British artists' suppliers, 1650-1950 - L
An online resource, launched in 2006, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2022. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].
**James Lahee 1809-1841, Lahee & Co 1836-1840, James Lahee & Thomas Brooker 1840. At 30 Castle St East, Oxford Market, London 1809-1841, 29 Castle St East by 1835-1841. Copper and steel plate printer.
James Lahee is included here for his significance as one of the first specialist copper plate printer for artists to be recognised in the publication line on the print itself. Lahee was described as 'in the mezzotint department of his art the acknowledged facile princeps' by T.F. Dibdin in 1836 who also characterised him as 'among the most punctual men of business' (Thomas Frognall Dibdin, Reminiscences of a literary life, vol.2, 1836, p.619, accessed through Google Book Search).
James Lahee (c.1782-1869) was apprenticed to George Ebsworth, ‘a celebrated copper-plate colour printer’, according to Andrew Tuer (see Sources below), and during Ebsworth’s imprisonment in 1801, Lahee is said to have managed his business. Lahee married Esther Kirton at St George Bloomsbury in 1804 and set up in business independently in 1809 or before at 30 Castle St East, Oxford Market. He took out insurance with the Sun Fire Office from 30 Castle St East as a copper plate printer between 1817 and 1825. Samuel J. Lahee is recorded at 30 Castle St East in Robson’s London directory in 1831and 1832.
Lahee took Thomas Brooker as apprentice and subsequently into partnership. In 1840 this partnership, as copper and steel plate printers at 29 and 30 Castle St East, was dissolved (London Gazette 2 October 1840), with Brooker continuing the business. In census records, Lahee can be found in Marylebone in 1841 as of independent means and in Kensington in 1861, age 78, living with his two nieces. James Lahee died in the Kensington district, age 87, in 1869.
Lahee’s work as a copper plate printer: James Lahee was one of the few copper plate printers to be recorded in the publication line on the print itself. Examples on the British Museum collection database range in date from 1815 to 1840, including works engraved by William Ward (1815-6), Charles Turner (1819-28) and F.C. Lewis (1821-37). Other engravers for whom Lahee worked included George Clint (Harlow’s Trial of Queen Catherine), Thomas Lupton, H. Meyer, S.W. Reynolds, William Say and James Ward.
Lahee described himself as 'Copper Plate Printer in all its Branches and in Colours', when writing to J.M.W. Turner from 30 Castle St in 1811, sending him various Liber Studiorum prints and the plates (John Gage, ed., Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner, 1980, p.48); he printed much of Turner’s Liber Studiorum, which was engraved by Charles Turner among others. Lahee formed a collection of Liber proofs, which he sold to Thomas Lupton in 1852 (Gage 1980 p.263). In 1860 he gave a silhouette portrait of J.M.W. Turner to the National Gallery (now Tate, N02730).
John Linnell used Lahee extensively from 1814 to 1834 as his account books show (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 20 & 21-2000). This included printing William Blake’s engraving of Linnell’s portrait, Rev. James Upton, 1819 (example, British Museum). While Blake printed proofs from his own plates himself, his finished Job plates were produced by Lahee, 1825-6, with Linnell’s involvement (G.E. Bentley, Blake Records, 2nd ed., 2004, p.787 for Lahee’s charges for printing and paper, totalling some £97). After Blake's death in 1827, Linnell unsuccessfully offered to sell Blake’s press to James Lahee (Blake Records, p.467). Linnell continued to use Lahee, making payments in 1827, 1832 and 1834 but turned to Dixon & Ross for printing from 1834.
Lahee printed some of the illustrations to John Martin’s edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost in 1825-6 (Thomas Balston, John Martin 1789-1854, 1947, p.104; see also British Museum collection database).
Sources: Andrew Tuer, Bartolozzi and his works, 1881, vol.1, p.101 (for Brooker as apprentice and for engravers for whom Lahee worked). Guildhall Library, Records of Sun Fire Office, vol.474 nos 929207, 929209, 482 no.953512, 483 no.972324, 499 no.1021032, 504 no.1033987, 550 no.1202329, 553 no.1244258. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Updated September 2017, March 2020
James Lanham 1869-1907, James Lanham Ltd from 1907 onwards, High St, St Ives, Cornwall, also Copper Works, Newlyn, Cornwall 1934. Artists' colourmen, picture framemakers etc.
James Lanham (1848-1931) founded his business in 1869, trading as a general merchant. He has been described as well travelled, visiting the major art galleries of Europe, and he became an important part of the artists’ community in St Ives, holding regular Saturday afternoon tea meetings for leading artists. In 1912, Lanham sold the business to Benjamin Bramham, who in 1919 sold it on to Martin Cock, great-grandfather of the present owners. The Articles of Association from 1907 record the business as a wine and spirit merchant, house and estate agent, dealer in artists’ materials, general and fancy furnisher. This history derived from the St Ives Holidays’s website, formerly available at www.stivesholidays.com/us.htm. Lanham was buried in Barnoon Cemetery in St Ives, where his gravestone gives his date of birth as 29 October 1848 and of death as 29 May 1931 (information from David Tovey, confirmed on site; however, note that the 1881 and 1891 censuses imply that he was born c.1843/4). Lanham left an estate worth £10,737, with probate granted to Helen, his widow.
James Lanham was listed in Cornwall directories as ‘Fancy Repository & tobacconist’ in 1873, and ‘Ale & Porter Merchant’ and ‘Wine & Spirit Merchant’ in 1883. The business did not become an artists' colourman with associated Gallery until 1887. The entry in Kelly’s Cornwall directory in 1889 reveals the very wide range of the business as ‘Artists’ colourman, china, glass and earthen ware dealer, general ironmonger & cutler, general draper & furniture dealer, & ale & porter bottler…, wine & spirit merchants’. Lanham’s Galleries were one of the few places where local artists could show their works.
Lanham advertised nationally, for example in The Year's Art (1890-1912, and subsequently), specifying among other suppliers James Newman, G. Edouard, Schoenfeld and Winsor & Newton for oil and watercolours, and G. Edouard for soft pastels. Lanham also promoted 'Cow-Hair Landseer Brushes, with polished Cedar handles; first introduced into England by me. These are largely in use by Foreign Artists. Very beautifully made, and suitable for oil and water painting'. Also ‘Japanese Frames’, later described as ‘Japanese Art Frames’ (1892-1906), Studio or trial frames and Newlyn Art Frames (1895-6). Later the business advertised ‘All Sketching Requisites' (The Artist, vol.7, June 1934). It had an account with Roberson, 1898-1908 (Woodcock 1997).
Artists’ materials: Whistler visited St Ives in 1884 and it is said that he encouraged James Lanham to stock artists' materials since otherwise he had to send away for paints. Alfred Munnings wrote in his autobiography of the beautiful canvases he obtained from Lanham's including one on 'an absorbent, china-clay priming... a tribute to the canvases prepared in those days at St Ives' (Whybrow p.39, see Sources below). Specific works with Lanham’s metal label as supplier on the stretcher include Henry Bishop’s Havelock Ellis, 1890s, metal label: JAMES LANHAM/ ARTISTS COLORMAN/ ST IVES/ -CORNWALL- (National Portrait Gallery), Moffat Lindner's Holland, c.1898, Thomas Cooper Gotch's A Pageant of Childhood, exh.1899 (both Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Stanhope Forbes’s Sir Philip Dawson, 1914 (Bonham’s 28 June 2016 lot 11) and J. Barlow’s The Pond Burnham Beeches, metal label: JAMES LANHAM/ ARTIST'S COLORMAN/ ST IVES/ -CORNWALL- (National Gallery of Victoria). Lanham, 'that excellent artists' caterer', apparently made it his business to supply the Newlyn School of Painting, set up in 1899, which he visited once a week for that purpose (Judith Cook & Melissa Hardie, Singing from the Walls: The Life and Art of Elizabeth Forbes, 2000, p.124).
