Birmingham, Liverpool and London; sculptor, cabinet maker and designer (d.1818)
George Bullock is thought to have been the son of James Bullock and his (presumed second) wife, Sibylla [Alec Berry, personal comm.]. His place of birth remains unknown. His age at the time of his death in 1818 was recorded as 35, suggesting that he was born 1782/83 but, while possible, this perhaps sits uneasily with the closely spaced baptism dates of two of his brothers and his sister. He had an older half-brother, James, from his father's first marriage, and three brothers, William (bap.1773), Joseph (bap. 1781), Charles (bap. 1783). A sister, Mary Ann, was born in 1784/5. Little is known of Bullock's early life, although the family appears to have spent time on the English south coast, at Plymouth and Portsea before his birth [DNB].
By March 1797 'Mrs Bullock and Son' were conducting modelling and drawing lessons at their 'Modelling and Statuary Warehouse' at 29 Bull Street, Birmingham [DNB]. A letter published in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 27 November 1797 mentions an artist who is ‘yet a boy’; this has been taken to refer to George Bullock. According to an announcement in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 27 August 1798, ‘his age does not exceed twenty’, perhaps implying that he was born on or after 28 August 1777 [quoted in John Alfred Langton, A Century of Birmingham Life … 1741-1841 (1868), II, p. 118]. George Bullock married Margaret Casson on 11 May 1805 at St Thomas’s, Liverpool. She was a musical prodigy and composer who gave a series of recitals on the harpsichord in London in 1781 at the age of six. Her portrait painted at that time by George Romney is now in a private collection. A Mrs Bullock, who is taken to be George Bullock’s mother, was the proprietress of a travelling waxworks. The earliest identified newspaper advertisement for her ‘cabinet of wax figures’ dates from October 1793, when she was at Bury St Edmunds, followed by Ipswich later that year. She then moved on to Stamford, Northampton, Birmingham, Wrexham and Chester in 1794; to Manchester, Derby and Blackburn in 1795; to Birmingham, Lichfield and Birmingham again in 1796; to Stourbridge and Wolverhampton in 1797; to Wolverhampton and Dudley in 1798; to Sheffield in 1800; and lastly to Hull in September 1800, where she announced her desire to sell the collection. There is no mention of a ‘Mr Bullock’, perhaps suggesting that she was by then a widow. The advertisements for Derby (1795) and Lichfield (1796) announced ‘likenesses taken’, which suggest that George Bullock might have accompanied his mother on at least those occasions. The announcement in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette of 27 August 1798 states that George Bullock ‘is on the point of leaving [Birmingham] and returning to London’, suggesting that, despite a lack of evidence to date, at some earlier time he had lived in London, but there is no evidence that he fully made that move until 1813 (see below). In 1799, still in Birmingham, he advertised himself as ‘G. Bullock, Modeller in Rice Paste’ at 12, Ann Street; he continued to advertise there in 1800 and 1801. William Bullock, whose first recorded public appearance was in Sheffield on 22 February 1799, when he advertised ‘Bullock’s celebrated Cabinet of Curiosities’, was by August 1800 exhibiting in Birmingham and by 1801, established in Liverpool.
George’s earliest known surviving work, dated 1801, is a wax portrait of his future patron Henry Blundell, of Ince Blundell, Lancashire; this suggests that he may by then have moved to Liverpool. A detailed survey of his sculpture, however, is outside the scope of this entry. His work under this heading includes busts, church monuments and chimney pieces, as well as ‘rice paste’. Lucy Wood draws attention to two stipple engravings in the Royal Collection, noted on the Royal Collection website, depicting George Frederick Cooke as Richard III, published in 1812, after rice paste originals probably by George Bullock [RCIN 652857 and 652858]. For comprehensive details of Bullock’s sculptural work see Wainwright et al. (1988) and Roscoe (2009).
