The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

British picture framemakers, 1600-1950 - A

An online resource, launched in 2007, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2022. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].

Introduction Resources and bibliography

[AG] [AL] [AN] [AR] [AS] [AT] [AU]

*John Adair (active 1749, died 1771), John & William Adair (also Adair & Co) 1769-1777, William Robert Adair 1777-1807. At St Ann’s Court, Covent Garden, London 1749, Wardour St, Soho by 1763, 26 Wardour St 1777-1794, 108 Wardour St 1785-1794, 55 King St, Golden Square by 1799, 47 Brewer St by 1802-1807. Carvers and gilders.

A prominent carving and gilding business, active over two generations in the later 18th century, begun by John Adair (d.1771), and then continued by his son, William Robert Adair (d.1807), who was apparently initially in partnership with his mother. The business is not discussed here in detail since it is treated in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers.

John Adair took Stephen Wall as apprentice for a premium of £5 in 1759, Benjamin Talbot for £15.15s in 1760 and James Lowe for £40 in 1766 (Boyd). Adair made various bequests in his will, dated 9 January 1770 and proved 24 April 1771, including a book of drawing to his son, William Robert Adair, on condition that he enter into partnership with his mother, Mary. She took out insurance with the Sun Fire Office on the premises, The Golden Head in Wardour St, in March 1777, including the very high figure of £70 for printed books. William seems to have entered into a partnership for some years, presumably with his mother but trading as John & William Adair. He continued the business in his own name from about 1777 until his death in 1807. William Adair appears to have had no direct heir and in his will, proved 10 December 1807, he made bequests to his sisters and their families, including to his nephew Thomas Ayliffe Gee, chairmaker and 'Turner in Ordinary to the King'.

Framing and other work: John Adair worked on various houses where James ‘Athenian’ Stuart was architect, including Nuneham Courtenay, c.1756-64, Shugborough House, Staffordshire, 1763-9, Holdernesse House, London, for the 4th Earl of Holdernesse, 1765-8, and various other London houses, 1764-80. He also worked on Robert Adam houses. The 1st Duke of Northumberland complained to Adam in 1764 about ‘those Carved Mouldings... so ill executed by Mr Adair’, which had been made for Syon House. At Audley End John Adair supplied interior carving work for Sir John Griffin Griffin as well as picture frames, 1767-9, and William Adair worked on the same house, 1771-4, 1777-8 and 1791, as well as on Griffin's London house.

It is William Adair’s role as framemaker to the King from 1784, following on from Isaac Gosset (qv), which is of interest here. He was appointed carver and gilder to His Majesty in 1784 (Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser 30 November 1784), an appointment which he retained until his death in 1807. The Lord Chamberlain issued orders to Joshua Reynolds and then to Thomas Lawrence for state portraits of the king and queen to be issued to ambassadors and others, and at the same time would order 'rich carved and gilded frames' from William Adair (e.g. National Archives, LC 5/163, pp.2, 3, 24, 47, dating to 1793-4). It was perhaps in this capacity that Adair came to the attention of Thomas Lawrence who appears to have used his services on occasion in the 1790s (see Thomas Lawrence and picture framing on the National Portrait Gallery website). Royal portraits framed by Adair include the Lawrence studio portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte at Knole, probably supplied to Lord Whitworth in 1802; that of George III has his maker’s label on the back, 'Adair, Carver and Gilder To Their Majesties'; this is probably one of the frames included in Adair’s bill, dated 9 March 1803, for £108.8s.6d (see A Guide to Picture Frames at Knole on the National Portrait Gallery website). A pastel portrait by Lawrence with Adair’s label from 47 Brewer St is apparently dated as early 1794 (private coll., repr. Gilbert 1996 p.62).

Adair undertook other work for the Lord Chamberlain including providing three pier glass frames, with trophies of music and agriculture and much other ornament, as part of a bill for £253 in 1805 (National Archives, LC 11/9).