Arthur John Foster’s Robert Michaelis, 1920, has a printed stretcher label: FROM JAMES LANHAM/ Artist Colourman/ St Ives/ Cornwall (Theatre Museum, London, see Ashton 1992 p.119). James Lanham Ltd framed Alfred Wallis’s Two Boats, c.1928, marked on frame, and supplied a Winsor & Newton ‘Winton’ canvas for Bryan Wynter’s Seedtime, 1958–9, marked: Supplied by/ JAMES LANHAM LTD./ ST. IVES - CORNWALL (both Tate, information from Joyce Townsend).
Lanhams’s labels and marks are illustrated in British canvas, stretcher and panel suppliers’ marks. Part 12, England outside London on this website.
Sources: David Brown, St Ives 1939-64: twenty five years of painting, sculpture and pottery, exh.cat., Tate Gallery, 1985, p.98; Martin Whybrow, St Ives 1883-1993 Portrait of an Art Colony, 1994, pp.38-40, 73-4, 92-3, 106-7; David Tovey, St Ives (1860-1930): The Artists and the Community, A Social History, 2009, pp.283-7 (for Lanham), 320-5 (for Lanham’s Galleries). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
**Thomas Large 1772, Whittow & Large to 1774,Thomas Large 1774,Whittow & Large 1776-1781, imprisoned for debt 1781, Thomas Large 1784-1792, Thomas Large junr in partnership as Whittow & Son to 1804, Thomas Large junr 1805-1826, Thomas Large & Co 1819-1827, Jane Large & Co (J. Large & Co)1827-1844. At 1 Bango's Court (later Bangor Court), Shoe Lane, London 1772, 48 Shoe Lane to 1774, 75 Shoe Lane 1774, 48 Shoe Lane 1776-1780, 15 Giltspur St, West Smithfield 1784-1790, 82 Shoe Lane 1805, 15 Little New St, Shoe Lane 1805-1837, 69 Shoe Lane 1838, 18 Dean St, Fetter Lane 1839-1844. Copper and brass plate makers, later also steel plate manufacturers.
Thomas Large (c.1743-1810) married Elizabeth Greenwood in 1763 and had nine children christened at St Andrew Holborn between 1764 and 1777, including Thomas Large junr in May 1769. He died in 1810 and was buried at St Bride Fleet St, as age 67, of 82 Shoe Lane. He was followed by his son, Thomas Large junr (c.1769-1827) and then by his son’s widow, Jane Large (c.1767-1853).
As a young man, Large entered into partnership with Benjamin Whittow (qv) as copper plate makers in Shoe Lane, a partnership which was dissolved at 29 September 1774, with each partner carrying on business independently, Whittow at no.48 and Large at no.75 (Daily Advertiser 28 September 1774). Large soon advertised from 75 Shoe Lane (Daily Advertiser 1 October 1774). By 1776, he was again in partnership with Whittow. Their trade card from 48 Shoe Lane, as Whittow & Large, copper plate makers, advertised that they made plates for engravers, calico printers, painters, etc (Banks coll., 85.179, see also Heal coll., 85.328). As braziers and copper-plate-planishers of Shoe Lane, they were declared bankrupt in 1781 and imprisoned for debt (London Gazette 24 March 1781). Thereafter both men traded independently, Thomas Large at 15 Giltspur St, West Smithfield, listed in 1784 as a copper plate printer but subsequently as a copper plate maker, and Benjamin Whittow at 43 Shoe Lane.
Large’s son, Thomas Large junr (c.1769-1827) was baptised in May 1769 and married Jane Wood in 1790, having a daughter Jane Rebecca in 1792. He was living with Benjamin Whittow at the time the latter made his will in 1794. Thomas Large junr’s partnership with Whittow and George Harris, apparently trading as Whittow & Son, was dissolved in 1804 (London Gazette 10 April 1804). In 1809, Large took Richard Hughes (qv) as apprentice. He was buried in 1827, age 58. In his will, made 30 January 1826 and proved 13 February 1827, Thomas Large, copper plate maker of 1 Little New St, Shoe Lane, left his estate to his wife Jane.
Jane Large (c.1767-1853) continued the business, trading as Jane Large & Co. In 1834, she was charged by Edward Seymour, copper plate engraver, with receiving stolen copper (Morning Post 15 January 1834). Large & Co ceased trading in about 1844. Jane Large died in 1853 at Ball’s Pond, age 86, and was buried at St Bride Fleet St. Her son, James Large (1807-1879) was born at 16 Little New St in 1807. In 1835, James Large testified as a witness in an Old Bailey prosecution that he was employed by Richard Hughes (formerly his father’s apprentice, see above).
Henry Large (c.1783-1852), trading as a copper plate maker from Gunpowder Alley, Shoe Lane, London from at least 1833 to 1847 or later, may have been a son or nephew of Thomas Large senr. He was listed in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, in the latter as a superannuated copper plate maker, age 68. He was buried at St Andrew Holborn the following year.
Copper plates for engravers: The engraver, Charles Turner, purchased various copper plates from ‘Large’, 1798-1800, to a value of more than £13, but subsequently acquired plates from Whittow & Son (qv) (Charles Turner’s record book, British Library, Add.MS 37525, ff.15, 16, 17, 18v, 20, 22, 23, 24v, 25v, 26v, 29v).
Thomas Large junr supplied a copper plate from Little New St, Shoe Lane, used but rejected for plate 79 of J.M.W. Turner’s Liber Studiorum, 1806-19, marked: T. LARGE-JUNR/ LITTLE-NEW-ST/ SHOE LANE/ LONDON (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see Sung 2009 p.132).
J. Large & Co supplied copper plates from 15 Little New St for two engravings by George Thomas Doo, after Henry Wyatt’s The Fair Forester, 1835, marked: J. LARGE & CO./ 15 LITTLE NEW ST./ SHOE LANE LONDON, and after H.W. Pickersgill’s Portrait of Georges Cuvier, 1841, marked: LARGE (both Victoria and Albert Museum, see V&A collections database and Sung 2009 p.132).
Sources: ‘The London book trades 1775-1800: a checklist of members’ at http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-l.html. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
La Tour, Massoul & Co, see Massoul & Co
Mrs Mary Ann Law, William Law, see Frederick Thomas Edwards
Updated March 2021
Thomas John Lawrence by 1863-1887, T.I. Lawrence & Co 1888-1911, Thomas N. Lawrence 1911-1939. T.N. Lawrence & Son 1940-1963, T.N. Lawrence & Son Ltd 1963 to date. At 12 Red Lion Court, Fleet St, London by 1863-1869, not listed 1870, 8 Wine Office Court, EC 1871-1876, 12 Wine Office Court 1877-1884, 17 West Harding St, Fetter Lane 1885-1899, renumbered 1899, 4 West Harding St 1900-1905, 3 West Harding St 1906-1910, 9 Gough Square, EC 1911, 4 Red Lion Passage, Fleet St 1911-1924, 1-4 Red Lion Passage 1925-1940, relocated following bomb damage, 11-14 Red Lion Court 1941, 4-7 Red Lion Court 1942-1953, relocated following expiry of lease, 2 Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1 1954-1990, 119 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5BY 1991-2001. Outside London: office Flintwell, Ilford, Lewes, BN7 3EU 1987-1998, factory Unit 38, Barncoose Industrial Estate, Pool, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 3RQ 1989-2009, shop 208 Portland Road, Hove, BN3 5QT 1998 to date, office and warehouse 36 Kingsthorpe Road, Hove, BN3 5HR 2011 to date. Engravers’ boxwood block maker and printmaking supplies (also wood lettering from 1888, fine art electrotypes 1901-10, poster blocks and lithographic scrapers from 1911), now trading as artists’ suppliers.
