St Paul's Churchyard, London; cabinet maker and upholsterer (1718–68)
The son of Richard Brown a tallow chandler of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. he was apprenticed to John James on 28 March 1718 and made free of the Upholders’ Company by servitude, 6 October 1725.
About 1728 he took over the premises in St Paul's Churchyard at the sign of ‘The Walnut Tree’ formerly occupied by William Rodwell. The trade carried on by Rodwell was similar to that adopted by Brown, and in January 1727 the former advertised as one of his specialities his range of window blinds. When Brown took over he changed the trade sign to that of ‘The Three Cover'd Chairs and Walnut Tree’ probably to emphasise the fact that chair making was a major element in his trade. Rodwell's sign of ‘The Walnut Tree’ might suggest that cabinet making was the major element of his trade.
The trade card of John Brown at the Cover'd Chairs & Walnut Tree, the East side of St Paul's Church-Yard near the School [MET 26.28.165], 1742-61. The trade card was used as a bill and has writing on the recto and verso. The verso includes the date April 1, 1761. CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain.
Brown's trade card shows that he made and sold ‘all sorts of the best & most fashionable Chairs, either Cover'd, Matted or Can'd’, cabinet goods, glasses and blinds. The text is identical to that on the trade card of James Brown who traded at ‘The King's Arms’, also in St Paul's Churchyard, suggesting some connection between the two makers.
The trade card of John Brown is illustrated with engravings of mirrors and splat back and upholstered chairs.
His range of blinds is fully described in a newspaper advertisement of 1729. These were ‘of all sorts, painted in Wier, Canvas Cloth and Sassenet, after the best and most lasting manner ever yet done so that if ever so dull an dirty they will clean with sope and sand and be like new’.
He also offered in the same advertisement ‘new fashion Walnut Tree Window seat cases to slip off and on, very much approved of beyond stuff seats’. The business premises first occupied were on the east side of St Paul's Churchyard near the School, but in 1730 he advertised a move to another building close at hand formerly occupied by Robert ‘Garridge’ (Gammage) chair maker and lately trading as ‘The Crown Tavern’. This was ‘two doors above the School nearer Cheapside’. In this year he was offering ‘ALL SORTS OF WINDSOR GARDEN CHAIRS, of all Sizes, painted green or in the Wood’. This is the earliest known public advertisement for this type of chair though they may not be of his manufacture. He evidently marked some of his furniture for a walnut framed toilet mirror of c. 1730 is known with a circular label indicating him as the supplier. (illus. Gilbert (1996), figs 157-158). The printed label reads ‘John Brown Chair Maker at ye three Chairs & Walnut-Tree ye East Side of St Paul’s’.
From 1761 the business is listed in directories at 43 St Paul's Churchyard. From 1763 it is shown as John Brown & Son. The son may possibly have been the John Brown who in 1750 was shown in a Livery list as a member of the Joiners’ Co. The address of James Brown at this period was 29 St Paul's Churchyard.
Source: Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).