Sources: DEFM (from which the business’s addresses have been taken, supplemented by reference to London directories); London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 472/382775; Kerry Bristol, ‘James Stuart and the London building trades’, Georgian Group Journal, vol.13, 2003, pp.1-11; Geoffrey Beard, in Susan Weber Soros (ed.), James ‘Athenian’ Stuart 1713-1788, The Rediscovery of Antiquity, 2006, p.551; J.D. Williams, Audley End: The Restoration of 1762-1779, Essex Record Office Publications, 1966, p.34, and see also Collections Review, English Heritage, vol.4, 2003, pp.32-3; Beard 1981 p.241. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Updated January 2017
*Vittore, Zanetti & Co 1801, Vittore Zanetti 1804, Vittore Zanetti & Co by 1804-1817, Zanetti & Agnew 1817-1826, Agnew & Zanetti 1828-1837, Thomas Agnew 1837-1850, Thomas Agnew & Sons 1850-1923, Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd 1923-2013, Thomas Agnew’s Ltd from 2014. In Manchester: Repository of Arts, 87 Market St Lane 1804-1811, 94 Market St 1810-1825, 25 Gartside St 1825, 10 Exchange St 1825-1829, 18 Exchange St 1832-1833, 14 Exchange St 1836-1932, also at Salford. In London: 5 Waterloo Place 1860-1877, 39b Old Bond St 1875-1907, 43 Old Bond St, W1S 4BA 1908-2008, 8 Grafton Street, W1S 4EL 2008-2010, 35 Albemarle St, W1S 4JD 2010-2013, 6 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NP from 2014. Elsewhere: Liverpool by 1864-1909, Berlin 1910-1913, Paris 1910-1932 or later. Carvers and gilders, looking glass and picture framemakers, later printsellers, publishers and picture dealers.

Vittore Zanetti (d.1855) came to England from Lake Garda; he set up initially with Vincent Zanetti and John Fiorino, trading in Manchester as Vittore, Zanetti & Company, picture dealers, a partnership which was dissolved in January 1801 (London Gazette 21 March 1801). He traded as a looking glass maker and printseller from about 1803, and advertised through his trade card as Repository of Arts. Looking-Glass & Mirror Manufacturers, Picture-Frame Makers & Gilders (example, Simon coll.). The early history of the business is treated in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, from which the pre-1840 addresses given above are partly derived; details of other members of the Zanetti family trading in Manchester are also given in the Dictionary.

Thomas Agnew (1794-1871) was apprenticed to Zanetti as a carver and gilder in 1810. He joined the business as a partner on the completion of his apprenticeship in 1817, as announced in the Manchester Mercury, September 1817, where it was stated that Zanetti's Repository of Arts had been established for 'the last 20 years' (DEFM). An advert for Zanetti and Agnew described them as ‘Carvers and Gilders, Looking Glass and Picture Frame Manufacturers, Barometer, Thermometer, Hydrometer, and Saccharometer Makers, Printsellers, Publishers, and Dealers in Ancient and Modern Coins, Medals, and all Kinds of Curiosities' (Pigot & Co, Lancashire directory, 1822). At this time the business was located at the Repository of Arts at 94 Market St. A sale of stock was announced in April 1825 shortly before the demolition of their premises in Market St and their move to Exchange St, where the business remained until 1932 (Manchester Guardian 7 May 1825; Agnew 1967 p.7).

When Thomas Agnew joined Vittore Zanetti, it is said that the part of the business to which he paid most attention was that of carving and gilding. In 1825 Zanetti’s son Joseph entered the firm. The partnership between Vittore Zanetti and Agnew was dissolved on 31 July 1826 (Manchester Guardian 14 October 1826, The Times 18 October 1826). When Vittore retired to Italy, the business became Agnew & Zanetti, with Joseph as junior partner, a partnership which continued until it was dissolved in 1837 (London Gazette 17 January 1837). Joseph set up on his own at 100 King St as a carver and gilder, framemaker, printseller and publisher, also dealing in mathematical and other instruments, but he was made bankrupt in 1837 (The Times 1 March 1837); he resumed business at 100 King St by 1841 (Pigot’s Manchester directory), but died the following year. His father, Vittore Zanetti, lived until 1855 (Liverpool Mercury 26 November 1855). It is worth noting that John Clowes Grundy (qv) was initially an assistant of Messrs Zanetti & Agnew (Manchester Guardian 28 April 1827).

Thomas Agnew became sole proprietor of the business in 1837, becoming one of the country’s leading print sellers and publishers. He also began dealing in pictures but as late as 1850 his invoices described the business as 'Carver, Gilder, Looking Glass, and Picture Frame Manufacturer. Printseller', only referring to the sale of 'ancient and modern paintings' in the subsidiary text (repr. Agnew 1967 p.17). The business's extensive activities as art dealers, publishers of prints and printsellers and also as publishers of photographs of the Crimean War by Roger Fenton are not covered here (for further details, see Agnew 1967, including app. 1 and 2). The business had accounts with the artists' suppliers, Roberson, 1820-1907, from both Manchester and London (Woodcock 1997).

Thomas Agnew married Jane Lockett of Salford in 1823. They had two sons, William (1825-1910), who joined the firm in 1840 and retired in 1895, and Thomas (1827-83), who joined in 1842. William was apprenticed to his father to learn the trades of carver, gilder and picture dealer. He and his brother were taken into partnership in 1850, when the firm became Thomas Agnew & Sons. Thomas Agnew senior retired from the partnership in 1861 (London Gazette 13 September 1861) and a sale of surplus stock was held at Christie’s. Thomas junior opened the London branch at 5 Waterloo Place in 1860. The framing side of the business continued in Manchester. William Agnew had two sons, and both they and their sons, grandsons and great grandsons joined the business but the subsequent history of the business in art dealing and publishing is not traced here except to note that Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd closed in 2013 and that its archive was acquired by the National Gallery, London (see About Agnew's stock books | Research | National Gallery). A successor business, Thomas Agnew’s Ltd, operates from 6 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NP.