The Lawrence business was established in 1859, according to its 1967 trade catalogue. It was first listed in London directories in 1863, appearing thereafter as an engravers’ box block maker or as a boxwood preparer, in 1895 as manufacturers of engravers’ boxwood blocks and of wood letters, in 1901 additionally as manufacturers of fine art electrotypes, and in 1911 as a maker of engravers’ boxwood blocks, poster blocks, printers’ wood type, lithographic scrapers &c. The Lawrence business owns catalogues going back to 1925 and some other archival material. Today, the business supplies a wide range of artists’ materials. Further details can be found at www.lawrence.co.uk/.
Thomas John Lawrence, father and son: There were several generations of the Lawrence family active in London in the 19th century. George Lawrence, a carpenter, is said to have made picture frames. He was followed by his son Thomas John Lawrence, a cabinetmaker and hand mirror maker in Clerkenwell, and then by his grandson, also named Thomas John Lawrence, who founded the wood block making business.
Thomas John Lawrence (1809-80) was apparently born in July 1809 and christened the following month at St Leonard Shoreditch, the son of George and Mary Lawrence. As Thomas John Lawrence, cabinetmaker, he married Mary Robinson on 27 December 1837, when his father, George Lawrence, was described as a carpenter (marriage certificate, kindly communicated by David Lawrence). Their eldest son, George Robinson Lawrence (1839-1903), was born in the Clerkenwell district in 1839. In the 1841 census Thomas John Lawrence was listed in Noble St, Amwell, Clerkenwell, as a ‘frame m.’ (i.e., framemaker), age 32, born Middlesex, with his wife Mary and two sons, George, age 2, and Thomas, age 1. He traded as a hand mirror and dressing glass maker from 4 Half Moon Crescent in Islington from about 1854, and then from 29 Half Moon Crescent by 1874, where he died in December 1880, age 71, described as a hand mirror maker, leaving a personal estate worth under £300, with probate granted to his wife Mary.
It was his son, Thomas John Lawrence junr (1840-1887), who set up the business making boxwood blocks. He was born in 1840 in the Clerkenwell district and married Alice Neal in 1865 in the Islington district. In censuses, he can be found in 1871 at 45 Gloucester Road, Upper Holloway, as an engravers’ block maker, born Clerkenwell, employing three men and a boy, with his wife Alice, daughter Alice and a year-old son Thomas N., and in 1881 at Monken Hadley, Barnet, as an engraver, wood etc, with his wife and ten children between 5 months and 14 years. Thomas John Lawrence, engraver, boxwood block manufacturer and wood letter manufacturer of 17 West Harding St and Clifford House, Hadley, Barnet, was made bankrupt in 1886 (London Gazette 25 June 1886, 16 July 1889). He died in 1887, age 46, as late of 15 Gloucester Road, Seven Sisters Road, leaving a modest estate of £12.10s, with administration granted to his wife Alice.
Thomas Neal Lawrence and later generations: Following Thomas John Lawrence’s bankruptcy in 1886, the business was acquired by Hughes & Kimber Ltd (qv) and traded as T.I. Lawrence & Co until 1911. Thomas Neal Lawrence (1869-1944) was 17 when his father died in 1887. He worked for Hughes & Kimber Ltd, and travelled to sell presses (see Tales from Bleeding Heart Yard: stories about Stanley Lawrence, published by Simon Lawrence, , pp.11-12, 40, for this and the following information). One customer from this period was William Nicholson, who used blocks stamped T.I. Lawrence or T.I.L. for his An Illustrated Alphabet and London Types, published in 1897-8. When Hughes & Kimber ran into financial difficulties in 1909, Thomas Neal Lawrence set up his own business as a boxwood block maker, employing his brother, William, who had also worked for Hughes & Kimber. In about 1925, his brother William broke away to set up his own blockmaking business.
Thomas Neal Lawrence was born in 1869 in the Islington district and married Kate Evans there in 1897. In census records, he can be found in 1891, age 21, living in Highbury with his widowed mother Alice, described as a boxwood block maker, as was his younger brother William, age 19. In 1901 he was in Stoke Newington, a boxwood block maker, with his wife Kate and son Stanley, age 6 months, and in 1911 in Finsbury Park as an engravers’ block manufacturer, with his family. He died, age 74, in Hornsey in 1944, described as an engravers’ boxwood block manufacturers agent.
In the three following generations, Thomas Neal Lawrence’s son, Stanley Thomas Evans Lawrence (1900-87), joined the family business in 1917, as in turn did his grandson, David Lawrence (b.1927), and then from 1984 his great-grandson, Martin Lawrence (b.1958) (information from Martin Lawrence, July 2009).
Stanley Lawrence was active in the business for almost 69 years, from 1917 until 1986, becoming sole proprietor in 1941, with an exceptional knowledge of handmade papers and of wood engraving materials. He was a force to be reckoned with, and a master of his subject with a formidable reputation and a man who did not suffer fools or novices gladly, as is apparent from Tales from Bleeding Heart Yard: stories about Stanley Lawrence. When Stanley Lawrence celebrated his 80th birthday, a fine volume was published in his honour by his grandson, Simon Lawrence: ‘His great knowledge and superb craftsmanship have made it possible for engravers to practice their own skills’. The volume includes boxwood engravings by David Gentleman, Joan Hassall, Gertrude Hermes, Blair Hughes-Stanton, John Lawrence, George Mackley and Reynolds Stone (Simon Lawrence, S.T.E. Lawrence Boxwood Blockmaker: Wood Engravings Collected in Honour of His Eightieth Birthday, Fleece Press, Wakefield, 1980). Stanley Lawrence was the subject of an illustrated profile in Crafts magazine in 1983, featuring the production of boxwood blocks (Montague Shaw, ‘Master Blockmaker’, Crafts, no.60, January 1983, pp.22-5).
Subsequently, a memorial volume of exceptional quality was produced, Tales from Bleeding Heart Yard: stories about Stanley Lawrence (see Sources below). John O’Connor described visiting the business in Red Lion Passage with an introduction from Eric Ravilious in 1935: ‘I climbed the rickety stairs… The room was small, with a counter down the centre, a bookcase of tempting box and pear wood blocks, and shelves of inks, engraving tools, folders and leather pads on the right. Kept out of sight were the beautiful Japanese papers… I bought a spitsticker, scorper and chisel’. The volume included memories and tributes from Kay Bald (in the form of a letter to Thomas Lawrence in 1939), Edward Bawden (who first brought printing materials and drawing papers from the business in 1925), Ralph Beedham, Diana Bloomfield, John DePol, David Esslemont, Peter Forster, Anne Jope, Phillida Gili (daughter of Reynolds Stone), Simon King, John Lawrence, Simon Lawrence (who worked for his grandfather Stanley Lawrence in 1981), Lionel Lindsay, Miriam Macgregor, George Mackley, Barry Moser (who purchased unjoined blocks and gravers), John O’Connor (see above), Hillary Paynter (who recalls Michael Rothenstein being turned away by Lawrence), Monica Poole, John Randle, Stephen Saxe, Montagu Shaw, Ralph Steadman (who bought etching needles, holders and gelatine rollers), Ian Stevens and George Szirtes.
Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious and Reynolds Stone all used boxwood blocks made by the Lawrence business (obituary, The Artist, vol.102, August 1987, p.8), as did Gwen Raverat (Frances Spalding, Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections, 2001, p.318). The business supplied several of the blocks, c.1937, for Eric Gill’s Twenty-five Nudes (Sotheby’s, Felix Dennis coll., 9 December 2014 lots 212-7). It also supplied the block that Stone used for the masthead of The Times in 1949 (obituary, The Times 19 February 1987). It supplied many of Naum Gabo’s inks for his woodblock prints in the 1950s and 1960s (Graham Williams, Naum Gabo: monoprints from engraved wood blocks and stencils, 1987, p.31). In its 1967 catalogue, T.N. Lawrence & Son Ltd advertised as boxwood block makers for over 100 years, offering blocks, tools and materials for wood engraving, wood and lino cutting, etching, fabric and silkscreen printing (Price List of Block, Tools and Materials for Wood Engraving, Wood and Lino Cutting, Etching…, August 1967, 20pp).
Lawrence’s catalogue, Artists’ Materials 1992, announced the the expansion of the business into artists’ materials as a new art shop was opened in Clerkenwell Road adjacent to the existing paper and printing outlet. The business advertises on its website, as at April 2011, as ‘Lawrence Art Supplies, the UK's premier supplier of artists' materials’, still featuring many printmaking materials as well as general art supplies (www.lawrence.co.uk/).
The following update is closely based on the section ‘Recent history’ on the Lawrence website at www.lawrence.co.uk/our-history , accessed 6 February 2021. T.N. Lawrence & Son Ltd is currently run by seventh generation Lawrence, Martin, who came into the business in 1984 and worked alongside his grandfather Stanley. From 1987 the mail order office was based in Lewes, Sussex until 1998 when it moved to the new Hove shop. In 2001, high rents forced the Clerkenwell Road, London, shop to close, ending 142 years in London. Martin has developed the business and brought it into the modern era. T.N. Lawrence mainly trades via mail order and has a shop in Portland Road, Hove, East Sussex which was acquired in 1998. Its warehouse moved from Redruth in 2009 and is now in Kingsthorpe Road, Hove, a couple of minutes away from the shop.
Sources: Simon Lawrence (introduction), Tales from Bleeding Heart Yard: stories about Stanley Lawrence, published by Simon Lawrence at his Fleece Press, . David Lawrence and his son, Martin, kindly provided information on the Lawrence business. David Lawrence supplied copies of some death certificates and a family tree.
Updated March 2016, September 2018, December 2020
C. Barbe 1827-1837, Camille Barbe 1832-1843, Charles Barbe 1835-1848, Lechertier Barbe 1848-1864, Lechertier Barbe & Co 1859-1897, Lechertier Barbe Ltd 1898-1969. At 60 Regent’s Quadrant, London, later known as 60 Regent St 1827-1898, 95 Jermyn St SW1 1898-1969. Wholesale at 32 Marylebone St 1854-1863, street renamed and numbered 1863/4, 7 Glasshouse St 1864-1898, also 5 Glasshouse St by 1885-1894. Also at 17 rue Béranger, Paris, later than 1873, 63 rue des Vinaigriers 1888, 10 rue Notre Dame de Nazareth 1890, 9 rue Taylor 1890-1893. Musical instrument maker until 1844, brush importer by 1833, artists’ colourmen by 1844.
The journalist and author, George Sala, in his recollections, London Up to Date, 1895, wrote wistfully of Regent St, describing Lechertier Barbe as ‘a very old-established artist's colour shop, indeed, as old, perhaps, as Windsor and Newton in Rathbone Place, although perhaps junior of the historic Newman and the equally antique Reeve’. Sala remembered ‘the house of Barbe if not of Lechertier in its actual home in Regent Street, close to the County Fire Office, so long ago as the month of August 1833’, when he saw in Barbe's shop window a little waxen effigy, with face encircled by blood-stained bandages, of the Corsican, Giuseppe Fieschi, who had tried to assassinate King Louis Philippe (the assassination attempt actually took place in 1835). In another work, Sala wrote that he used to buy his paints and brushes at this business in 1840 (The Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala, 1895, vol.1, p.60).
Brushmakers in Paris from the 1810s: The Barbes and the Lechertiers were linked by marriage. Louis Lechertier (b. c.1788) and Magdeleine Camille Barbe were recorded as the parents of Louise Camille Lechertier at her marriage in Paris in 1836 (see Sources below). The Barbes and the Lechertiers specialised in brushmaking, at least from the 1810s. Barbe-Derveaux appears as brushmakers for painters (‘fabric, de brosses et pinceaux à l'usage des peintres’) at rue Beaubourg 44 in 1811, and Lechertier-Derveaux, again as brushmakers at the same address in 1816, 1820, 1827 and 1828 (Almanach du commerce de Paris and Almanach des 25000 adresses de Paris pour 1816, accessed through Gallica and Google Book Search). Could there even be a link to the Derveaux (qv) who was selling brushes in London in 1789? Eugene Lechertier, presumably Louis Lechertier’s son, was trading at 8 rue de la Perle in Paris as a brushmaker for painters in 1836 (Almanach du commerce de Paris).
C. Barbe sent his four-page illustrated prospectus, watermark 1834, to Sir John Soane: ‘Sir, I beg to inform you, that having superintended, during fifteen years, a painting brush manufactory in Paris, ... I receive from that capital regular consignments of every kind of pencils and painting brushes.’ (Sir John Soane's Museum, 6329).
The Barbes as musical instrument makers, London from 1827: Lechertier Barbe & Co advertised that it had begun trading at 60 Quadrant, Regent St in 1827 (The Year's Art 1899). This claim is quite feasible: in 1828 C. Barbe, musical instrument manufacturer, can be found advertising for an employee from this address (The Times 4 October 1828). The business seems to have been begun by Camille or Charles Barbe. C. Barbe, musical instrument manufacturer, was listed in the Post Office directory from 1829 to 1837 and as Charles in 1838. In Pigot’s directory, Camille Barbe was listed as violin and violoncello maker in 1832 and 1833, and as guitar, violin & flute maker and music seller in 1836 and also as a flageolet maker. In Robson’s directory Camille Barbe was listed as musical instrument maker and importer of French painting brushes in 1833, a listing which continued until as late as 1843. However, perhaps these businesses did not really pay, since advertisements featuring Barbe as a supplier of medical remedies, as a general agent or as a fancy repository, can be found between 1833 and 1840 (Morning Post 13 December 1833, 19 July 1834, The Times 24 March 1835, 22 October 1836 and 22 August 1840).
By 1838 the Lechertier family was involved and from 1849 the business traded as Lechertier Barbe. A sense of its early history can be gained from rate books for Regent St where Charles Barbe is recorded as the rate payer, 1835-7, Louis Lechertier, 1838-48, and Eugene Lechertier, 1849-52. A later biographical dictionary traced the business to Louis Lechertier, ‘the house issuing from an ancient French brush firm’ (see below) and, indeed, by 1833 the Barbes were importing painting brushes from France. However, Louis Lechertier was recorded as a music seller at 60 Regent St in December 1840 when travelling from Boulogne to the Port of London (Returns of alien passengers) and as living at Regent’s Quadrant in the 1841 census, as an Importer, age 53, with Madeline, age 47, and Eugene, age 24. It would appear that the latter is to be identified with Francois Eugene Lechertier, of whom more below. There are records of members of the Lechertier family entering England from France in most years between 1837 and 1849 and occasionally thereafter (Returns of alien passengers).
Barbe and Lechertier Barbe as London artists’ colourmen from 1844: Lechertier Barbe is said to have been the London side of a French business (Callen 2000 pp.30-2, 104). However it would appear that by the mid-19th century the business was based in London and no longer traded from Paris and that its later Paris outlets (see addresses above) formed the Paris side of what was by then a London business.