While Bullock’s precise whereabouts cannot be confirmed between 1801 and 1803, by 1804, describing himself as ‘Modeller and Sculptor’, he was sharing premises with his brother William at 24, Lord Street, Liverpool. On 27 June 1804 he announced his move to William Stoakes’s looking glass manufactory at 48, Church Street, Liverpool. This partnership as ‘Bullock and Stoakes, General Furnishers and Marble Workers lasted until October 1806. Bullock advertised his ‘Grecian Rooms at Mr Stoakes Looking Glass Manufactory… this day re-opened where are the most extensive collection of Bronze and Bronzed Figures… Marble Tables, Chimney Pieces… see the Rich Gothic Furniture, Armour &c which he has designed and executed for… Cholmondeley Castle’. This was available to be viewed, prior to its dispatch [Liverpool Chronicle, 4 September 1805]. This is the first furniture Bullock is known to have designed. In 1804 he exhibited a bust of William Roscoe, the celebrated Liverpool abolitionist, poet and scholar. Roscoe appears to have helped Bullock's career, for Thomas Johnes of Hafod wrote to Roscoe on 15 March 1808 concerning ‘a protege of yours Mr Bullock a very clever fellow who is to fit up my home…’ [Liverpool Public Lib., Roscoe papers 398]. In 1810 Bullock showed nine busts in the Liverpool Academy of which he was founding President from 1810–12; Blundell was Patron until the following year, when that role was taken by the Prince Regent. By June 1807 Bullock's partnership was over; he advertised that his partnership with ‘Mr Stoakes… has been dissolved… Bullock has removed his Grecian Room from Church Street to No 23 Bold Street’ [Liverpool Chronicle, 3 June 1807]. But from 1809 to 1810 he was again in partnership, this time with Sir John Soane's celebrated assistant J. M. Gandy. The firm was styled ‘Bullock, George & Joseph Gandy, architects, modellers, sculptors, marble masons, cabinet makers and upholsterers 55 Church Street’ [Gore’s Directory of Liverpool, 1810]. The firm did not prosper, for Gandy wrote to Soane from Liverpool on 1 September 1810: ‘The affair of the Liverpool Academy… took a serious turn a few days after you left us, my partner insisting… that the partnership interest was most deeply hurt by my refusal of joining with him as one of the members of the Liverpool Academy… the result was to separate publicly on the 22 Sept 1810’ [A. T. Bolton, The Portrait of Sir John Soane (1927), p. 126].
By 1810 William Bullock had moved to London to create his famous museum in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. In 1812 George sold the contents of his premises: ‘Fashionable Modern Furniture… of Mr George Bullock who is going to reside in London’ [Liverpool Mercury, 28 August 1812]. Even before his move Bullock was in touch with Lewis Vulliamy, from whom he had commissioned metal chimney-piece ornaments for an unknown client. Two letters relating to this commission, dated 1 and 24 February 1812, are in the Vulliamy records at the National Archives [NA, C104/57 (I), Letter Book No 2, ff. 60 & 62]. He was however still included in the Liverpool directories for 1813 and 1814, and the final sale of his Liverpool stock was held on 21 November 1814, so it is possible that he maintained premises there. Indeed, a design for a sofa intended for Drumlanrig Castle for the Duchess of Buccleuch, is inscribed ‘Liverpool Octr 16 1813’ [Buccleuch Archives]. Bullock was first listed in London in 1813: ‘Bullock, George, upholsterers, Grecian Rooms, Egyptian Hall Piccadilly’ [Post Office Directory, 1813]. On 1 January 1814 he signed a lease on 4 Tenterden Street and by 1815 was established as ‘Sculptor, 4 Tenterden Street, Hanover Square, Mona Marble and Furniture Works, Oxford Street’ [Post Office Directory, 1815]. At Christmas 1817 ‘George Bullock and Charles Fraser of the Mona Marble Works Oxford Street Cabinetmakers and Upholders’ were insured for £3,800 [GL, Sun MS vol. 471, ref. 925754]. These were his premises until his death on 29 April 1818 [Parish Register, Register of the Inscriptions affixed to the Coffins deposited at the Burying Ground in St George’s Row. Burial Fee Book, City of Westminster Archive Centre]. The workshops did not finally close until 1819, when the contents of Tenterden Street and Oxford Street were sold: The Whole of the Finished Stock of that highly ingenious artist Mr. George Bullock, Dec. [Christie’s, 3-5 May 1819], and A Catalogue of All the Valuable Unmanufactured Stock in Trade of Mr. George Bullock, Dec. [Christie’s, 13-15 May 1819].