Framing work: Of Agnew’s framing activities relatively little has been published. Jerry Barrett's pair of paintings, Queen Victoria’s first visit to her wounded soldiers, 1856, and Florence Nightingale at Scutari, 1857 (National Portrait Gallery) appear to have been framed by Agnew’s from their maker’s labels, as does John Linnell’s Wheat, 1860 (National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, see Payne 2007 p.13). Agnew’s ledgers reveal that they were frequently called on to frame paintings entered for the Royal Academy, by artists such as John Everett Millais, Thomas Faed, Briton Rivière and Walter Severn, where a stock frame was required (information from Lynn Roberts).

More specifically, Agnew's framed Frank Holl’s Hush!, 1877, labelled frame (Tate, information from Gerry Alabone) and David Wilkie's Distraining for Rent (National Gallery of Scotland), providing a swept compo frame, pattern B207, to S. Cunliffe Lister for £13 on 12 August 1890 (Agnew's London Day Book, no.12, p.161). A bill for a frame ‘specially made to pattern’ for Lord Leighton, June 1895, exists in the Walker Art Gallery archives, whilst a few of Alma-Tadema’s frames bear Agnew’s labels (information from Lynn Roberts). In the 1910s Agnew’s was also called upon to frame the Turner watercolours in the Lloyd Collection (British Museum); these had uniform settings, often with a fitted retractable blind, specified by the purchaser. The framing side of the business was discontinued in the twentieth century.

Sources: DEFM; Geoffrey Agnew, Agnew's 1817-1967, 1967 (subsequent volumes cover the years 1967-1981 and 1982-1992); Susan Moore, 'The Restoration and Early History of Agnew's', Country Life, vol.175, 26 January 1984, p.246; Kim Sloan, J.M.W. Turner. Watercolours from the R.W. Lloyd Bequest to the British Museum,, 1998, pp.19-21, 60, 88. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

H. Albert, see Robert John Stannard

*Ernest Alden, 1 William St, Lowndes Square, London SW 1893-1900, 39 King’s Rd, Sloane Square SW 1901-1940. Picture mount cutter, later picture framemaker.

Ernest William Alden (1866-1947) was recorded in successive censuses, in 1881 as a picture mounter (card maker), age 14, living at 9 Bloomsbury St, with several other members of his family also given as picture mounters, including his father, James; in 1891 as a picture frame mounter with his father and family at 208 Shaftesbury Avenue; in 1901 as a photographer and picture dealer at 39 King’s Road, Chelsea; and in 1911 again at 39 King’s Road but the census form is damaged. His listing in trade directories, initially as picture mount cutter, changed to picture framemaker from 1904, soon after he set up in the King’s Road. He advertised his large stock of second-hand swept and other frames, claiming to have been established in 1893 (The Year’s Art 1913). Alden died in Chelsea in 1947, leaving effects worth £5011, with probate granted to his widow Lily Alden and to Marjorie Frances Alden. Two of his younger brothers, Henry Cyril Alden (1871-1939) and James Preston Alden (1876-1960), were also active as picture framemakers.

*Sefferin Alken, in London by 1744, Dufour’s Court, Broad St, Soho by 1748-1759, 3 Dufour’s Court by 1756-1782. Carver.

Of Danish origin, Sefferin Alken (1717-82) was the first of this family of artists to settle in England, where he was in business by 1744, providing work for Sir Richard Colt Hoare at Stourhead, Wiltshire. A leading carver in both stone and wood, he is not discussed here beyond his picture frames since he is treated at length in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to both of which this account is indebted. In 1746 he took an apprentice by the name of Lawrence, probably Richard Lawrence (qv), with whom he appears to have been in partnership in 1763 when the business was referred to as Alken & Lawrence. His next door neighbour on one side in the mid-1750s was the short-lived carver and gilder, Robert Tull (qv), as is evident from the listings in the poor rate books, where ‘Zephrain Alkin’ appears from 1748. Alken’s will, made 17 April 1779 and proved 8 May 1782, names his wife, Ann, and son, Samuel.

Framing work: Alken & Cartwright (perhaps Francis Cartwright, from an earlier payment) received £8.8s for gold frames from Henry Hoare in 1747 (Hoare’s personal account book at C. Hoare & Co, transcribed by Jonny Yarker, communicated by Richard Stephens, May 2012).