It was in 1844 that Charles Barbe was first certainly recorded as an artists' colourman, when he held an exhibition of wax paintings at his ‘Repository of Colours, Pencils &c’ (Morning Post 17 April 1844), also advertising The Hand-Book to Wax-Painting (copy in V&A National Art Library) and materials for wax painting in The Art-Union (June 1844 p.129). Edward William Cooke purchased ‘a bladder of colour’ from Barbe in 1844 and equipped himself at Barbe’s for his first Venetian trip in 1850 (Munday 1996 p.228). By 1847 the business was known to Ford Madox Brown, who noted in his diary in September that year, 'Got a lay figure from Barbe’s at last' (Surtees 1981, p.4, see also p.32) and the following year E. Lechertier Barbe was advertising lay figures, including second-hand figures by Huot (The Art-Union Advertiser June 1848 p.xcvii, September 1848 p.cxxxvii, copy coll. Jacob Simon).
From 1849 the name given in directories is Lechertier Barbe or, occasionally, Eugene Lechertier Barbe (Watkins’ directory 1852, 1853), apparently on the succession of a relative, Eugene, as has been suggested by Cathy Proudlove. The business issued a trade catalogue in 1851 as E. Lechertier Barbe (see below). E. Lechertier Barbe had other interests for he was proposed for membership of the Zoological Society (The Times 7 October 1853), demonstrating that this was a personal name rather than some sort of composite company name. By 1859 the business was trading as Lechertier Barbe & Co (The Times 8 June 1859).
The business supplied products to Charles Roberson & Co from 1842-54 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 944-1993), initially as C. Barbe, then as E.L. Barbe and as Lechertier Barbe. In 1842 and subsequently, ‘C. Barbe’ was supplying Roberson with pastels, Conté crayons, Huber crayons, best French carmine, stumps, etc (MS 944-1993, pp.121, 261). The business under its successive names supplied poppy oil to Roberson in the 1840s, siccatifs from the late 1850s, lay figures in the 1850s, 1870s and 1880s, Lemercier chalks in the 1870s, Edouard’s colours, including Cobalt Celeste, from the 1870s to the 1890s, and much else (Carlyle 2001 pp.48, 345, Woodcock 1998 pp.450-1, 462 n.30; Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 183-1993, 232-1993). Later from 1861-1908 it made purchases from Roberson as Lechertier Barbe & Co, with an additional account in 1899 from a Brighton address.
E. Lechertier Barbe’s trade catalogue, 1851, as Artists’ Colourman, and importer of French painting brushes, was wide ranging. It advertised powder colours, bronze powders, colours in shells, black lead pencils, pencil cases, India rubber, watercolours prepared in cakes, moist colours, moist colours in pastilles, japanned tin boxes, French ivories for miniatures, miniature glasses, colours ground in oil in collapsible tubes, oils and varnishes, prepared cloths and tickens, prepared millboards, prepared cloths on frames, prepared mahogany panels, French lay figures, palettes, palette knives, glass slabs, glass mullers, easels, japanned sketching boxes, tin dippers, water bottles, crayons, porte-crayons, portfolios, pastels, leather and paper stumps, drawing boards, Whatman’s best drawing paper, French tinted crayon paper, French tracing paper, sketchbooks, solid sketch blocks, earthenware, mathematical curves and mathematical instruments, superfine London boards, superfine Bristol paper made of Whatman’s paper, superfine Bristol boards etc (Price List of Artists’ Materials, 1851, 37pp, copy coll. Jacob Simon).
The Dutch painter, Hendrik van Borssum Buisman owned a Lechertier Barbe & Co life-size female lay figure, now Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (M. Jonkman and E. Geudeker (eds), Mythen van het atelier: werkplaats en schilderpraktijk van de negentiende-eeuwse Nederlandse Kunstenaar, 2010, p.155, fig.152). Lay figures continued to be a speciality of the business. In 1866 Lechertier Barbe & Co advertised ‘NEW PATENT LAY FIGURES (D.T. LEE’S PATENT). In papier mâché, lined with cloth, strong and light, flexible and steady, moulded on nature. MALE OR FEMALE, LIFE SIZE’ at £12 (Art Journal Advertiser, November 1866, copy in Glasgow University Library).
Later history: Information is available on subsequent generations of both the Barbes and the Lechertiers. Louis Lechertier’s son, Francois Eugene Lechertier (c.1817-58), married Josephine Anna Schnell (1826-86) at St James Westminster in 1842. In the 1851 census he was recorded at 60 Regent St, Lechertier Barbe's business premises, as Francois Lechertier, Artists Colourman, age 33, together with his wife, Josephine, age 25, with two daughters. Born in France, he was naturalised as British on 24 January 1852 (National Archives, HO 1/43/1322). He died age about 40 in 1858, leaving effects worth under £2000. In censuses, in 1861 his widow was recorded as Anna Lechertier, age 35, Dealer in Artists Materials, with son Jules, age 14, and daughters Helene and Pauline, ages 18 and 16, together with three assistants, and in 1871 Anna J. Lechertier was listed as ‘partner artist colourman’, born in France, living at 88 Albany St with her son Jules Eugene Lechertier (1846-1924), born Westminster, also described as artists colourman. In June 1861 her daughter, recorded as Helen Camille Lechertier, married Alfred Theodore Barbe.
Alfred Barbe (c.1837-1892) was listed in trade directories as a partner in the business from 1865 to 1881. In the 1871 census he was recorded as artists’ colourman at 9 Glasshouse St (the next door property, no.7, was described as ‘Barbe’s Warehouse’), employing six men and five boys. There was a serious fire at this wholesale depot in 1881 (The Times 17 May 1881). In the 1881 census, he was described as age 44, born in France, wife Helene, no children, living at 60 Regent St, employing 14 men and 11 boys. In 1881 Alfred Theodore Barbe withdrew from his partnership with Anna Josephine Lechertier and Jules Eugene Lechertier, leaving them to carry on the business (London Gazette 26 July 1881), and four years later Anna Josephine Lechertier also withdrew from the partnership (London Gazette 7 July 1885). Josephine Anne Lechertier, as she was described, died in 1886, leaving personal estate worth the considerable sum of £10,684, with administration granted to her two daughters, both living in Paris, Helene Camille Barbe, wife of Alfred Barbe, and Louisa Anna Delas, wife of Henri Delas. Alfred Theodore Barbe died in Paris in 1892, leaving an estate worth £2391.
Camille Barbe, probably Alfred’s wife, was listed as a partner in the business, 1882-97. In the 1901 census Jules Lechertier was recorded at 95 and 95a Jermyn St, Lechertier Barbe's premises, as a dealer in artists’ materials, with his wife Marguerite, age 41, born in France, and three sons Louis, age 16, Jacques, age 12, and René, age 10, and a much younger daughter.
By 1926 René Lechertier (1890-1974) was acting as Managing Director, having served in the French army in World War I, and the business was described as having been established in 1827 by René’s great-grandfather Louis Lechertier, the house issuing from an ancient French brush firm (Notable Personalities, 1926, available on microfiche in British Biographical Archive, series 2, published by KG Saur). The business is said to have been taken over by Reeves (Goodwin 1966 p.39), perhaps in 1898 when it became a limited company and then took on a property at Brighton but the nature of this business arrangement, including the ongoing family role, remains to be clarified.