Furniture tentatively identified through the ‘Finished Stock’ sale catalogue is discussed and illustrated in Wainwright et al. (1988), nos 32 to 36; a pair of candelabra is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; a ‘pier commode’ in the National Gallery of Victoria (2013.25) is probably lot 44 from day two of the sale and a table in a private collection is thought to be lot 45. A piece of furniture in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, bears the stamp 'G. Bullock' on the fore-edge of each drawer (CMOA 2013.63).
It is evident from the considerable corpus of documented work, much of which has been identified since Clive Wainwright’s original DEFM entry (1986), that Bullock uses a wide range of exotic woods and marbles in his furniture production. Later in his career, however, he made a particular virtue of using native British woods and marbles. There were strong commercial and patriotic reasons for this during the Napoleonic wars, although a similar move towards native woods also took place in France. His use of native woods and marbles was often commented upon: ‘British Oak Furniture — This novel article first brought to a degree of perfection by Mr Bullock’ [The Times, 1 July 1819]. In a geological lecture in Liverpool a Mr Bakewell described Mona marble as ‘a beautiful Green Stone which is found in a part of the island of Angelsea the property of Mr George Bullock’ [Liverpool Mercury, 30 August 1811]. Bullock also used Scottish marbles (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 9). Two oak boxes by Bullock (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 32) contain samples of various marbles and one has the words ‘Mona Marble’ inlaid into its top: were the original samples in these boxes, acquired in 1819 by Sir William Gordon Cumming (see commissions below) perhaps shown to customers by Bullock? Bullock first mentioned ‘specimens of his quarries in Anglesea’ in 1806. Mona marble chimney pieces were illustrated along with Bullock furniture in Ackermann's The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 56) during his lifetime, and later.
Bullock's furniture is more assertive in its character than the work of most of his contemporaries; the ornament, both in the form of metal mounts and the distinctive ‘buhl’ and wood marquetry, sets him apart. While most of the furniture from his workshop was ‘Grecian’, he also worked in the ‘Gothic’ and ‘Elizabethan’ styles, for which he was something of a pioneer. How much he designed himself is uncertain as no records of his firm survive beyond an assemblage of designs for furniture, interiors and metalwork inscribed on a flyleaf ‘Tracings by Thomas Wilkinson from the designs of the late Mr. George Bullock 1820’ [City Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham, M.3.74]. However, this title cannot be entirely accepted at face value, as some of these designs are certainly by Richard Bridgens who was involved with Bullock in Liverpool and London, from 1811 Bridgens was involved at Abbotsford (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 17), and to judge from his work after Bullock's death specialized in the ‘Gothic’ and ‘Renaissance’ styles. It would also seem likely that Gandy designed furniture during the partnership. In addition to the Wilkinson Tracings, another group forms part of the Trotter Albums (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (see Levy (1989), figs 10 and 11, and notes 71 and 72).The Tracings are important in throwing light on an important aspect of Bullock’s oeuvre, which is the design and production of metal lamps, lustres and other lighting. Several of the designs are attributed to Bullock and predate 1818 (illus. Levy (2020), figs 1-10). However, it is unlikely that Bullock had the capacity to manufacture such things in his workshops, and the London firm of W. and S. Summers, ‘Stove and Lamp Manufacturers’ of 105 New Bond Street has been suggested as a possible collaborator. Parker and Perry, of Fleet Street, supplied glass lustres for the St Helena commission and may well have contributed to others.