Alken worked for Robert Adam as a specialist carver in the neoclassical style and subscribed to Adam’s Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian, 1764 (DEFM). At Kedleston, Derbyshire, in 1759 or 1760 he produced some of the earliest neoclassical picture frames for Agostino Brunias’s Breakfast Room paintings (Victoria and Albert Museum). For the Earl of Coventry at Croome Court, Worcestershire, he produced superb bookcases for the library (Victoria and Albert Museum) as well charging the large sum of £32.10s in 1764 for the frame for Lord Coventry's portrait by Allan Ramsay, with ‘6 Members very Richly Carved’ (Simon 1994 pp.450-1); his bill is instructive since it states that he left the frame ‘finish’d in Whiteing’, ready for gilding, which was separately charged for, confirming that he was a carver, rather than a carver and gilder.

Alken subscribed to William Chambers’ Designs for Chinese Buildings, 1757 and Treatise on Civil Architecture, 1759. He worked for Chambers at Somerset House and Marlborough House in London, and at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, 1764-71. In 1778 Alken carved the frame for Joshua Reynolds's large picture at Blenheim Palace, The Marlborough Family, a frame of the highest quality, probably made to Chambers' design (Nicholas Penny, 'Reynolds and picture frames', Burlington Magazine, vol.128, 1986, p.821, figs 33-4).

Sources: DEFM; Beard 1981 pp.241-2; Geoffrey Beard, 'Some English wood-carvers', Burlington Magazine, vol.127, 1985, pp.693-4; Timothy Clayton and Anita McConnell, 'Alken family’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol.1, 2004, p.747 (giving Alken’s date of birth as 1717); Roscoe 2009 (with an extensive list of works). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Added March 2022
William Allen, 31 Ebury St, Pimlico, London by 1833-1867, street renumbered 1867, 83 Ebury St, London SW 1868-1876. Carver and gilder.

William Allen (c.1806-1876) was born in the parish of St George Hanover Square. He may have been one of three individuals of the name baptised in the parish between November 1806 and February 1807. As William Allen of the parish of St George Hanover Square (which included Ebury St), he married Margaret Hinton Cooper, a minor, by licence at St Luke, Chelsea in 1833. He can be found in census records, always as a carver and gilder. In 1841 at 31 Ebury St, age 34, with wife Margaret, age 27, and five young children. In 1851 still at 31 Ebury St, with wife Margaret and seven daughters and two sons, age from a few months to 17 years old. In 1861 untraced. In 1871 at 83 Ebury St as a carver and gilder (‘no workmen’), age 64, with wife Margaret Hinton Allen and five daughters (one an art student) and a son (a clerk), age between 14 and 32. He died age 69 on 23 January 1876 at 83 Ebury St. His will was proved by his widow Margaret Hinton Allen, with effects worth under £200. His son, W.H. Allen exhibited at the Royal Academy from this address, 1868-74, and his daughter, Julia, was running a ladies’ outfitters from the premises in 1891.

Very little is known of Allen’s activities as a carver and gilder but he was sufficiently well known for Frederic Leighton to approach him concerning a frame design. Leighton wrote to his mother from Rome about his huge painting, Cimabue’s celebrated Madonna is carried in procession through the streets of Florence (Royal coll.) in January 1855, ‘I wrote a month ago (or more) to one Mr Allen, carver and gilder, 31 Ebury Street, Pimlico, sending a design of my frame, and requesting him to let me know at once what would be the cost of such a frame, whether he would undertake it, and asking many questions important to me to know; I have received no answer... With regard to the price, [Alfred] Fripp, who recommended him to me, says Allen is a very respectable man, and will no way take advantage of my awkward position’ (Mrs Russell Barrington, Letters and Works of Frederic Leighton, 1906, vol.1, p.179; see ‘Olympian frames: Frederic, Lord Leighton’, by The Frame Blog, at, accessed 6 February 2021).

Updated March 2020
Thomas Allwood, Charlotte St, London at uncertain date, Great Russell St, Bloomsbury 1765-1798, near The Falcon, Great Russell St 1765, 35 Great Russell St by 1788-1795 or later. Carver and gilder.

Thomas Allwood (c.1738-1799 or later) was a leading picture framemaker in the late 18th century. His work is discussed in some detail in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers and what follows is largely supplementary to that account.

Allwood was apprenticed to the well-known carver and designer, Thomas Johnson (qv), in Liverpool in 1752. He presumably moved to London with Johnson in 1755. Thomas and Ann Allwood had ten children between 1762 and 1778, two christened at St George the Martyr, Queen Square, with Allwood recorded as living in Eagle St in 1762 and Red Lion St in 1763, and the remainder christened at St George Bloomsbury. He took out insurance as a carver and gilder from premises near The Falcon, Great Russell St, Bloomsbury on 15 August 1765 (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 162/223534). He may be the Thomas Allwood who was admitted as a student in sculpture at the Royal Academy in 1769 (Stephens 2019 p.45). In land tax records he can be found in Great Russell St, 1781-95, as a tenant of the Duke of Bedford, and in Red Lion St, perhaps his home, 1784-7. Allwood took apprentices John Walker for £20 in 1766 and Richard Mills for £30 in 1767. He employed the young Norwich carver, Jeremiah Freeman (qv), as a journeyman in 1784.

