Skip to main content

Grendey, Giles (1693-1780)

Grendey, Giles

London; cabinet maker (b.1693–d.1780)

Born in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, Giles Grendey was the son of William and Anne (neé Hall) Grendey.

In 1709 he was apprenticed to William Sherborne and made free of the Joiners' Company in 1716. By 1726 he was indenturing his own apprentices, one called Christopher Petfield, who petitioned at the Middlesex General Sessions to be discharge from his apprenticeship and for repayment of the ‘consideracon money’ of £5. Apparently suffering great abuse at the hands of his master, the order for discharge recorded that Grendey ‘beat Petfield in a very barbarous manner, sometimes with a great stick and at other times knocking him downe and then kicking him in the face and other parts and in stead of learning him his trade of Joyner sett him to sawing large timber which noe ways relates to the trade and hath likewise often theatened to be the death of the s.d peter’. 

In 1720 Grendey married Elizabeth Van Knyven at St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street. He was elected to the Livery of the Joiner's Company on 23 September 1729. An indication of his status in 1731 is seen in newspaper accounts of a fire that broke out in his workshop in Aylesbury House, St John's Square, Clerkenwell, in the early morning of August 3rd. Grendey was described as a ‘Cabinet-Maker and Chair Maker’, who suffered great loss. Among the stock destroyed was ‘an easy Chair of such rich and curious Workmanship, that he had refus'd 500 Guineas for it, it being intended, ’tis said, to be purchas'd by a Person of Quality who design'd it as a Present to a German Prince’, along with furniture to the value of £1,000, which he ‘had pack'd for Exportation against the next Morning’. Fortunately the house and stock were insured [Daily Courant, Daily Journal, Daily Post, Daily Advertiser, all 4 August 1731; Read's Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer, 7 August 1731].From 1732–39 he supplied furniture to Richard Hoare of Barn Elms, and in 1739 he worked for Sir Jacob de Bouverie of Longford Castle.

Grendey's wife, Elizabeth died at their St John's Square home in Clerkenwell (1740); she had borne several children, Mary (baptised 18 January 1721 and buried (1 December 1722); Elizabeth (baptised 23 October 1722); a second Mary; another daughter, Sukey; and a son, Samuel (baptised 7 January 1723). 

From 1746–56 Grendey supplied furniture to Henry Hoare of Stourhead. In 1747 he was elected Upper Warden of the Joiners’ Company and advertised himself in the Daily Advertiser as ‘cabinet maker in St John's Square Clerkenwell’. He is listed in the London Directory of 1755 as ‘Grindey, Giles, St. John's Square’ and in the same year, on 31 March, his daughter, Sukey, married the London cabinet maker, John Cobb. Cobb's Drummonds bank account records substantial payments to ‘Mr Grendey’ in 1759 and 1763.

In 1755 Grendey, still at Clerkenwell, made his will leaving £1,000 to each of his daughters and leaving the rest of his property to be shared equally between his two sons-in-law, both described as merchants: Goodson Vines of Bedford Row, who had married Elizabeth; and Frederick Rasch of London, who had married Mary. 

On 16 January 1758 he insured his St John's Square Clerkenwell property for £1000 and on 13 April of the same year, ‘his household goods utensils stock in trade (glass excluded) in his dwelling house & warehouse at £800. Stock in his yard at £200. [London Metropolitan Archive, Sun MS vol. 121, p. 542; vol. 122]. 

He was elected Upper Warden of the Joiners’ Company again in 1757 and in 1766 was elected Master. However by then he was seventy-two years of age and apparently neglecting his duties; in June 1767 the Clerk wrote requesting better attendance and that he was to attend the next Court, or ‘such methods will be taken as shall be adjudged proper, which ‘tis hoped he will prevent as the same will be equally disagreeable to the Court as to himself’.

In 1770 the premises of George Seddon (insured for £4,300) were mortgaged to Grendey [London Metropolitan Archive, Sun MS, 1770, ref. 281763].

By 1779, he added a codicil to his will and had moved to Palmer's Green where he had ‘a dwelling house, coach house, stable building, and ground … lately purchased … and which I have since converted into five cottages’. He died there on Friday, 3 March 1780, aged eighty-seven [London Evening Post, 7–9 March 1780, Gents Magazine, 1780, p. 154].

He labelled some of his products and surviving labels have allowed their identification, of which two are known, with one illustrated below:

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Trade label GILES GRENDEY / St. John's Square, Clerkenwell, / LONDON, /MAKES and Sells all sorts of / CABINET GOODS, / Tables, Glasses, &c., c. 1730-40 [MET 37.115]. Gift of Louis J. Boury, 1937Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The labels have been noted on a wide variety of pieces, all apparently dating from about 1735 to 1755; there is no obvious conclusion to be drawn from the type of label used.