Bullock made many friends, including Sir Walter Scott, whose letters throw light upon the cabinet-maker’s life. After Bullock’s death, Daniel Terry, a London friend of both Bullock and Scott, wrote to Scott on 15 May 1818: ‘I do not see how the large concern which owed its existence its conduct & its peculiar excellence entirely to the personal talent and activity of poor Bullock can be continued longer than the impetus which he had given… George's fate was something accelerated by… the fantastic, damnable conduct of the monied partner Colonel Frazer, an old crackbrained East Indian Jackass’ [Nat. Lib. of Scotland, MS 3889, f. 94]. The artist Benjamin Robert Haydon wrote in December 1818: ‘George Bullock was one of those extraordinary beings who receive great good fortune & are never benefitted by it, & suffer great evils, and are never ruined, always afloat but never in harbour, always energetic, always scheming’ [Pope (ed.), The Diary of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1960), II, p. 209]. A surviving letter gives an insight into Bullock’s workshop practice and relationships with his employees, and also into a hitherto unrecognised association with the (by then late) architect, James Wyatt (1746-1813). A portrait by Joseph Allen, believed to represent George Bullock, is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Commissions: A chronology of known Bullock commissions was published in Wainwright et al. (1988). CHOLMONDELEY CASTLE, Cheshire, Lord Cholmondeley, 1804 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), nos 1-4). BROUGHTON HALL, Yorkshire, Bullock & Stoakes for Stephen Tempest, 1805, bronze figures and chimney piece. HERCULANEUM POTTERY, Liverpool, 1808, designs ‘the arrangements of the rooms’ (see Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 30, chamber ware for St Helena, and V&A, C.44-2005, chamber set from Woburn Abbey). HAFOD, for Thomas Jones, 1808. THORNHILL, Birmingham, for James Watt Junior and, latterly, Anne Boulton, 1808-18 (Wilkinson Tracings, p. 73; see also Sotheby’s, London, The James Watt Sale Art & Science, 20 March 2003). STORRS HALL, Westmoreland, for John Bolton, 1808. STONOR PARK, Oxfordshire, for Thomas Stonor, 1809: '1 Specimen Top Work table' invoiced by George Bullock and Joseph Gandy (bill only, private collection). SPEKE HALL, Lancashire, for Richard Watt, 1811 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988) no. 5; Wilkinson Tracings, p. 164). ALLERTON HALL, Lancashire, William Roscoe, perhaps before 1813 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 6. DRUMLANRIG, Dumfriesshire, Duchess of Buccleuch, 1813 [Boughton Archives, and for payments made by Duke of Buccleuch see Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 36]. GORHAMBURY, Hertfordshire, Harriet, Lady Grimston, 1813. HINTON HOUSE, Wiltshire, Samuel Day Junior; the only known occasion when the work of George Bullock and William Bullock was combined (illus. Levy (1997), pp. 236-37, figs 6-8). BUCKINGHAM HOUSE or FROGMORE [?], Queen Charlotte, 1814 (and perhaps later). ARMADALE CASTLE, Isle of Skye, Lord Macdonald, 1814-18 [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 13]. BLAIR CASTLE, Perthshire, Duke of Atholl, 1814-19 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), nos 7-9. ALTYRE, Morayshire, Sir William Gordon Cumming, 2nd Bt., 1815-19: £124 paid ‘for Carpets & Mona Marble’, 23 February 1815; 11 May 1819, £640 11s. 6d. paid to Christie’s and £130 11s. to ‘Bullock & Co.’ following the dispersal of his stock [National Library of Scotland, Dep. 175, Box 1572]. Not only did Sir William patronise Bullock, but he was also the largest single buyer at the ‘Finished Stock’ sale, 1819 (see, for example, Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 35). NEW LONGWOOD HOUSE, St Helena, British Government (for the use of Napoleon Buonaparte and his entourage), 1815 (illus. Levy, 1998). BIEL, East Lothian, William Nisbet, 1816-18 [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 236b (unbound) and Account to William Hamilton Nisbet, Scottish Record Office, GD. 205/48/18/3]. TEW PARK, Oxfordshire, Matthew Robinson Boulton, 