Allwood apparently initially traded from Charlotte St in Bloomsbury, using a frame label with a rococo surround, 'Allwood/ Carver and Gilder/ at the Golden Head/ Charlotte St/ Near Bloomsbury Square/ London' (example found on John Downman's small oil portrait, Susan Rushbrooke, Bonhams 8 December 2004 lot 1). He exhibited sculpture at the Society of Artists, 1770-2, and the portrait painter, Thomas Barrow, used his address when exhibiting at the Society of Artists in 1775.

Allwood took the lease of a property on the south side of Great Russell St for 21 years for a rental of £73.10s in 1798 (Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, DE/Tm/24726), a lease which he proceeded to offer at auction later the same year (Morning Chronicle 22 October 1798), but perhaps without success since he was made bankrupt the following year, as late of Great Russell St (London Gazette 26 March 1799). In the Morning Chronicle advertisement, apart from some of his stock, Allwood offered two leasehold properties, one on the corner of Great Russell St and Charlotte St, Bloomsbury, ‘many years in the possession of Mr. Allwood…, retiring from Business’, consisting of a three-storey high dwelling house with a very capacious shop, fronting onto Great Russell St, the other a smaller house adjoining in Charlotte St.

Framing work: Allwood framed a number of pictures at Corsham Court in 1778 for the MP, Paul Methuen, possibly including that by Gainsborough of his son (Sloman 2002 p.66).

Allwood undertook picture framing for George Romney from the artist’s return from Italy in 1775 until 1781 (see A note on George Romney and picture framing on this website). ‘Allwood's Carving Book', recording his work for Romney, is in the Fitzwilliam Museum (Simon 1996 p.97). In this book many frame patterns are specified by the name of the sitter who had previously used the particular pattern, thus 'Mr Bucks patn', 'Mr. Sullivan's patn', 'Lord Gowers patn', 'Capt Beards pattern'. Allwood's accounts includes an entry for 'A 3/4 around Lord Gowers portrait in the Shew Room' (a three-quarter frame was for a picture size 30 x 25 inches), which indicates that at least one of these patterns was on display in Romney's showroom. Some frames are described more specifically: 'A 3/4 fluted frame', 'A 3/4 new patn. with Reeds and Ribns crossing' (the reeds-and-ribbons pattern becoming a favourite), 'A 3/4 frame with Ribn.s in the Corners and Middles', 'A 3/4 with a Vine frett', 'A 3/4 frame new patn. with Oval inside'. From 1782, William Saunders (qv) undertook Romney’s framing work.

Allwood also framed works by George Stubbs for Sir John Nelthorpe in 1785 and for the Prince of Wales in 1793 (Simon 1996 p.164); in the latter case Allwood’s bill for £110.16s was endorsed by the artist and the set of eight horse paintings are still in their original frames in the Royal Collection (Millar 1969 p.122). Allwood had already undertaken decorative carving work for the Prince at Carlton House in the 1780s (DEFM; Geoffrey de Bellaigue, ‘The Crimson Drawing Room: Carlton House’, Furniture History, vol.26, 1990, p.10). Benjamin West’s St Peter denying Christ, 1779, a gift from the artist to George III, and so probably framed for West, bears Thomas Allwood’s label (Royal coll., information from Joshua Dales, June 2016).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

John Anderson, Suffolk St, London 1750s, Little Piazza, Covent Garden 1769, Park St, Covent Garden to 1773. Painter, picture dealer andpicture restorer.

See British picture restorers on the National Portrait Gallery website.

*Robert Ansell, Cross St, near Carnaby Market, London 1756, Great Portland St 1763, Margaret St, Cavendish Square by 1766-1781 or later, Edward St, Cavendish Square by 1777-1782 or later, Vauxhall Walk 1787. Carver and gilder, picture dealer.

Robert Ansell (c.1732-1788/9), son of Robert Ansell, was apprenticed in 1746 to the gilder, Thomas Gabb (qv), of the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and so perhaps born c.1732. Many years later, Gabb stated in his will in 1782 that Ansell had his three wheel lathe in his possession on his premises in Edward St. Ansell subscribed to Samuel Boyce’s Poems on Several Occasions, 1757 (Biography database) and to James Paine's Noblemen's and Gentleman's Seats, 1767 (DEFM).