Lechertier Barbe published catalogues of their products in their instruction manuals on subjects as diverse as fan painting, pastel painting, porcelain painting, tapestry painting and sculpture, from about 1870 until 1900. It advertised in The Year's Art 1883-1914: French and Foreign Specialities, including Binant’s canvases, Bourgeois’s non-poisonous colours and Eduoard’s oil-colour pastels (1883), listing twenty Continental suppliers (1893), illustrating a lay figure, ‘Papier-maché and stuffed lay figures From 10 guineas. Inspection solicited. Photos on application’ (1896-1902), describing their lay figures as ‘life-sized male, female and children’, and specifying their pastels as the finest stock in the world (1903-12). In the 1920s and 1930s the business advertised various continental artists’ materials, including Lefranc’s matt oil colours, Blockx’s colours and mediums, and Duroziez’s retouching varnish and copal mediums (The Studio 13 April 1923), Musy extending frames (The Artist, vol.3, August 1932), Girault and Lefranc pastels (The Artist, vol.5, March 1933), and ‘Maroger oil painting medium (soft or stiff) The Newest Method’ (The Artist, vol.5, May 1933, p.xxxvi).
Lechertier Barbe Ltd remained in business at 95 Jermyn St from 1898 until 1968 or 1969. It was the subject of a voluntary winding up order (London Gazette 10 March 1970). Some of the trading lines in etching materials were sold off to C. Roberson & Co Ltd but the goodwill and some artists’ materials were acquired by Alfred and Mary Farmer, who continued to sell Lechertier Barbe watercolour boxes and brushes at their business, Ploton’s (qv) in Archway Road, Highgate, where various artists came to buy these brushes (information in November 2006 from Alfred and Mary Farmer’s son, the late Andrew Farmer, who owned the dormant Lechertier Barbe company and traded as the Gilders Workshop Ltd at Thornwood in Essex, in particular selling Lechertier Barbe brushes). By 1971 Ploton’s was advertising as successor to Lechertier (The Artist vol.82, November 1971, p.67).
Artists using Lechertier Barbe’s materials: Barbe supplied two supports which were used in tests at the Society of Arts in 1844 and 1845, as Clare Richardson has identified (see Sources below). One of these, a millboard, has Barbe’s stamp over that of Dimes & Elam (qv), partially obscured but clearly visible in infrared, so identifying Barbe's source of supply. The other, on the reverse of a work by T.H. Wilson, is stencilled: C. BARBE/ 60/ Regents Quadrant/ LONDON.
Ford Madox Brown was a customer by 1847 (see above), while Dante Gabriel Rossetti referred to Barbe in a letter to Brown in January 1859 and recommended Lechertier Barbe’s mixture for setting chalk or pencil drawings from the reverse in a letter to his aunt, Charlotte Polidori, in 1864 (Fredeman 59.1, 64.84). Somewhat later, when Whistler was declared bankrupt in 1879, Lechertier Barbe & Co were among his creditors for the supply of colours, oil and canvas; see www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/letters/08936.asp. John Gilbert was described in 1876 as then using Barbe’s single-primed French canvas (The Portfolio 1876 p.15).
Many Lechertier Barbe marks have been recorded, their design changing frequently in the late 19th century but few are firmly dated. In the early 1860s, when the firm operated additionally from premises in Glasshouse St, this address was used on some labels though not on canvas marks. For illustrations of their canvas stamps and labels, see British canvas, stretcher and panel suppliers’ marks. Part 5, E to N on this website.
Marked supports include Sir Henry Thompson’s oil sketch, Carlo Pellegrini, c.1874, stencilled: LECHERTIER BAR... / ... REGENT ... / LONDON (National Portrait Gallery, see Later Victorian catalogue), George Munn's Cornish Trawlers at Rest, 1879? (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), William Blake Richmond’s William Morris, 1880s, stamped: LECHERTIER BARBE & Co/ 60, REGENT STREET, W. (National Portrait Gallery), E.J. Turner’s Sir Patrick Grant, after 1883 (National Portrait Gallery), Thomas Sydney Cooper's Four sheep in a landscape, labelled panel, 1879 (Christie’s South Kensington 10 November 2011 lot 36) and Snow and Sheep, 1884 (Sudley, see Bennett 1971), George Jacomb-Hood’s My Sister, 1886 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996) and his Self-portrait, pastel, early 1900s, stencilled on stretcher: LECHERTIER BARBE LTD./ 95 JERMYN ST/ LONDON, SW (National Portrait Gallery), Heywood Hardy’s The Unwanted Chaperone, 1887 (Sotheby’s 17 December 2009 lot 57) and Frederick Sandys’s Winifred, illustration board, 1896 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see Elzea 2001 pp.283, 340; see also p.180, 2.A.72). John Singer Sargent used the business for canvas for A Backwater, Calcot Mill near Reading, c.1888 (Baltimore Museum of Art, see Katlan 1987 p.275, repr. Katlan 1992 p.460) and Cicely Horner, c.1899 (art market). He also used their sketchbooks, c.1885, 1889, 1892-8 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, see Stewart 2000 pp.22, 24, 30). Thomas Henry Huxley took two Lechertier Barbe & Co sketchbooks to Egypt in 1872 (Imperial College, London, Thomas Henry Huxley Collection).
Claude Monet used Lechertier Barbe for canvases when visiting London in 1900, as he told Alice Hoschedé, ‘Quelle note je vais avoir chez Lechertier!’ (‘What a bill I’m going to have at Lechertier!’, quoted in the online catalogue cited here). His Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903, is on a Lechertier canvas (Art Institute of Chicago, see online catalogue, Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Cat. 39).
Other marked works from the 1920s and subsequently include Sir William Nicholson, The Tuileries, 1922, labelled canvas board (Bonham’s 16 November 2011 lot 112), his The Castle, Malaga, 1935, canvas board, labelled: Lechertier Barbe, Ltd./ ESTABLISHED 1827./ Artists’ Colourmen./ 95, JERMYN STREET, REGENT STREET./ LONDON, S.W.1 (Sotheby’s, Soames coll., 17 December 2014 lot 75) and his Petunias and Chrysanthemums in a Mocha Jug, early 1940s, canvas board (Sotheby’s 21 November 2017 lot 2). In 1923 Edward Wadsworth began purchasing tempera colours from Lechertier Barbe (Barbara Wadsworth, Edward Wadsworth: A Painter’s Life, 1989, p.136). Gertrude Hermes used their sketchbooks, 1929-35 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, see Jane Hill, The Sculpture of Gertrude Hermes, 2011, p.138).
Turning to the 1930s, the Maroger oil painting medium (see above) was taken up with enthusiasm by a number of artists, including Roger Fry who corresponded with Jacques Maroger in November 1931 and who persuaded Vanessa Bell to try the medium for her portrait of Aldous Huxley in 1931 (National Portrait Gallery, see Richard Shone, The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Tate, 1999, p.232). Later in the same decade, Sir Winston Churchill purchased materials from Lechertier Barbe in 1936 and a catalogue of oil paints available from Lechertier Barbe Ltd, annotated by William Nicholson as to his preferred colours, is among the Churchill papers at Churchill College; see The Churchill Papers A Catalogue. Edward Burra used Lechertier Barbe Ltd: there is a 4pp catalogue of their watercolour supplies, c.1939, in the Burra collection in the Tate Archive (TGA 771/4/4) and he mentions the business in his correspondence in 1941 (Jane Stevenson, Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye, 2007, p.288).
In 1943 the Canadian war artist in London, Anthony Law, used ten small panels with Lechertier Barbe’s incised stamp (Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, see Barbara Klempan, ‘Paintbox at Sea: The Materials and Techniques of Canadian Second World War Artist C. Anthony Law’, Material Culture Review / Revue de la culture matérielle, vol.61, 2005).