1816-18, [Account (private collection), Christie’s, Great Tew Park, 27-29 May 1987, and illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), nos. 25-3]. ABBOTSFORD, Roxburghshire, Sir Walter Scott, 1816-19 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), nos 15-17). DEENE PARK [?], 6th Earl of Cardigan, 1816-19. BATTLE ABBEY, Sussex, Sir Godfrey Webster, 1816-17, or later [Wilkinson Tracings, pp. 29, 75 and 77 and illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), nos. 12-14]. RAITH, Fife, Robert Ferguson, 1817 [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 234 (unbound) pattern for marquetry, Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 22, and Christie’s, 6 July 2000, lots 80 -83]. BENTLEY PRIORY, Middlesex, Marquess of Abercorn, 1817 (illus. Wainwright et al. (1988), no. 23, and nos. 70-71). DITTON PARK, Berkshire, Dowager Duchess of Buccleuch, 1818. ASTON HALL, Birmingham, James Watt Junior, from 1819 [Wilkinson Tracings, pp. 147 and 148]. WARLEY HALL, Warwickshire, Hubert Galton, before 1818. An exploded plan drawing by Bullock for the Drawing Room shows furniture and a hanging lamp in situ, all presumably supplied by Bullock [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 11].
Commissions (probable), but lacking conclusive documentation: INCE BLUNDELL, Merseyside, Henry Blundell (1724-1810). PANSHANGER, Herefordshire, 5th Earl Cowper. William Atkinson (1774/5-1839), who worked regularly on houses that Bullock furnished, began Panshanger in 1806. A grand doorway in the Gallery ante room closely resembles one designed by Bullock (illus. Country Life, 11 January 1936, p. 42; Wilkinson Tracings, p. 184, Wainwright et al. (1988), fig. 2). ENDSLEIGH COTTAGE, Devon, Duke of Bedford, by Wyatville (1810-16) (illus. and described Christie’s, Property from Two Ducal Collections, Woburn Abbey, Bedford, 20-21 September 2004, particularly lots 374, 470, 821-27 and 857-59). SCONE PALACE, Perthshire (Earl of Mansfield). Furniture, but no bills survive.(illus. Coleridge, 1965). WARLEY HALL, Worcestershire, Hubert Galton [Tracings, pp. 11 and 79, see Levy 2020]. VAN ZELLER [?] family, Portugal, a suite of furniture perhaps erroneously thought to have been supplied to Don Pedro de Souza e Holstein, 1st Duke of Palmella (illus. Christie’s, 25 June 1987, lots 171-81 and Wainwright et al. (1988). nos 10 and 11).
Commissions (probable), identified in ‘Wilkinson Tracings’ (Note: The City Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham were closed at the time of writing (May 2020), so it was not possible to examine the Tracings at first hand, nor to ascertain if additional pages, not included in the photocopied version, survive. Some names on the photocopies are illegible). SHRUBLAND PARK, Suffolk, William Middleton [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 106 (a stand); see also Levy, 2020, n. 24]. MR SONE [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 246 (unbound), a border]. MRS BARRON’, 1816 [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 239 (unbound) ‘Mahogany Commode Septr 1816, p. 240; ‘Oak Book Commode. Pubd Augt 1816’, p. 243 (unbound), border for a tea table, untraced if executed, but a James Barron supplied blinds to Anne Boulton (email to compiler from Simon Jervis, 27 May 2018). EDMUND RUNDELL, perhaps the partner in Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, and nephew of Philip Rundell, 1816 [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 253 (unbound) ‘Oak Cabinets’, Novr 30 1816 and p. 233 (unbound). LADY ORMOND [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 244 (unbound), a border]. GENl WILSON [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 238 (unbound), a border]. Mrs DOWKING [?] [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 235 (unbound), pattern for marquetry]. LADY SPENCER [Wilkinson Tracings, ‘Table’, April 1818 (pattern for marquetry), p. 232 (unbound)]. SIR Hy BUNBURY, perhaps the Bunbury (1778-1860), the Secretary of State for War who informed Napoleon that he was to be exiled to St Helena. Arrangement for armour, [Wilkinson Tracings, p. 196 and Levy, 1998, p. 3].
