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Edinburgh Upholstery Company (1754-1773)

Edinburgh Upholstery Company

Carruber’s Close, Edinburgh, Scotland; cabinet makers and upholsterers (fl.1754-73)

The Edinburgh Upholstery, Joiner and Glass-manufactory Company was established in 1754. It was founded by James Cullen, who had returned from London to Edinburgh in 1752, ‘together with several of the principal wrights in Edinburgh’. The name was soon shortened to the Edinburgh Upholstery Company. They advertised ‘at their warehouse in Carrubber’s Close… upon the cheapest terms, a very large assortment of all kinds of Household Furniture in mahogony [sic] or other cheaper woods, great variety of Upholstery Goods, such as bed, window, curtain and chair stuffs, great choice of new and fashionable papers for hanging rooms and screens, either Scotch, English, or Indian kinds; feather and down beds, matresses [sic], blankets and bed covers, at all prices; with all kinds of Scotch carpets and trance cloths of ingrain and common colours; chimney and sconce glasses of the very best London plate in carved and plain frames of a quite new taste. Likewise deal in all kinds of brass and iron, mounting for cabinet furniture, leather, brass and wooden casters, mounted bells and tackle, hair cloths and brass nails, all of the very best kinds, with great variety of coffin furniture, and a great many other articles too tedious to mention… All sorts of Upholstery work, done after the most fashionable taste and easiest terms; funerals furnished in town and country in the Scotch and English methods, in most genteel and frugal manner. Also at said warehouse, black, and other coloured marble chimney pieces, hearths and slab tables, beautifully variegated and very cheap’.

Among the other ‘principal wrights’ concerned in the Company were John Peat (Company clerk) and Alexander Wardrop, and Alexander Peter was also a partner. Although no mention was made of Peter when the Company was formed, on its dissolution in 1759 he had a share. Most of the Company's goods were sold, and Peter's remaining 'goods and cabinet work' were moved to his own warehouse. The dissolution of the Company was probably prompted by Cullen’s return to London but a successor Company continued under Peat’s direction until 1773 when it became John Peat & Co.

During its relatively short life the Company undertook some significant commissions, most notably at Hopetoun House, to which they supplied almost four hundred pounds worth of furniture and upholstery between 1752 and 1759. This included 'two very neat carved marble slab frames… £18' and two 'Carved & painted Sconce Frames' made for the State Dining Room, together with '10 Mohy fine Carved Eagle Claw foot Chairs' at thirty shillings and '4 Elbow ditto', for an extra five shillings. All these items survive at Hopetoun, as do a matching sofa and the dining tables of the 'finest' mahogany 'to join' at four pounds for a pair. The Hopetoun hall chairs and settees, although undocumented, are almost certainly by the Company because they were specified by Cullen in a Memorandum for the furnishing of the State Apartment which he drew up in 1753: 'two white painted wooden settees [and) four chairs do.' The State Drawing Room seat furniture was made by the Hopetoun wright, Thomas Welsh, but it is thought to be based on a pattern chair suppled by the Company in 1758.

In 1762 the Company made dining chairs and tables for the Earl of Lauderdale for which correspondence survives, debating the type of upholstery covers to be used and explaining the difficulty of obtaining good quality mahogany of broad enough dimensions for dining tables. Known commissions of the Edinburgh Upholstery Company are: Duke of Argyll, 1756-9 [NLS MS 17626-17629] Lord Hopetoun, 1755-9 [NRA(S)8881147/388] Lord Lauderdale, 1760-62 [NRA(S)832/1116,2/9 & 617] Lord Milton, 1762 [NLS MS16887/58] Sir James Clerk, 1756 [GDI8/1839/2/53] Robert Dundas, 1755-6 [NRA(S)3246/vols 51 & 63] John Campbell of Barcaldine, 1756 [GDI70/284/1] Alexander Hay of Drumelzier, 1757-8 [NRA(S)2720/136] Mrs Hepburn of Moncraig, 1768 [NLS MSI76071141] Thomas Hog of Newliston, 1774 [NRA(S)114I127] Incorporation of Mary's Chapel. 1758 [NLS Acc7228/2/13]

Sources: Bamford, ‘Dictionary of Edinburgh Wrights and Furniture Makers’, Furniture History (1983); Pryke, ‘The Eighteenth-Century Furniture Trade in Edinburgh’, PhD thesis, St Andrews (1995), pp. 111-116 and passim.