Wellow, Nottinghamshire; chair maker, victualler, furniture dealer and broker (fl.1848-d.1883)
Listed in the 1848 Nottinghamshire Directory and possibly J. Crofts who was listed as a partner of the chair-making firm, Richardson & Crofts in the Nottinghamshire Post Office Directory, 1848.
Crofts is recorded between 1848 and 1879 as 'chairmaker (broker)/ vict & furniture dealer, Red Lion’. The workshops were situated in a yard behind the Red Lion pub in Wellow, but only a boundary wall remains today. Two business cards are known to survive in the Crofts family, one belonging to a 2 x great granddaughter, Jean Wilson, inscribed ‘JAMES CROFTS/ Chair manufacturer/ Red Lion/ WELLOW’ and the other in the hands of a great grandson, James Crofts, the namesake of the nineteenth-century chair maker. His copy of the card also states that the business was 'Est. 1851'. Therefore, the partnership Richardson & Crofts in 1848 was likely to have been a short-lived one.
According to family recollection, in the early 1880s James Crofts had an accident whilst selling some horses he had tethered on the bottom green in Wellow. He had a client with him in his pony and trap when the trap hit rough tufted grass and tipped over, the wheel hub crushing Crofts’ leg. He was taken to the cottage hospital situated at Wellow Hall and the family paid for a Harley Street surgeon to come from London to amputate his leg. He sadly did not make a full recovery, dying in 1883. His wife, Ann, continued running the Red Lion and it is believed that their son, Allan (known in the family as a master carver, with four pieces of his still known to exist) continued his and his father's craft whilst assisting his mother with the pub. However, Allan died young, and it's believed Ann let out the furniture workshops as stabling for people who were travelling. Ann continued to run the pub throughout and until her passing. In 1917-18 the workshops were converted into tenement cottages by Ann's son Sydney (then the Red Lion owner) and assisted by grandson Clarence Crofts. A picture of Ann standing at the front door of the Red Lion still hangs in the pub today.
Turned ash chair formerly at Scotts Farm, Wellow, said to have been made by James Crofts. Private collection. Published in Gilbert, English Vernacular Furniture (1991), pl. 166, p. 100.
Source: Gilbert, English Vernacular Furniture 1750-1900 (1991); Private correspondence with Jane Crofts, 3 April 2021.