Coxed & Woster and Coxed, Grace
The White Swan, St Paul’s Churchyard, London; cabinet maker (fl. 1700-35)
Coxed and Woster was a partnership formed after the death of John Coxed. In his will, John left instructions for his widow, Grace, to ‘go partners’ with his brother-in-law, Thomas Woster, who was also a cabinet maker. Grace Coxed was married and widowed twice, both husbands being cabinet makers. Her first marriage was to John Mayo, who at his death left his business in the hands of his widow Grace. One of Mayo’s apprentices was John Coxed, who completed his term of indenture under Grace’s supervision on 7 September 1703. Grace managed her cabinet making business after her first husband’s death for seven years before she married John Coxed in 1707. They remained married for ten years until his death in November 1718.
Coxed and Woster was apparently a substantial company; the premises were large enough for several workshops and retail spaces because it occupied two adjacent houses on the southwest corner of St Paul’s Churchyard. Their manufacture seems to have been prolific because their furniture constitutes the largest single group of labelled English case furniture surviving from the first half of the eighteenth century. Grace’s role in the business is unknown: there are no records of her activity in London Companies, or accounts of her business transactions, but she was presumably involved in running the cabinet making firm, Coxed and Woster from her second husband’s death in 1718 until she died in 1735.
A number of desks, bureaux, bureau cabinets, secretaire cabinets and chests of drawers dating from the period 1720–35 have been found with the trade labels G. Coxed & T. Woster (e.g. Colonial Williamsburg). Typically, they are veneered in walnut or burr maple and some pieces are embellished with rosewood crossbanding and pewter stringing. The fullest known trade label reads ‘G.Coxed and T.Woster At the White Swan,against the South-Gate in St Paul's Church Yard, London, Makes and Sells Cabinets, Scrutoires, Desks and Book-Cases, Buro's Chests of Drawers, Wisk, Ombre, Dutch and Indian Tea-Tables; All sorts of Looking-Glasses, Large Sconces, Dressing Sets and Wainscot-Work of all sorts, at Reasonable Rates. Old Glasses New polished and Made up fashionable.’
The distinctive nature of this furniture has naturally led to speculation that other, similar, pieces were the products of the same workshop. As well as these burr-veneered cabinet pieces, Coxed & Woster clearly made other types of furniture and carried out more ordinary ‘Wainscot-Work’. In 1723 Thomas Woster was paid £2 5s by ‘Madme Rudge’ for a writing table, and in 1725 the same lady paid £2 12s 6d for a card table [Lincoln RO, Monson, 12], while in April 1735 Woster sent a bill to Richard Hoare of Barn Elms (later of Stourhead) for a ‘strong wainscot table’ and a ‘large wainscot press’ at a total cost of £9 12s 6d. In December the same year he sent a bill to Hoare for strong wainscot tables at a total cost of £1 12s 6d. [V & A Lib., English Manuscripts, 147] In September 1724 Thomas Woster, cm, had taken out insurance on three houses in Chiswell St and two in Sword Bearer Alley with two sheds, to the value of £800. [GL, Sun MS vol. 19] His death was recorded in Daily Post, 14 December 1736, a year after Grace’s death. Coxed and Woster’s trade labels are illus. Furniture History (2003) pp.92 & 96 and examples of the firm’s work are illus. Furniture History (2003) pp.91-98.
The trade card of Grace Coxed and Thomas Woster at the 'White Swan' in St. Paul's Churchyard. Thomas Woster used this as a receipt for £4, dated Decmbr, ye 31 1724. Private Collection.
Sources: DEFM; Bowett and Lindey, ‘Labelled Furniture from the White Swan Workshop in St Paul’s Churchyard 1711-1735’, Furniture History (2003); Lindey, ‘William Old and John Ody at the Castle in St Paul’s Churchyard’, FHS Newsletter (February 2006); Lindey, ‘I bequeath unto my loving wife. Women Furniture Makers in Early Modern London’, Apollo, June 2018.