Lucian Freud went to Lechertier Barbe Ltd for papers and brushes in the 1960s (information from Stuart R. Stevenson). He used the business as a source of supply for sketchbooks, of which there are seven in the National Portrait Gallery collection, some dating to the 1950s. Graham Sutherland also used the business for at least one of his sketchbooks (Tate, see Sketchbook 13).
Sources: For Louise Camille Lechertier’s marriage in 1836, see summary record available at ancestry.com). For the Society of Arts, see Clare Richardson, The Society of Arts 19th-century trial paintings: a survey of surviving paintings with an investigation of the materials and techniques of a sample group, Courtauld Institute of Art, postgraduate diploma, 2001, and, for Barbe’s stencil, see Clare Richardson, ‘The RSA collection of ‘trial’ paintings on millboard and canvas 1820-46’, in Clare Richardson and Peter Bower, Early 19th century Materials for Drawing and Painting, William Shipley Group for RSA History, Occasional Paper 18, 2010, p.19. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Updated September 2018
Lefranc & Co, 57 Gracechurch St, London EC 1906,27 Fetter Lane EC 1906-1910, 28 Fetter Lane 1910-1911, 83 New Cavendish St 1912-1913, 7-9 Bird St, Oxford St 1914-1922. Artists’ colourmen.
A leading Paris company with origins going back to 1773. The company was registered in the name of 'Lefranc & Cie' in 1853 (Constantin 2001). It had a purchase account with Roberson (Woodcock 1997) from 27 Fetter Lane, 1907-8, and from its Paris address, 1881-2, but more significantly supplied Roberson with a wide range of products, including pastels, 1880-1907 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 183-1993, 232-1993). For a history of the business, now Lefranc & Bourgeois, see ‘About us’ on the company website at Lefranc & Bourgeois - History. Like Conté à Paris, Reeves, Winsor & Newton and Liquitex, it is now owned by ColArt, a Swedish company, see their website at www.colart.com/.
Lefranc was established in London by 1906, and advertised a wide range of colours and other materials (The Year's Art 1910-14, 1920). It has been suggested that the company may have been encouraged to set up in London by the number of British artists who had trained or worked in Paris and who returned home with a preference for French materials. For a view of Lefranc’s premises in Bird St, see E. Buzzegoli et al., ‘Colori nuovi per una pittura moderna. Nuanciers e dossier di laboratorio dall’archivio storico Lefranc’, OPD Restauro, vol.27, 2015, p.92.
Lefranc produced extensive catalogues in English as early as 1907 (advertisement, The Studio, 15 October 1907 p.xii), suggesting a significant market, with known catalogue editions as follows: from 27 Fetter Lane, London, c.1910 or before, in three parts (Catalogue of Artists’ Materials Part 1, Price List of Materials for Oil Colour Painting, 82pp, Part 2, Price List of Materials for Water Color Drawing, Pastel, pp.88-198, Etching Materials & Tools, 16pp, with testimonials from British artists including F. Cadogan Cowper on Lefranc’s matt colours); from 7-9 Bird St, London, 1914 or later (Price List of Artists' Colours and Materials, 214pp); from their Paris address, c.1923 (Price List of Artists’ Colours and Materials, 237pp). Although advertising from 83 New Cavendish St in 1925 and 9 Drury Lane in 1934 (The Studio September 1934, p.xvi), these addresses were not given as Lefranc’s in London directories and they were presumably the addresses of agents, in the latter case that of the paint manufacturer Ripolin Ltd (qv) with which Lefranc was associated.
Lefranc’s paints were favoured by Gwen John (Bustin 2004 pp.198-9). Lefranc & Bourgeois pigments were among those found in Francis Bacon’s studio at his death (Margarita Cappock, Francis Bacon's Studio, 2005, pp.208-9).
Restructured March 2014, updated April 2019, March 2020
John and William Legg, Reading 1785-1801, painters and glaziers. William Legg, 163 High Holborn, London 1801/2-1805/6, artists' colourman; 254 Oxford St 1806, artists' colourman; subsequently 254 Oxford St in various partnerships to 1822 (see below), coachmaker.
William Legg (1760-1823) led a varied career: in Reading in the 1780s and 1790s as a painter and glazier until 1801, then as an artists’ colourman in Holborn from 1801 or 1802 until 1805 or 1806, and finally as a coachmaker in Oxford St.
“Wm Legg, colourman to artists”, is recorded at 163 High Holborn in Kent’s annual London directory for the years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806. The stated deadline for information for the directory for 1803 was Michaelmas (29 September) 1802, meaning that by late 1802 William Legg was in business at 163 High Holborn and that he could have been in occupation in late 1801. He also appears in Holden’s Triennial Directory and the Post Office London directory in 1805. It is worth adding that William Legg had a son, also William, who was born in High Holborn in August 1803; his wife, Ann, was identified on the birth certificate as the daughter of Mr Woodard, so confirming Legg’s origins in Reading and also his presence in High Holborn (for Ann Woodard, see below, ‘Legg in Reading’). The birth certificate names Elizabeth Legg and Elizabeth Hodges as witnesses.
Legg the colourman: Legg's premises at 163 High Holborn were situated on the north side of the road, in the parish of St George Bloomsbury, near Drury Lane. These premises were previously occupied by James Poole (qv) until his death in summer 1801, and subsequently by Thomas Brown (qv) by late 1806, whose entry in the Post Office Directory for 1807 reads, “Brown T. Colour and Primed Cloth Manufactory, 163, High Holborn, Successor to Mr Legg, late Poole.” William Legg is probably to be identified with the colourman, Legge, whose white paint P.J. de Loutherbourg preferred to Middleton's in 1804, saying it was whiter and purer, and who laid grounds for Loutherbourg (Farington vol.6, p.2317). He may possibly be the ‘Legge’ employed by Henry Fuseli, described as a framemaker by Thomas Coutts in a letter to Fuseli, apparently in 1804, when Coutts wanted Legge to line a picture, make gilt slats for it and hang it up (David Weinglass, The Collected English Letters of Henry Fuseli, 1982, p.309, information from Mrs Anne Rice). Fuseli is known on occasion to have used Legg’s predecessor, Poole, and his successor, Brown.
Legg’s canvas stamp, “WM. LEGG,/ High Holborn/ LINEN.” is found on James Northcote’s Mrs Smith, 1803, with duty stamp dated 1802 (Private coll., London). An indistinct example of this stamp is found on the reverse of the Rice “Jane Austen” portrait (Christie's New York 19 April 2007 lot 120, bought in). In form this stamp is not unlike that of Poole his predecessor and Brown his successor. It would seem that Legg’s brother, John, or another member of the family, James, traded in partnership with him for a time in London since a second very similar canvas stamp has been recorded, “W & J LEGG/ High Holborn/ LINEN”, including an example datable to 1804 and another 1807 (a photograph of the latter, with associated tax stamp, 1807, was kindly shown to the compiler by Robin Roberts, January 2009). For illustration of this business’s canvas stamps, see British canvas, stretcher and panel suppliers’ marks. Part 1, 1785-1831 on this website. John Legg was listed in the poor rate books as paying a rate in 1802 and 1803 while James Legg was recorded in the land tax assessments in 1804 and 1805, in both cases very probably for the premises at 163 High Holborn (see Sources below for a detailed analysis). On the available information, these documents provide further evidence that it was in the period 1801/1802 until 1805/1806, and only in this period, that the Leggs, whether William, John or James, were trading in High Holborn.
