Monday 5 October 2020

Joseph Newton, Windsor Chair Maker of Fenton, Lincolnshire

William Sergeant's article in RFS 2018 tells the story of the discovery of two very early Windsor chairs in Newark which may be linked to the earliest named Windsor chair maker known: Joseph Newton, Windsor Chair Maker of Fenton, Lincolnshire.

Julian Parker's Notes in RFS Newsletter No 70 Spring 2019 expand on the importance of the discovery of Joseph Newton and the possibility that chairs made by him were once at Newstead Abbey. They are reproduced below.

Joseph Newton’s Windsor chair advertisements, 1725 and 1729

I write further to William Sergeant’s fascinating article ‘Joseph Newton, Windsor Chair Maker of Fenton, Lincolnshire’ (Regional Furniture, 32, (2018), pp. 93-102). Newton’s advertisements in The LincolnshireRutland & Stamford Mercury appeared on 1 July 1725 and 8 May 1729. These are the earliest references to Windsor chairs made by a named individual that are known in any publication in the United Kingdom. They are transcribed below:

1 July 1725: This is to give Notice to all Gentlemen and others that have a desire to furnish themselves with New-fashioned Windsor Chairs of the best sort, may be furnish’d by Joseph Newton, the Maker, living at Fenton in the Parish of Beckingham, Lincolnshire, four Miles from Newark upon Trent in Nottinghamshire, and there is a Chair to be seen at the White Hart in Newark for a Sample, & one at the Angel in Grantham; He proposes to deliver them at the[s]e Place[s] at 7s. 6d. per Chair, and at Lincoln at 8s. and with as much speed as possible, after Notice given.

8 May 1729: This is to give Notice, That Joseph Newton of Fenton in the County of Lincoln, 4 Miles distant from Newark upon Trent, maketh all sorts of Windsor Chairs, the Price of the single Chairs 7s. 6d. a Piece, the Seat-two’s, Seat-three’s and four’s all at 7s. per Seat, and are to be sold at Mr. John Fox’s Gunsmith in Grantham, at Mr. Taylor’s at the Reign’d-Deer, and at Mr. John Farrow’s both in Newark, and at Mr. John Shakelton’s in Nottingham, and Gentlemen that has a Desire of any of the said Chairs, may be furnish’d at any of the above- said Places, they may go by Water from Newark to Nottingham, Gainsborough or Lincoln for Three-pence a Seat. I have furnish’d a great many Gentlemen, Gardeners with them, and they are esteem’d above those that come from London for both Ease and Fashion.

John Brown 1730: The next known advertisement referring to Windsor chairs was placed by John Brown in The Country Journal or The Craftsman, Issue 197, Saturday 11 April 1730. This advertisement is often wrongly dated to 1727 because of an unfortunate layout on p. 26 of Ambrose Heal’s London Furniture Makers 1660-1840 (London: Batsford, 1953), where the 1727 date appears on the preceding line. Heal writes: ‘It is noticeable that at this early date he was advertising “all sorts of Windsor Garden Chairs of all sizes painted green or in the wood.’” No source or date is given for these words.

The key part of Heal’s handwritten notes, from which his John Brown entry was composed, is available on the British Museum website. It only says: ‘1730. An advertisement in “The Craftsman” 11 April 1730 gives John Brown, blind maker, “at the THREE CHAIRS WALNUT TREE in St Paul’s Church Yard, near the School.’” However, according to Moss Harris in The English Chair (London: M. Harris Sons, 1937): ‘An advertisement of April 1730 speaks of “all sorts of Windsor Garden Chairs, of all sizes, painted green or in the wood, at John Brown’s, at the Three Chairs and Walnut Tree in St. Paul’s Church Yard, near the School.’” Moss Harris is right; an inspection by Dr Iain Ferris of the original journal in the British Library reveals the following full text:

At JOHN BROWN’S At the Three Chairs and Wallnut Tree in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, near the School, Is Made and fold BLINDS for WINDOWS of all Sorts, painted on Wyer, Canvas or Cloth, after the beft and lafting Manner ever yet done: fo that if ever to dirty, they will clean without Soap or Sand if occafion, and be like new: where may be feen great Choice of the fame, being always about them. And for the Spring Seafon, at the fame Place is kept, ready made, all forts of Windfor Garden Chairs of all Sizes, painted green or in the Wood; where all Perfons may be furnished at the cheapeft Rates.

Heal’s handwritten notes reveal another John Brown advertisement, though with no specific mention of Windsor chairs:

The Craftsman, Issue 295. February 26th 1732. JOHN BROWNE. At the Three Cover’d Chairs and Walnut- Tree, the Eaft Side of St. Paul’s Church-yard, near the School, London, Makes and Sells all Sorts of BLINDS for Windows, curioufly painted on Canvas, Silk or Wire; where is good Choice and beft painted of any in London, none excepted. Likewife all Sorrs of Chairs and Cabinet Work, with Coach and other Glafses [or Glazes] at the cheapeft Rates.

