a mahogany couch ‘with one head Stuff'd and Quilted and Cover'd with Your green Silk Damask and Brass Nail'd’ (£8. 5s). 29 July 1758 ‘For a Handsome Comode Chest of Drawers12.–.–.’ December 1758 ‘For a man's time 138 Days, 2 hours at Croome Repairing and putting up Furniture a 3/6 24.3.6.’ In 1758 damask supplied cost £177 6s 9d. Most of it was supplied through Vile by Spencer Morris ‘at the White Lyon over against the Church in Ludgate Street’. His blue Genoa Damask was at 13s 6d a yard. Vile's overall bill including damask was £582 13s 5¾d, received on 21 May 1759. (1759) 29 January, ‘For an oval Glass in a Handsome Carv'd and Burnish'd Gold frame40.–.–. 20 July ‘For a Large Handsome Carv'd Table frame Gilt in Burnish'd Gold17.10.–. For a Strong Case to pack the Marble Slabb at Mr Wildsmith's & packing–.15.–. (1760) Provided blankets and bedding. (1761) 8 May. For a Good Mahogy Table on Castors, with folding Tops, like a Card table, the inside Lin'd with blue Leather, part of the under top to lift up, and places under Do for papers, a deep drawer at each End, and Sham Drawers fronts on both sides, with Good Locks to suit your Key, and an Engrav'd Scutcheon.10.–.–. 25 June. For 7 Handsome Carv'd Mahogy Arm'd Chairs on Castors, Stuff'd and Quilted, & Cover'd with Morrocco Leather, and finish'd Complete, with the best Burnish'd Nailes at 7£ each42.–.–. 5 July. For 2 Handsome Carv'd Mahogy Sophoys on Castors Stuff'd and Quilted and Cover'd with red Morrocco Leather, and finish'd Complete, with Burnish'd Nailes36.–.–. 12 July. For White Leather Cases to the 6 Morrocco Leather Chairs, and 2 Sophoys & 4 Bolsters10.–.–. 6 Aug. For 2 neat Mahogy Horses to air Linnen1.8.–. 10 Sept. For 2 neat Mahogy Slabb Frames after the Dorick Order, to fitt yr 2 marbles Tops, enrich'd with Trighffs & Balls, carv'd mouldings & fluted Collums & feet to Do. 18.10.–. 30 Nov. For men hanging the back Parlour with your blue flock Paper, on Cloth, tacks, paste &c2.5.–. 1 Dec. For 149 Yards of Cloth, to hang your Bedchambr and Clossett, and sewing Ditto1.8.7. For 149 Yards of crimson flock paper to hang Ditto5.11.9. 6. Dec. For 2 Large Oval Glasses, in Handsome Carv'd and part painted, and part Gilt in Burnish'd Gold Frames … 173.–.–. For 2 Handsome Carv'd Table frames, to Stand under the Oval Glasses, part painted, and Gilt in Burnish'd Gold 33.12.–. Now at Temple Newsam House, (1762) 24 July. For a very good 4 post D'ble Screw'd Wainscott Bedstead on Castors with Mahogy fluted Posts, a fine Sacking & Strong Bright Compass Rod to Do.7.–.–. (The bed was made up with crimson silk damask). (1764) For a Sett of Large Mahogany Book Cases to a Drawing of Mr Adams wood work & all other Materialls Compleate.260.–.–. For 10 Cases to Pack the Book Cases in5.15.9. For Altering the Palasters of the Book Case By the Order of the Surveyor, Pannelling, all the faces & putting on the Mouldings & Loose Peices of Carving.1.14.0. For 2 Men at Croom 226 Days takeing down the old Book Cases & Putting up the new ones takeing them Down again & Cutting the old Dado & Brick Work & Putting them up a Gain Putting up the new Mouldgs …(part of)39.11.–. For a Man's Time Packing your Mouldings Brot from Mr Aulkins [Sefferin Alken, q.v.] & portridg to the Bell in Wood Street–.3.–. [Money received 16 January 1765] (Vile retired in 1764 and the other bills for Croome are in John Cobb's name — Cobb, q.v.).
  • EDGECOTE, Warwickshire (Richard Chauncey). 1758: A large bill from ‘a ledger, formerly at Edgecot’ and amounting to £1,215 7s 11½d is noted as ‘Totl. Bill from Messrs Vile & Co.’ 
  • JERMYN STREET, St James's, London. 1758: ‘To be sold, (with or without the furniture) large house on N side of Jermyn St … (new furnished within these seven years). Details from Mr Spencer, Builder … or of Mr Vile, Cabinet-maker.’
  • UPPER BROOK STREET, London (Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams). 1758: This bill is headed, unusually, in a reverse order from normal, viz. ‘Cobb and Vile, Cabinet-Makers, Upholders etc., The Corner of Long Acre’. It was for £437 19s 6d for furniture supplied between 15 April and 18 December 1758. It was receipted by Cobb. On the strength of this commission some furniture made for Admiral Boscawen of Hatchlands, a friend of Hanbury Williams, was attributed to Vile — particularly a mahogany secretaire, now at Tregothnan, Cornwall.
  • LONGFORD CASTLE, Wiltshire (1st Lord Folkestone). 1760: The patron protested at Vile's high prices — ‘Vile, Cabinet-Maker a bill. N.B. He charged £7.10s. for two girandoles and £1.15. for the 4 nozzles and I am to pay him these prices for all I am to have from him. £17. 5s’ Further payments are made to the partners to 1767 but no details are given in the account book of the actual furniture.
  • STRAWBERRY HILL, Middlesex (Horace Walpole). 1760: Vile provided a bed for the Holbein Chamber with tasselled purple hangings.
  • NORMANTON PARK, Rutland (Sir Gilbert Heathcote) 1760–61: Two 8 p. bills including the provision of all forms of furniture, but seemingly no lavish items, carpets, picture frames, bedding, repairs and cleaning. Vile received £123 2s 5¾d ‘for self & Co.’ on 17 June 1760. William France signed for a second sum of £171 8s 9½d ‘for Messrs Vile & Cobb’ on 4 June 1762.
  • SIR LAWRENCE DUNDAS (Work at Moor Park, Hertfordshire, 19 Arlington Street, London, and Aske Hall, North Yorks). 1761: May 5. Wm Vile £100. 1762: September 18. Vile & Cobb £200. 1765: January 29. Wm Vile £60. The £360 is part of a much larger account. There is a rough note in Sir Lawrence's hand of expenses for furnishing his three houses — ‘Cobb & Vile about £1500’.

ROYAL PALACES. Vile's name, with his partner's, were included in the Great Wardrobe accounts for the first time in the quarter ending Lady Day, 1761. The accounts for the period 1761–65 are filled with details of their work, some examples of which survive in the Royal and other collections. 1761: Medal Coin Cabinets, two, mahogany, originally forming the ends of a ‘Grand Medal Case’ made for George III, the centre part of which is lost. It would seem that they relate to the case referred to in the accounts for October 1761. Described in detail by Derek Shrub, ‘The Vile Problem’, V & A Bulletin, October 1965, pp. 26–35. PRO, LC 9/306 No. 29, includes a payment of £80 in 1761 to Vile for ‘3 Different pieces of work fitted in between the legs of His Majesty's Grand Medal Case with Carved Dooers & ends & a new Subplinth to do on a frame’. 1761: Bureau-Cabinet, mahogany. Made by Vile for Queen Charlotte's Apartments in 1761, (finial crown may be later replacement of original), and it has been suggested that the bowed sides of the lower stage are a modification by John Bradburne in 1767. Invoiced, Lady Day quarter, 1762 ‘For an Exceeding fine Mohogony Secretary with drawers & a writing Drawer, a Sett of Shelves at Top with a Crown carv'd at Top & the Side & Back all handsome Cuttwork £71.0.0.’ (Queen's Apartment at St James's). The cut-work on this documented cabinet has led to the attribution to Vile of three secretaire cabinets, two of which were made for Robert D'Arcy, 4th Earl of Holderness, Secretary of State 1751–61. These cabinets are described under the appelations, the D'Arcy Cabinet, the Hoffman Cabinet, the B.A.D.A. Cabinet, in The Antique Collector, June 1969, pp. 116–19. The D'Arcy Cabinet was sold Sotheby's, 27 June 1974, lot 23, and secondly, 18 November 1983, lot 60. The Hoffman cabinet is in a private American coll; sold Parke Bernet, NY, 14 April 1969, illus. DEF, I, p. 151, pl. 58; the B.A.D.A. Cabinet, ex coll. Lady Dudley Ward was acquired in 1964 by Noel Terry from Hotspur. It is in the Terry coll. at Fairfax House, York. 1761: Jewel Cabinet. Made by Vile in 1761 for Queen Charlotte. Invoiced Quarter ending Christmas Day, 1762. ‘For a very handsome Jewel Cabinet made of many different kinds of fine Woods on a Mahogany frame very richly Carv'd, all the Front Ends & Top inlaid with Ivory in Compartments & neatly Engraved, the Top to lift up & 2 doors in front & 2 drawers under the Doors all lined with fine Black Velvet, with fine Locks & the brass work Gilt. £138.10.0.’ Royal Collection, by descent; purchased by Queen Mary from her nephew, George, Marquess of Cambridge; illus: DEF. I. p. 186, pls 44–45; GCM, pls 62–63. The ‘fine woods’ referred to included veneers of olive, padouk, amboyna, tulip and rosewood. A ‘secret’ top lifts to show Queen Charlotte's coat of arms in ivory. 1761: Paper cases, two of a set of four. Made for George Ill's Library, St James's Palace. ‘A handsome Mahogony Paper Case Richly Carv'd with octagon shaped Glass Doors62.10.0.’ ‘3 verry neat Mahogony Paper Cases the Insides full of Slideing Pertitions the outsides Richly Carved, with Exceeding fine Locks & 2 Keys 68.0.0.’ Royal Collection: two of four survive. The interior of each originally had eighteen slides and two shelves which have disappeared; illus. H. Clifford Smith, Apollo, May 1935, p. 278, pl. 4. 1762: Writing table. Made for the King's Blue Library, Buckingham House. ‘A very good Mohogony Library Table on Castors, the top covered with leather, and exceeding fine locks made to the King's key. £24. 10s.’ This may relate to one of a pair of mahogany writing tables, Royal Collection; normally Palace of Holyroodhouse, illus. Clifford Smith, op. cit., p. 279, pl. VI. However, the account only mentions one table, but Clifford Smith noted its similarity to the one made for Richard Chauncey 1762: Bookcase, mahogany. Made for Queen Charlotte. ‘A very handsome mahogany bookcase with plate Glass Doors (in) the upper part, and wood doors at bottom, a Pedement head with Pilastres and trusses, the whole very handsomely carved to match the Cabinett in the Queen's Bow Closet in St James's. £107.14.0.’ Royal Collection: by descent to George IV; Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge; 1904 to Princess of Wales, later Queen Mary. The locks are marked ‘C & C’; illus. DEF, I, frontis (colour); Burlington, July 1977, p. 483, with detail of left lower door. 1763: Cabinet, mahogany. Altered by Vile for Queen Charlotte in 1763 from an organ-case, probably made c. 1735 by Benjamin Goodison. ‘Queen's Dressing Room/Japan Room’. ‘For altering the Organ & upright Harpischord by putting a Mahogany Plynth to the bottom part … the whole ornamented with Ovals of Laurels and other Carved Ornaments & Carved Moldings — two large Vinetree Ornaments on the top Ends to make the front Door and all the Ornaments neatly Carved & Gilt in Burnished Gold. £57.’. Royal Collection; H. Clifford Smith, Buckingham Palace, 1931, p. 78, pl. 69; Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, pl 15. A set of nine mahogany dwarf-cabinets made to contain organ rolls are attributed to Vile. They have his usual central oval mouldings on the doors. Royal Collection: DEF, II, p. 168, pl. 23; GCM, pl. 67. 1763: Worktable, mahogany, carved fret. For Queen Charlotte at Buckingham House, ‘a neat mahogany worktable, with shape legs neatly carved and a scrole on the foot and a leaf on the knee. £9.18.0.’. Royal Collection: illus, Clifford Smith, op. cit., pl. 64; DEF, III, p. 320, pl. 3. The following is a small selection of items by Vile noted from the TNA, LC accounts, or the Windsor Royal Archives. 1761: ‘For a large Oak Tree Jarendole with two lights gilt £6.6.0. For a Mohogony Stand to serve either for a Tea Kettle Stand or for a high Candle Stand £1.10.0.’ 1762. ‘For making great alterations in 4 large Book Case (sic) taken from the library at St James's, making them Larger by Adding Palesters with Trusses & an entablature at Top with a Pediment to each & a frame with a Vitruvian Scroll between the Top & Bottom part £142.0.0.’ 1763: ‘King's Library. For a Moh. Couch Fashion'd Library Stool with one head the Seat made to turn up to ansr as a pr of Steps, the whole on a Sett of Triple Wheel Castors 14.10.0.’ Three references to ‘Cutt work’ 1763: ‘Fine moh. 2 flat Table on Casters with a Drawer & Shelf & a Cutt work border on the shelf & a neat Black Standish to Stand in the Drawer to take out occasionally 4.4.0. For a neat Mohogony Bookshelf with Cutt Work sides 1.5.0. (similar entry) 2.10.0.’ Augusta, Princess of Wales 1762. 7 August: ‘For altering 2 Doors of Miss Vansittart's Organ by taking out the Pannells & putting in wire instead of them & Green Persian Curtains behind Do. £2.14.0. For a neat Mahogy Bookcase to stand in a recess with Shelves & wire doors to Do at Top & Bottom & Green Lutestring Curtains behind Do. £10.15.0.’

Vile rented a house in 1765 in Sackville Street. He had repaired and painted it at the Princess's order in 1763.

  • CHARLES HENRY TALBOT. 9 June 1761: To Vile and Cobb £81.
  • BLICKLING, Norfolk (3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire). August 1762: Vile & Cobb — cabinet makers £86. 5s. 9d. The partners served the Duke's needs, 1762–63, through the Great Wardrobe, when he was appointed Ambassador to the Court of Russia at St Petersburg.
  • WOBURN ABBEY, Bedfordshire (4th Duke of Bedford). Between 1762–64 Vile and Cobb submitted five bills to the Duke for new furniture, repairs to existing furniture and decoration of state rooms at Woburn after the rebuilding by Henry Flitcroft. The chief pieces provided were: June–July 1763: ‘A large double drab sofa on treble-wheeled brass castors with 2 heads and 2 bolsters stuff'd and quilted. £11.10.0.’ This was provided with a canopy with carved cornice, both sofa and canopy upholstered in blue damask; and with bedding complete to make a sofa bed. The total cost of this piece was £86 15s. January 1764. ‘24 back stool chairs with carved backs and seats, upholstered complete in crimson cofoye [sic], at a total cost of £75.12.0.’ This bill of January 1764 also shows that the firm was responsible for much decoration in the new gallery and that 254 days of gilders’ and painters’ time was expended in the work. All this was in embellishment of the work done by James Whittle & Samuel Norman in 1754 and following years
  • EGREMONT HOUSE, 94 Piccadilly, London (2nd Earl of Egremont). 1762: 10 May ‘For an extra Fine Mahog. Library Table — the Top Cover'd with black leather & 14 Draws & a Door under — with upright Partitions for Books the whole on Strong Casters, £14.10s.’ The full bill was receipted ‘for partner & self’ by John Cobb.
  • HATSWORTH, Derbyshire (4th Duke of Devonshire). When the 1st Duchess of Northumberland was on her tour in the mid-1760s she remarked on a bed by Vile at Hardwick in cutvelvet. Among the Chatsworth Burlington papers in the green vellum folio, Abstract of Tradesmen's accounts 1756–65 is: f78 ‘Bills paid to 4th January 1764 Mr Vile & Cobb Upholsterers £277.1s.0d. f88 (1764) Cabinet maker Cobbe 0.4.0.’ 
  • UPPARK, Sussex (Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh). 1 January 1765: ‘Pd Mr Vile in full £23.6s.6d.’ 
  • CANNON HALL, Yorks. (John Spencer). 1766: 30 June. ‘Pd Vile and Cobb for a glass for Mr Greene £10.’

This biography was originally written by Geoffrey Beard.

Sources: DEFM; Lucy Wood, 'William Hallett's Lantern Stand for Chevening', Furniture History (2005), p. 22; Hugh Roberts, ‘The Funeral of the 3rd Earl of Darnley’, Furniture History (2015).

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