Ansell took out insurance with the Sun Fire Office as a carver and gilder from Cross St near Carnaby Market in 1756, from premises at the corner of Edward St in Margaret St in 1773 and from premises in Edward St, including his workshop and wareroom, in 1777 and 1781. He took Peter Mathew Jones as apprentice for a premium of £21 in 1758, Paul Eydon for £20 in 1765 and Peter Wright for £40 in 1776. In 1763, as a witness to the will of Jean Antoine Cuenot (qv), Ansell testified that he was very well acquainted with this French carver.

Ansell traded in pictures for many years, from as early as 1769 (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 9 February 1769). He sold pictures at Christie’s in February each year from 1769 until 1772, sometimes described as collected abroad, and went on to sell pictures by auction elsewhere in 1775 and 1781 (Frits Lugt, Repertoire des catalogues de ventes…, vol.1, 1938, nos 1733, 1798, 1892, 1993, 2378, 3237). There is no evidence of a connection with the auctioneer, James Ansell, partner of James Christie from 1777 until 1784, and who was subsequently active in King St (William Roberts, Memorials of Christie’s, vol.1, p.11; London Gazette 16 November 1784; The Times 27 January 1785, etc).

Ansell was involved in property dealings in the late 1770s, taking the assignment of a lease of a house in Arlington St in 1776, and assigning leases to the stonemason, John Devall, in 1779 (Suffolk Record Office, HA 519/790, 834). He was made bankrupt in November 1780 (DEFM; London Gazette 5 December 1780). It is not clear whether he is the Robert Ansell whose partnership with James Walsh and John Bertels was dissolved in 1777 (Daily Advertiser 8 March 1777). In 1787, Robert Ansell, carver and gilder of Vauxhall Walk, took out a patent for a new method for preparing and mixing colours for painting. He can presumably be identified with Robert Ansell of ‘Walks’ who was buried on 3 January 1789 at St Mary Lambeth.

Framing work: Joseph Wright of Derby used Robert Ansell’s Margaret St premises as his contact address when exhibiting at the Society of Artists in 1766, suggesting that the artist may have employed Ansell for framing or as a London agent at this period. The obscure Kent artist, A. Nelson, used Ansell’s address for his Society of Artists exhibits in 1768. Charles Ansell, who exhibited a picture in 1780 from 1 Edward St, Cavendish Square, was perhaps Robert Ansell’s son. Robert Ansell was named as taking subscriptions in a proposal to publish a print of George Stubbs’s Highflyer in 1780 (The Sporting Calendar 24 May 1780, information from Christopher Lennox-Boyd 2007).

Ansell supplied picture frames and many other items for Sir Watkin Williams Wynn in 1769-71, probably for his house at 20 St James's Square (information from Edgar Harden, 1998; see National Library of Wales, Wynnstay box 115/20 no.22, information from Oliver Fairclough, April 2012, who was kind enough to share his notes on subsequent commissions, described below). Ansell was a major supplier at 20 St James's Square from 1774 (see Wynnstay R42 for payments totalling £1800 that year). Perhaps the most interesting document is a statement of his account totalling the huge sum of £8485, drawn up by Wynn's accountant and dated 8 March 1777 (Denbighshire Record Office DD/WY/5516, information from Oliver Fairclough). This breaks down into his house bill at some £2807, furniture at £1524 (probably including payment for the Wynnstay organ now in the National Museum of Wales), glasses at £2360, glass frames at £734 and picture frames at £1050. Payments made to Ansell, November 1771 to May 1775, totalled £7275. Deductions and allowances claimed against Ansell's bill included old picture frames at 5 guineas and 'A picture frame bespoke by Sr W to match sundry frames on his great staircase to be painted white, charged by Mr Ansell at £50 8s being gilt. Query whether Sr W ought to be charged for a gilt Frame if not whether £20 is not the full value of such a frame containing 34' 6 [ins]'. A letter of 1778 mentions a court case against Ansell.

Ansell was asked to provide an estimate for gilding for Lord Milton at Milton House, Park Lane, in 1770. He also supplied table frames, picture frames, friezes etc for Blenheim Palace, 1773-8, and a 'Carlo maratt frame gilt in burnish gold' for Audley End in 1778. At Blenheim Sir William Chambers recommended that Ansell’s pier glass frames and tables could be ‘Gilt of two coloured Gold wh. is very beautiful & gives a fine effect to the ornaments’, but Chambers’ suggestion was rejected.