It is clear from the breadth of goods sold by John Brown that his business was wide-ranging and one would be surprised were he to have made the Windsor chairs himself. Thereafter, the next advertisement specifically referring to Windsor chairs appears in Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday 13th July 1754:

Notice is hereby given that William Partridge hath opened a Shop near the White Lion in Banbury, with all sorts of the most fashionable furniture in the cabinet way ... Likewise all sorts of carpentry, joiners work, and carvings; viz. Brackets, Umbrello’s, Temples, Pavilions, Pallisadoes, Fences, Garden Seats, Windsor and ForrestChairs and Stools in the Modern Gothic, and Chinese taste; and all other Things made in Wood that are not to be had in this Part of the Country of any Person but himself.

The individual makers of these Windsors again seem likely to remain a mystery, but with the Joseph Newton advertisements there is no doubt who made, as well as sold, the chairs. It is for that reason that his 1725 and 1729 advertisements are a truly exceptional find.

Julian Parker

Windsor chairs at Newstead Abbey

As Regional Furniture 2018 went to press I discovered a reference in Thomas Crispin’s English Windsor Chairs (Dover, New Hampshire: Sutton Publishing, 1992, p. 10) to an inventory of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire dating from 1738 to 1740. Further research showed that the inventory in question is published by Nancy Goyne Evans in ‘A History and Background of English Windsor Furniture’ (Furniture History, XV (1979), p. 34):

After the death of William, Lord Byron (1669-1736), a suit brought on behalf of his children against Frances, Lady Byron, and her second husband Sir Thomas Haye, Barrister, required appraisers to draw up a lengthy inventory of the furnishings of the house at Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire. Scattered through the rooms was Windsor furniture of varied form. The single chair in the hall served a recognized function, but furnishings of the four galleries introduce new insights into the early use of Windsor furniture. Ranged throughout these areas were no less than ten settees! The account reveals something of their placement in these passages:

In the Red Gallery  
 4 Double Windsor Chairs 3..3..0
 One Treble D° [Ditto]  
 8 Single Branches [candle arms] 1..8..0
In the Great Gallery2 Glass Sconces  
 80 prints of Several Sorts 8..8..0
 4 Treble Windsor Chairs, 6 Single D° 4..4..0
 2 Arm Chairs and Cushoons0..15..0
In the Little GalleryA Harpesichord wth. Leather Cover5..5..0
 An Elks head A Wooden Bagg Pipe 1..1..0
 12 Cane Chairs 4 Windsor Chairs 2..10..0
 4 Arm Chairs and Cushoons 1..10..0
 2 Marble slabs wth. Iron frames 5..5..0
 8 Single Branches 2 Glass Sconces Double Branches 1..6..0
In the Blue GalleryA Brass Branch wth. four Socketts1..10..0
 20 Pictures ........
 1 Treble Windsor Chair & Single D° 3..0..0
 12 Single Branches1..5..0
 15 Heads [busts] 2 Lanthorns 1..1..0
 2 Black Marble Tables wth. mohogany frames 5..0..0

The term ‘settee’ was not yet applied to the Windsor seat that accommodated two or more people, and the expression of size is still in terms of an expanded chair form.

Size is similarly expressed in the Joseph Newton advertisement of 1729: ‘... single Chairs 75. 6d. a Piece, the Seat-two’s, Seat-three’s and four’s all at 7s. per Seat.’ At Newton’s prices, four doubles and a treble for the Red Gallery with carriage at ‘... Three-pence a Seat ...’ would have cost 77 shillings for chairs and 2 shillings and 9 pence carriage - £3.19.9 compared to £3.3.0. Four trebles and six singles for the Great Gallery would have cost 126 shillings for chairs and 4 shillings and 6 pence carriage - £6.10.6 compared to £4.4.0. No comparison can be made for the four Windsors in the Little Gallery (28 shillings plus 1 shilling carriage) as there is no way to separate the twelve cane chairs also included in the £2.10.0 valuation. For the Blue Gallery a treble and a single would have also cost 28 shillings plus 1 shilling carriage - £1.9.0 compared to £3.0.0. For the three galleries where a comparison can be made £11.19.3 compared to £10.7.0, which is closer than one might expect in a calculation of this kind.

Newstead is about 20 miles from Newark, 27 from Fenton and 12 miles from Nottingham. There is a reasonable likelihood that the 4th Lord and Lady Byron acquired their many Windsors from Joseph Newton who must be the leading candidate, being their nearest source of supply. Carrier from Fenton to Newark, by barge along the Trent from there to Nottingham and then by carrier the last stage to Newstead seems a possible route. Perhaps Newton gave the Byrons a discount.

Enquiries with Simon Brown, Curator at Newstead Abbey, reveal that hot-footing it to Newstead to hunt for these Windsors is a fruitless pursuit: ‘The entire contents of the house were sold by the 5th Lord Byron to service his sizeable debts - he was unable to sell Newstead itself due to the terms of his inheritance - he auctioned off everything else he possibly could (including doorknobs!).’ Alas.

Julian Parker

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