Whoever was paying tax, it was William Legg whose name appeared in directories (and so in the public eye) and whose stamp was applied to canvases, whether as William or, in partnership, as W. & J. Legg, as owner in the eyes of the law to meet the requirements of the Linen Act, 1785 (25 Geo III ch.72, clause XXI). Under this legislation, there was a legal obligation that any piece or remnant of a piece of linen or other material subject to duty, should be marked by the owner at both ends with their name, place of abode, the name and quality of the goods and the price or value of the stuff. In practice the price was rarely applied since it soon ceased to be a legal requirement. Because the Leggs traded in High Holborn for only a few years, there are not many recorded examples of canvases bearing the Legg stamp. Those that have a so-called frame mark with legible date belong to the years 1802 to 1807. For an explanation of the frame mark, see on this website, ‘Three-quarters, kit-cats and half-lengths’: British portrait painters and their canvas sizes, 1625-1850 (section 1.2, The supply of canvas).
Legg the coachmaker: In the Post Office Directory for 1807, compiled late in 1806, “Legg” was listed twice at 254 Oxford St: firstly under Legg, W. as “Colourman to Artists” (an unusual description and exactly the same as that in the listing at 163 High Holborn the previous year), and secondly under Williams & Legg as coachmakers, so linking, but not necessarily identifying, Legg the colourman with Legg the coachmaker, as is discussed further below. The partnership, Williams & Legg, was in existence by January 1806 when it appears in the account book of Thomas Jackson (V&A Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2012/1/2/1; for Jackson see British picture framemakers on this website); the previous partnership at this address, 254 Oxford St, trading as Williams & Bushnell, was dissolved in December 1805 (London Gazette 8 February 1806).
In 1799 Williams & Co, late of Reading, coachmakers, advertised that they had taken spacious shops and premises previously occupied by Mr Barnard, coachmaker to his Majesty, at 254 Oxford St (Reading Mercury 22 April 1799, accessed through British Newspaper Archive). In the years 1799-1822, Thomas Williams traded at 254 Oxford St as Williams & Bushnell until 1805, as Williams & Legg, 1806-8, as Williams, Legg & Masters, 1809-16, and again as Williams & Legg, 1816-22 (Morning Chronicle and other newspaper advertisements, accessed as above). The two men, Williams and Legg, were presumably acquainted from their Reading days (John and William Legg were coach painters there). Quite which Legg was involved in the business may have changed with time. ‘W. Legg’ was listed as a colourman at 254 Oxford St in 1807 and may have continued at this address as a coachmaker although not documented as such until 1817. James Legg, perhaps William Legg’s nephew or cousin, was recorded in a court case in 1810 as joint owner of property stolen from him, Thomas Williams and William Masters, presumably from the coach making business at 254 Oxford St (Proceedings of the Old Bailey, information kindly supplied by Mrs Anne Rice, January 2014). William Legg, the former colourman, was recorded in this business in 1817, when he made his will (see below), in 1818 and 1819 in poll books and in 1822 when his partnership with Thomas Williams as coachmakers was dissolved (London Gazette 4 January 1823).
William Legg committed suicide by cutting his throat at his residence, 20 Park Road, on 13 March 1823 (Morning Chronicle 18 March 1823). Aged 63, he was buried on 19 March in Bunhill Fields burial ground. In his will, made 6 March 1817 and proved 29 March 1823, William Legg, coachmaker of 254 Oxford St, referred to his leaseholds at Reading and requested to be buried in St Mary's parish church, Reading. He made bequests to his mother Barbara, his wife Ann, his three married daughters, Ann, Elizabeth and Miriam, and to his other children, so allowing us to be confident that this is the will of the former colourman of High Holborn.
Legg in Reading: Legg’s will allows us to identify his birth and early years in Reading. William Legg was christened in 1760 at St Mary's, Reading, the son of George and Barbara Legg. He married Anne Woodard on 27 March 1788 at St Mary's, Reading, and they had eight children in Reading, including daughters as named above, who were christened in this church between 1 June 1789 and 7 May 1800, demonstrating that Legg was living in Reading immediately before becoming a colourman in London. It is worth noting that John and William Legg were recorded as painters in Reading in the Universal British Directory, vol.4, of about 1798. John Legg is presumably William’s older brother, who was christened at St Mary's, Reading in 1756. Their partnership began in 1785, three months after the death of their father when they announced that they were carrying on business as usual “in the Coach, Sign, House-painting, and Glazing Branches” (Reading Mercury 15 August 1785, kindly communicated by Robin Roberts). The partnership continued until 1801 when it was dissolved, as announced in their notice, as “Painters, Glaziers &c”, dated 2 October, with John Legg carrying on the business (Reading Mercury & Oxford Gazette 5 October 1801, kindly communicated by Robin Roberts). It was late in 1801 or in 1802 that William Legg began his business in High Holborn. There is no evidence to suggest that Legg dealt as a colourman in Reading although he would have been well qualified to do so, given the role of some painters who also acted as colourmen, especially outside London.
Legg’s identity: An earlier member of the Legg family has been identified by Robin Roberts, namely William Legg (1740-98), an uncle, a tallow-chandler in Snow Hill (verbal and e-mail communications, June-August 2011). Another man, William Daniel Legg (1743-1806), haberdasher and joiner, has been put forward by Ellie Bennett. However, there is no evidence that either individual, or any other William Legg, was trading in High Holborn as an artists’ colourman between 1785, when the legislative requirement to mark canvas was introduced, and 1801, when William Legg of Reading took over the Poole business. It has been claimed that there could have been an excise duty officer by the name of William Legg who applied his name to canvas; however, there is no evidence in the legislation or in its application that this was the case. Other members of the Legg family in London, named in the colourman William Legg’s will, were Jabez Legg and Samuel Legg, both upholders in Fleet St. There was also a William Legg, father (c.1781-1835) and son (c.1805-1834), trading at one time or another in Chandos St as coachmakers.
Sources: For William Legg’s son, William, born High Holborn in 1803, see National Archives, RG 5/28, C.3022, accessible at www.ancestry.co.uk; see also RG 4/4660. Information from Land tax records kindly provided by Mrs Anne Rice, January 2014; these records are also accessible at www.ancestry.co.uk. Land tax was assessed on the owner although the name of the occupier is also given; it is the occupier who is the focus here (whether or not they paid tax on behalf of the owner). Information from rate books comes from the St Giles-in-the-Fields and St George Bloomsbury joint vestry poor rate books, available on microfilms UTAH 112-114 at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. Both the land tax and the poor rate were usually assessed in June although the 2nd and 3rd instalments of the poor rate were not due until the following December and March, with any change in occupant pencilled in when the instalments were collected. The names recorded, with Christian names spelt out if abbreviated, are given here for the property for the years 1800-1806 for land tax (LT) followed by the poor rate (PR):
1800 James Poole (LT), James Pool (PR)
1801 James Poole (LT), James Pool, with John Legg pencilled in (PR)
1802 James Poole (LT), John Legg (PR)
1803 James Poole (LT), John Legg, with M. Row pencilled in (PR)
1804 James Legg (LT), M. Row, with Joseph(?) Hodges pencilled in (PR)
1805 James Legg (LT), Joseph Hodges, with Thomas Brown pencilled in (PR)
1806 Thomas Brown (LT), Thomas Brown (PR)
Names in these records were not always accurately recorded as is clear from the appearance in the land tax listing of the previous occupant, James Poole, for the two years after his death in 1801. The presence of Row/Rowe and Hodges in the poor rate books may suggest that the property, apparently a four storey building, was subdivided or sublet or that Legg had vacated the premises by 1804 although this would not sit comfortably with the land tax assessment. It is worth noting that Elizabeth Hodges was well known to William and Ann Legg, having acted as a witness at the birth of their son in August 1803. For more information on land tax and poor rate records, see Resources and bibliography.
John Townsend Lowther (b. c.1793), see Joseph Cole
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