Sources: Beard 1981 p.242; DEFM; London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 117/153499, 210/304078, 223/325827 & 325829, 259/387108, 293/445463; John Harris, Sir William Chambers, 1970, p.226, for Milton House; Hugh Roberts, ‘ ”Nicely fitted up”: Furniture for the 4th Duke of Marlborough’, Furniture History, vol.30, 1994, pp.121-34; J.D. Williams, Audley End: The Restoration of 1762-1779, Essex Record Office Publications, 1966, p.39. I am indebted to Oliver Fairclough for detailed information on Ansell’s work for Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

**Robert Archer by 1788-1802, Archer & Wyatt 1802-1806, Robert Archer 1806-1808 or later, again 1820, perhaps to 1825. At High St, Oxford by 1788-1808 or later, again 1820, perhaps to 1825. Carver, gilder and picture framemaker.

Robert Archer (?c.1759-1832?) was active in Oxford as a carver, gilder and picture framemaker by 1788, when he advertised lamps, Reeves’ and other superfine colours for drawing, as well as picture and looking glass frames (Jackson’s Oxford Journal 16 February 1788). Archer subscribed to Sheraton’s Cabinet Dictionary in 1803 (DEFM).

Archer’s apprentices included James George in 1788, James Wyatt in 1790 (see below), John Jackson in 1793, William Wall in 1797 (Freeman, 1806, see below), James Priddie in 1800 (Freeman, 1812), William Holyoak (Freeman, 1817) and James Tyson (Freeman, 1825), as well as Thomas Butler (see below) (Malcolm Graham (ed.), ‘Oxford City Apprentices 1697-1800’, Oxford Historical Society, vol.31, 1987, entries 2810, 2887, 2992, 3103, 3191; Oxford Freemen’s Index, 1663-1997).

Archer took James Wyatt (qv) into partnership in 1802, an arrangement that lasted until 1806 when the Wyatt set up independently (Jackson’s Oxford Journal 15 May 1802, 25 January 1806). In 1820 Archer and Thomas Butler used a joint two-part advertisement to announce that Butler, having worked in one of the ‘first houses in London’ since his apprenticeship with Archer, would be taking over Archer’s shop in the High St, following the bankruptcy of William Wall, Archer’s former apprentice who had succeeded him in business (Jackson’s Oxford Journal 2 September 1820; London Gazette 29 August 1820).

Robert Archer of New Inn Hall Lane, presumably the carver and gilder, died in 1832, age 73 (Jackson’s Oxford Journal 7 April 1832), and was buried on 10 April (Non-conformist BMD). In his will, made 19 September 1831 and proved 11 October 1832, Robert Archer, ‘Gentleman of Oxford’, left his estate to Mary Kent, wife of Benjamin Kent, and her five children.

Framing work: Robert Archer advertised that he carved in stone as well as wood but it would seem from his emphasis on mirrors and frames that he worked mainly in wood. He used his trade label to advertise, within a central oval, ’Archer,/ CARVER, GILDER,/ and/ PICTURE FRAME MAKER/ High Street/ OXFORD’, and around the oval a series of services: ‘Carving in all kinds of Stone, Wood, &c’; ‘Paintings, Prints, & Needle-work neatly Fram’d and Glaz’d’; ‘Girrandoles, Sconces &c.’; ‘Gilt Bordering for Rooms.’; ‘NB.Looking Glass Plates with Frames’ (this label is found on a Morland frame, with Paul Mitchell Ltd 2011, recently used as a model for reframing J.M.W. Turner’s High Street, Oxford and Oxford from the Abingdon Road, on loan to the Ashmolean Museum, information kindly supplied by Paul Mitchell).

Archer worked for the Bodleian Library, enlarging the base of a pedestal in 1799, providing a new oval straining frame for a portrait and straining it in 1800 and, as Archer & Wyatt, providing a large black frame ‘to Egyptian Characters’ and straining and varnishing the same in 1804 (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Library Records b.37, items 52, 174, 204).

Archer framed two paintings of horses by the animal painter, T. Bennett of Woodstock, for Mr Shepherd of Glatton Park in 1810 (Morning Post 30 November 1821, report on proceedings in the Court of King’s Bench in 1821).

Updated November 2020
*John Ashworth 1879, Ashworth, Kirk & Co 1881-1896, Ashworth, Kirk & Co Ltd 1896-1963. At Parkinson St, Nottingham 1879-1891 or later, London Road, Nottingham by 1891-1961 or later. Timber merchants, moulding manufacturers.

The business was first recorded in 1879. Initially the partnership included Steven Richardson Wood but he withdrew at the end of 1882 (London Gazette 13 February 1883). The ongoing partnership was between John Ashworth (1853-1930?) and George Harry Kirk (1855-1908) as timber merchants and moulding manufacturers. John Ashworth was recorded in the 1881 census as a timber merchant, age 27, living in the Nottingham, with his family including two sons, Frederick and Thomas, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Smith, a wood sawyer. George Kirk, originally a painter and decorator, was recorded in this census as a timber merchant, age 25, living in Nottingham; he was still listed as a partner in 1897. He died in 1908, described as a director of a public company, leaving effects worth £24,841.

