St Paul's Churchyard, London; upholder and cabinet maker (fl.1747–96).
Traded initially at the sign of ‘The King's Arms’ on the south side of St Paul's Churchyard which had been previously used by Christopher Gibson. When numbering was introduced this became 29 St Paul's Churchyard. He was a member of the Joiners’ Co., and a trade card dating from the earlier part of his career indicates the nature of his trade at this date. It states that he made and sold ‘all Sorts of the best & most Fashionable Chairs, either Cover'd, Matted or Can'd, Likewise all sorts of Cabinet Work, with Sconces, PierGlasses, Mahogany & other Tables, Blinds for Windows made & curiously painted on Canvas, Silk or Wire’. He took out licences to employ non-freemen at various periods from 1755–58 but never more than two men at a time and on a short term basis only. The business must have been substantial by 1779 in which year he took out insurance cover for £2,000 of which £1,400 was for utensils and stock. Directories record the business from 1768–96 and in 1793 he subscribed to Sheraton's Drawing Book. The long length of time during which the business traded suggests that more than one James Brown was involved, possibly a father and son. The business attracted some patronage from wealthy members of the aristocracy and gentry. As early as 1747 he was supplying the Duke of Gordon, though the sums involved could not be deemed substantial. Supplied were two ‘compas elbow chairs Spanish leather £2.14s’ and a mahogany ‘bewrow dressing chest £2. 10s’. His name also appears in the Croome Court accounts as the supplier under 23 June 1781 of six green and white japanned rout chairs at £4 2s 6d and in 1785 a mahogany tea chest with canisters, £3 6s. He appears to have marked some of his furniture by the use of trade labels though only two instances are so far recorded: a mahogany side table on slender cabriole legs of c. 1780 and an urn stand in satinwood and mahogany with a brass rim, c. 1785, illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs 154-56 and sold at Sotheby’s, 7 July 186, lot 998.
Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).