Seat furniture by Grendey is sometimes stamped with initials: ‘HW’, ‘EA’, ‘GIL’, ‘TM’, ‘IT’. ‘TT’, ‘MW’, and ‘ID’ have been noted. Such initials are likely to be those of individual chair makers he employed. His known works are listed below, most fall into three stylistic groups: neat well-made pieces in walnut and mahogany, similar pieces lacquered in scarlet for the Spanish market, and a minority of more elaborate works with idiosyncratic carved decoration and shaped panels.

He seems not to have worked to any great extent for the nobility and gentry, and the portrait which emerges from the existing evidence is of a provincial immigrant to London who made solid, well designed, middle-class goods for the home market, specialised goods for the export trade, and may have been also active as a timber merchant; in 1762 he supplied mahogany to Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.

  • BARN ELMS, Surrey (Richard Hoare), 1732 bill for chest of drawers, ‘Burow Table’. dressing glasses, chimney glasses, ‘Wrighting Disk’, etc. Total £38 14s 6d; 1732 bill for wall sconces, gold frames for glasses, tables, chest, etc. Total £14 16s 6d; 1737 bill for dressing chair, cabinet with glass doors, etc. Total £21 17s; 1739 bill for alterations to furniture, glass frames, etc. Total £17 6s 6d [National Art Library, V&A: English manuscripts & tradesmen's bills, Sir R. Hoare, 1731– 54, 86 NN3].
  • LONGFORD CASTLE, Wiltshire (Sir Jacob de Bouverie). 1739 ledger payment: ‘May 14 Greenday the chair maker a bill with an allowance of £8 8s for a sidebord table he had from Red Lyon Street’ £68.
  • STOURHEAD, Wiltshire (Henry Hoare). 1746–56 account book payments, including 29 April 1746 £64 for chairs; March 27 1751, £133 2s 9d; June 24 1752, £10 17s [Wiltshire Record Office, MS 383/6].
  • KEDLESTON HALL, Derbyshire (Lord Scarsdale). 1762 bill of 13 January for ‘1 Fine Jamaia. Mahog. Plank …, £21.0.0. To Sawing I Cut in Do 1s. 4d, to Carrying to the Swan Inn 1s 6d, Total £1210 Receiv'd Josh. Lawes’ [Kedleston Hall archives].

LABELLED FURNITURE Armchair and chair, mahogany, boldly carved. [P. Macquoid, Age of Mahogany, 1906]; Armchair, chairs, day-beds, mirrors, tables, and tripod candle-sticks, deal, oak and beech with scarlet japanning, at least 77 pieces, Duke of Infantado, Lazcano Castle, Spain, now widely scattered. [R. W. Symonds, 1935, C. Gilbert, 1971].

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This daybed is part of the very large suite of red-japanned furniture supplied by Grendey to the Palace of Lazcano in Northern Spain, c. 1735-40 [W.64-1938]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

japanned side chair
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lacquered and gilded side chair made of beech with caned seat. Part of the suite supplied to the Duke of Infantado, c.1735-40 [MET 37.115]. Gift of Louis J. Boury, 1937. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

card table
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lacquered and gilded card table made of beech and lined with felt. Part of the suite supplied to the Duke of Infantado, c.1735-40 [MET 37.114]. Gift of Louis J. Boury, 1937. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

  • Wardrobe, mahogany, broken pediment, shaped panels [R. Edwards & M. Jourdain, 1942]
  • Cabinet, mahogany, scrolled pediment, mirrored doors, carved apron, Colonial Williamsburg. [R. Symonds, 1951] Mirror, in farmhouse in Southern Norway. [Joy, Conn., CLXIX, 1968, 18]
  • Cabinet, mahogany, scrolled pediment, mirrored doors, carved apron, Colonial Williamsburg.  Mirror, in farmhouse in Southern Norway. [Joy, Conn., CLXIX, 1968, 18]
  • Chest of drawers, mahogany. [Sotheby's, London, 15 October 1971, lot 73]
  • Double chest of drawers, walnut [C. Gilbert, 1973]
  • Mirror, walnut, gilt eagle in roundel, private collection, Norway. [S. Jervis, 1971]
  • Six chairs, walnut, ladderback, Newport Church, Essex. [S. Jervis, 1974]
  • Table, mahogany, drop-leaf. [Sotheby's, London, 9 November 1977, lot 47]
  • Chest of drawers, mahogany. [Christie's, London, 30 November 1978, lot 97]
  • Twelve chairs, walnut, cabriole legs. [C. Gibbs Ltd, London, 1979]
  • Four chairs and small sofa en suite, mahogany, boldly carved, same pattern as Macquoid chairs. [Gunton Park, Norfolk, Sale, 25 November 1980, lot 2014]
  • Three chairs, and armchair, walnut, shells on legs and top rail. [Sotheby's, New York, 21 November 1981, lots 233–35] 

Source: DEFM

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.