Penrith, Cumberland, and Lancaster, Lancs; chair maker (fl.1773- d.1793)
Alleged to be the son of Margaret Dixon, who in 1783 was living with William Bliss in Penrith. He was believed to have served his apprenticeship with a man called Birkbeck in Penrith. He was listed with another twenty-seven men in Gillow’s Petty Ledger for 1773-77. In August 1774 he helped John Dewhurst make a set of dining tables for Williams Hasell which remains at Dalemain today. He also made. ‘.. new pattern-Wiats’ chairs in July 1774 at 7s 6d, each and 6 six chairs common splat backs at 6s, each. In August he made six chairs described as ‘…old splat molded legs': the design for the chairs is illustrated in the 1785 price agreement as chair no. 11. More chairs were made by him in 1780, including fan-back chairs with arched top rails and plain tapered legs at 5s 5d. each, and, in May, six beech chairs with oval backs intended for painting: they were made for Lady Hamilton. In July 1780 he made six Chinese chairs in beech with plain tapered legs at 4s.8d, each.
In February 1783 Gillows wrote a letter on Dixon's behalf as he was sick with a fever, appealing for parish relief to Mr. Hutchinson, tobacconist of Penrith. Gillows had employed him in Lancaster for about ten years but he was still officially settled in Penrith and they were liable to support him and his wife and family in times of illness. Richard Gillow described John Dixon as ‘... worthy, sober, industrious man & a good workman. He has maintained a wife & children without being troublesome to anybody. He has now been in a dangerous fever for about eleven days by wch. misfortune, he, his wife & children are reduced to the necessities of life...’. He was not expected to recover quickly; Richard Gillow observed that he could: ‘...just make shift wth. hard labour & sobriety to maintain himself his wife and four little children’. He received 1gn., so Richard Gillow made another appeal on 27 February : ‘…He is now got better & able to crawl about but too weak to attempt to work for some time to come what adds to his misfortunes-poverty & afflictions his wife & one of his children are now both down in the same lingering fever & very ill... We need not say that a guinea is soon gone in a family of seven persons & 3 of them ill’.
On 15 March 1783 Gillows paid him for making twelve chairs with upright splats. Dixon was paid 5s 6d. for the chairs and an extra 8d for the moulded stay rails. Also in March he made six mahogany chairs with 'Chinese backs' and tapered legs (illus. Boynton (1995) fig. 259), and seven oval-back chairs with three upright splats in June 1783. In July the same year he made some chairs for Gillows ordered by Mr. Trafford. These chairs were finished with wax which Gillows noted was ‘more than oil’ and was included in the price they gave Dixon for making them which was 12s.6d. per chair. In July Dixon made six Chinese chairs with the standard tapered legs. In 1785 he signed the new wage agreement with thirty-two other workmen and he was named on 21 February and 7 March in the Gillow’s Petty Cash Book. His work was listed in their Petty Ledgers from 1769-85. John Dixon was still working for the firm in 1790-91 but in addition to John Dixon the 1792-93 Ledger lists ‘John Dixon's widow’.
Source: Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs (1995); Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840 (2008), II, p.230.