Notable furniture identified in ‘Wilkinson Tracings’ and not mentioned above or below (a partial list): medal cabinet, p. 99, now Metropolitan Museum of Art (2014-67); cabinet, p. 90, a pair at Gosford House, East Lothian; table, p. 38, probably commissioned by George Byng, Esq M.P. (d.1847), sold Christie’s (London), 9 June 2005, lot 50, now in a private collection.
Medal cabinet by George Bullock, c. 1814-18 [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Accession number 2014.67]. Made of mahogany, oak, pine, holly; marquetry and veneer of figured oak and holly; ebony and ebonized wood; ivory; silk velvet. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Originally by Clive Wainwright (1986) and updated by Martin Levy (2020)
- Dictionary of National Biography
- Brown, The Rudiments of Drawing Cabinet and Upholstery Furniture (2nd edition, 1822); Bridgens, Furniture with candelabra and interior decoration (2nd edition, 1838; Reade, Regency Antiques (1953)
- Coleridge, ‘The work of Bullock cabinet maker in Scotland’, Connoisseur (1965) vol. CLVIII, pp. 249–252, vol. CLIX, pp. 13–17
- Joy, ‘A Modernist of the Regency’, Country Life, vol. CXLIV, 1968, pp. 456–57, 507–08
- Edwards, ‘George Bullock as a sculptor and modeller’, Connoisseur, July 1969, pp. 172–173; Glenn, ‘Regency Furnishing Schemes’, Furniture History (1979), pp. 54–67
- Wainwright, ‘Walter Scott and the furnishings of Abbotsford’, Connoisseur (1977) vol. CXCIV, pp. 3–15; Joy, ‘Identifying a Regency Cabinet’, Country Life (6 November 1980), pp. 646–48
- Agius and Jones, Ackermann’s Regency Furniture & Interiors (1984)
- Wainwright, Wood, Levy and Stevens, George Bullock: Cabinet-Maker (London), 1988; Wainwright, The Romantic Interior: The British Collector at Home, 1750-1850 (1989)
- Levy, ‘George Bullock’s Partnership with Charles Fraser, 1813-19, and the Stock-in-Trade Sale, 1819’, Furniture History (1989), pp. 145-213
- Levy, ‘Ditton Park, Berkshire, Country Life (11 January 1990), pp. 70-73
- Levy, ‘George Bullock: Aspects of his Development and Influence', Antologia di Belle Arti (1990), pp. 67-74; de Bellaigue, ‘The Vulliamys’ Chimney-Pieces’, Furniture History (1997), pp. 188-216
- Levy, ‘The Roman Gallery at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and Some Tripods by William Bullock and George Bullock’, Furniture History (1997), pp. 229-39
- Levy, ‘Napoleon in Exile: the Houses and Furniture Supplied by the British Government for the Emperor and his Entourage on St Helena’, Furniture History (1998), pp. 1-211
- Costelloe, William Bullock: connoisseur and virtuoso of the Egyptian Hall: Piccadilly to Mexico, 1773-1849 (2008)
- Wood, ‘A Letter from George Bullock’s Workmen’, Furniture History Society Newsletter, (May 2009), pp. 1-6; Roscoe et al., A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851 (2009)
- Shuker, ‘The ingenious Mr Casson and his musical daughters’, Organists’ Review, February 2011
- Levy, ‘A Royal Visit to George Bullock’s Workshop, 1814’, Furniture History Society Newsletter, (August 2018), pp. 12-14
- Levy, ‘Lamps, lanterns and lustres: lighting designed by George Bullock (d. 1818), Furniture History (2020), pp. 175-188.