By 1910, Major John Ashworth of Ruddington Hall was listed as a director of Ashworth, Kirk & Co Ltd, as by 1915 was Frederick John Ashworth (?1872-1949), presumably his son. Other members of the Ashworth family were involved in the business. John Ashworth appears to be the ‘John W. Ashworth’, who died in the Nottingham district, age 76, in 1930. Frederick John Ashworth died in 1949 (The Times 27 July 1949). The business was listed as timber importers in 1950. It was liquidated in 1963 (London Gazette 22 January 1963). By 1964 Ashworth Kirk (Timber) Ltd had become a subsidiary of the Parker Timber Group Ltd (The Times 27 July 1964).

Ashworth Kirk’s handsome trade catalogue, perhaps dating to about 1920, contains 50 large-scale plates with full-scale illustrations and sections, ranging from plates with just two large-scale illustrations to the page to those with more than 60 frame sections (example, Simon coll.). The catalogue features a very wide range of commercial mouldings from the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, divided into categories: Flats, ‘Swep’ Frames, Watercolour Mouldings, Oak Veneers for Watts, Slab Oaks, Antiques, Stick Tops and Ovals. Various styles are illustrated, including late 19th-century Watts frames and neoclassical models (Mitchell & Roberts 1996 p.351 reproduces a page), the usual range of Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Florentine and Lawrence frames, with a selection of early 20th-century revival and other frames described as ‘Antiques’, probably in reference to their finish. Ashworth Kirk & Co appears to have supplied frames to Aitken Dott (qv) in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Stanley Ashworth (1886-1971), another member of the Ashworth family, announced in December 1930 that he was leaving his role as a director at Ashworth Kirk & Co to found the business Ashworth & Thompson Ltd in Nottingham, in partnership with Frank Thompson, Ashworth Kirk’s works manager. This business continues to trade, producing a wide range of mouldings, from addresses in Nottingham and Edinburgh. Their website provides a company history, summarised here: after the Second World War, Stanley and Frank were joined by Gren Ashworth, and a few years later by Brian Thompson. Ashworth & Thompson Ltd established itself as a supplier of quality picture mouldings of their own manufacture, and unique mouldings from Norway, Sweden and Spain, and later Italy. Richard Ashworth joined the Company in 1966 and Peter Thompson in 1986. The Company moved from the city centre in 1975 and moved again to purpose-built premises in 1986 and to new offices in 2018.

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

S.F. Atkins & Co, see W.M. Power

Updated March 2014
**Peter Aubé, Noel St, London from 1791, 5 Noel St 1791, Noel St 1796-1797, 1804, Berwick St 1796-1804, 47 Berwick St 1802. Carver, gilder and figure maker.

Peter Aubé took out insurance in 1791 from 5 Noel St as a carver and gilder (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 373/580092). He can be found in rate books and land tax records in Noel St in 1796, 1797 and 1804 and in Berwick St most years from 1796 to 1804. Aubé may have been of Huguenot origins but his life details remain to be traced. He may perhaps be the John Peter Aube (c.1748-1826) of Monte Video Place who was buried at St Pancras parish chapel, age 78, in 1826.

Members of the Aube family traded as carvers over three generations. Peter Aubé was listed as a carver, gilder and figure maker at 47 Berwick St in Soho in Holden’s 1802 London directory. Peter Aube, perhaps his son, married Jane Starkey in 1821 at St Andrew Holborn and had two children baptised at St Pancras in 1827, when he was described as a carver of Gower Place, including a son, Peter Robert Aube, born in 1822. This son married Emma Rawlings in 1841 at St Pancras parish chapel, when both he and his father were described as carvers.

Framing work: Little is known of Peter Aubé’s work beyond his commissions for making new frames and regilding or altering existing frames for the Duke of Bridgewater, 1797-1801 (Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, AH 1846-1855, information from Susannah Brooke, June 2012). He charged £70.13s in February 1797, including new frames at 7s and 8s a foot, £78.11s in March 1797, the most expensive item being £23.8s for a large ‘Canamara’ frame measuring 26 feet at 18s a foot, £44.5s.6d in November 1797, including altering three old French frames for a total of £18.18s.2d, £13.14s in December 1797, £68.11s.4d for work carried out in 1798 and May 1799, including £16.15s each for regilding and related work on two very large old frames measuring 17ft 4ins by 10ft 4ins, £217.2s in November 1800 for work on numerous less expensive frames, many described by a catalogue or other number, and £43.14s and other sums in 1801. ‘Canamara’ is not otherwise known as a term and may be a corruption of Carlo Maratta.

Found a mistake? Have some extra information? Please contact Jacob Simon at [email protected].

[AD] [AG] [AL] [AN] [AR] [AS] [AT]


Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

Watch now

Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection

Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

Take the tour

A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline