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West, John (1730-1760)

West, John

‘The Cabinet’, King Street, Covent Garden, London; cabinet maker and upholsterer (fl. c1730–60)

West may have lived at the same property in King Street once occupied by the upholder, Thomas Arne, the father of the composer, Thomas Augustine Arne (12 March 1710 – 5 March 1778). Arne snr was murdered on 2 March 1730. If this is true, he must have changed the trade sign because Arne was at the sign of 'The Two Crowns & Cushion’. It is said that David Garrick lodged with John West in King Street, 1743–1748. 

West's apprentices included Henry Buck's son and William Ince, in 1752, paying a fee of £40,who was later in partnership with John Mayhew. On the death of John West in 1758 the business was taken over by the partnership of James Whittle and Samuel Norman.

A number of West's patrons have been identified and indicate his importance as a maker to the nobility and gentry of the period. He was working at Alscot Park, Warwickshire. and supplying furniture to his patron James Westfor the house from 1745 until the year of his death in 1758:

  • A set of mahogany chairs, carved, and the seats ‘Cover'd with black leather and Nailed with brass Nails’ supplied in 1745 at £2 2s each may be the set in situ in the Hall. The total commission came to £39 13s, inclusive of other items.
  • An account for £19 18s was submitted in June 1748
  • A smaller account for £4 11s 9d which included a neat mahogany breakfast table with fly feet in 1753
  • A more substantial commission amounting to £62 4s 9d in March 1758. The major items of furniture in this latter order were a mahogany bedstead at £6 10s and a large mahogany sofa charged at the same amount. Much of the remainder was for fabrics.

The Monson archives at the Lincoln Record Office indicate patronage on a considerable scale extending from 1745–53:

  • A minor commission amounting to £3 6s in November 1745 was followed in March 1747 by the receipt of two ‘neat commode dressing tables of rosewood’ costing £15 15s
  • In May of the same year ten carved mahogany elbow chairs costing £23 10s were part of a much larger commission, mainly fabrics, which totalled £103 9s 6d
  • A minor commission for a dressing table in August 1747
  • A mahogany table in January 1748
  • In December 1752 an account for £68 18s 4d included a ‘Chimney in the Chinese taste’ £11 15s, ‘rich carv'd table frames in paint’ £30 and a ‘Pier glass neat carv'd Chinese frame in white & gold’ £16 10s 
  • An account dated 24 December 1752 totalling £67 13s 6d was mainly for fabrics as were also commissions placed in the next year amounting to £28 11s 4d.
  • The largest sum expended was however in November 1752 when an account for £263 13s 7½d was submitted to Holland Goddard for a set of twelve fan back chairs, six elbow chairs and two sofas were included as well as other chairs, tables, fabrics and carpets

Other patrons are known:

  • The Grimston family used John West 1753–54. The wallpapers specified by West came from Thomas Bromwich who traded as a ‘Leather Gilder & Paper Merchant at the Golden Lion, on Ludgate Hill’.

Apart from these West provided:

  • A Turkey carpet at £34, ‘A neat Carv'd Ornament in paint to go over the Pier Glass’ £1 5s and ‘15 Yards of Cotton to match the Couch’.#
  • In November 1754 he received from Mr Grimston a complaint about a table that he had produced and West agreed to its return. ‘I would rather be two or three pounds a looser, than give the least cause of uneasiness to a Gentleman who has confer'd such great & infinite obligations’.
  • At Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, furniture was supplied between May 1755 and the end of 1758 and the total cost of the commissions was £1,947 14s 9d
  • The upholstery work and furniture was for the new rooms created by Henry Flitcroft for John, 4th Duke of Bedford. Between April and July 1755 Greek damask hangings were provided for the Drawing Room and ten walnut elbow chairs and two sofas upholstered in green
  • Three pairs of window curtains in green damask were also supplied
  •  Another set of chairs in walnut consisted of ten single and two elbow chairs with yellow laced seats
  • In August of the same year a number of gilt pier glasses, a mahogany bedstead and hangings and a large mahogany commode decorated with ormolu were provided

The final bill was not settled until January 1759 and the receipt was given by William Dutton, ‘Administrator to the late John West’. A payment of £80 was also made to West in 1756 by the executors of the 4th Duke of Beaufort.

Source: DEFM; Kirkham, ‘London Furniture Trade’, Furniture History (1988).

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