Crook, Benjamin Snr
‘The George & White Lyon’, south side of St Paul's Churchyard, London; joiner and cabinet maker (fl.1732–50)
Although he was not elected freeman of the Joiners’ Co. until 13 September 1734 it is clear that he was trading earlier than this date. On 30 December 1732 he took out insurance cover of £300 which included not only his household goods but also his stock in trade. On 2 May 1748 he announced an auction of his stock without reserve, the reason being his wish to retire from the trade. The stock on offer consisted of ‘Pier and Chimney Glasses, Sconces and Dressing Glasses, in carv'd, gilt, Mahogany and Walnut Tree Frames, great Variety of Desks and Bookcases with Glass Doors, and Buroes, several sorts of Chairs, Mahogany Tables, Cloathes Chests, Chests of Drawers, and all other sorts of Cabinet Work in Mahogany and Walnut Tree, and other Woods’. A further advertisement of 5 May 1748 added ‘Dining Tables, Card Tables, Buroes Tables, Dressing Tables and Claw Tables, Dumb Waiters, Bason Stands, Beaufets and Corner Cupboards, Tea Boards, Tea Chests’. Despite the finality of this announcement a ‘Mr Crooke, Cabinet maker in St. Paul's Church yard’ was concerned in a court case involving stolen property in December 1750. It is possible however that this was his son, Benjamin Crook jnr, who appears to have continued his father's business at the same address. After his retirement Benjamin Crook snr, appears to have been active still in the affairs of the Joiners’ Co. and in 1757 he was elected Upper Warden.
Crook's only patron to have been identified is the Duke of Montrose who in 1733 paid £7 15s 6d for some chairs and a table for Cley. Crook did however follow a policy of labelling his furniture and this enables an estimate to be made of the type and quality of his wares.
Trade label of Benjamin Crook, c, 1748 [Heal,28.51]. © The Trustees of the British Museum
The labelled pieces recorded include a walnut card table on cabriole legs with ball and claw feet (Percival Griffiths Coll., sold Christie's 10 May 1939, lot 202; Sotheby's, 16 May 1952, lot 128 — illustrated Heal, p. 239; R. W. Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II, figs 25, 139, 217; Wills, English Furniture, 1550– 1760, p. 208). Other items noted are a wainscot bureau (Heal, p. 238), a walnut bureau, a walnut bureau cabinet with mirror fronted doors (advertisement Jeremy Ltd., Conn., November and December 1973) and a walnut tea caddy (Harrogate Antiques Fair, 1977).
Labelled bureau bookcase, tea chest, card table and bureau, all c.1735, are illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs 262-266.
Sources: DEFM; Gilbert, ‘Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture, 1700-1840’ (1996); Bowett, ‘Furniture Woods in London and Provincial Furniture 1700-1800’, Regional Furniture (2008).