Cornhill London, upholder, cabinet maker and glass grinder (fl.1755–97)
Son of George Kemp of Ramsgate, Kent, mariner. Father of Matthew Kemp and George Kemp jnr, both members of the Upholders’ Co. George Kemp snr was made free of the Upholders’ Co. by redemption under the terms of the 1750 Upholders’ Act on 28 August 1755. In 1788 he was master of the Co. He was already trading by 1757 and for the next ten years is recorded taking out licences to employ non-freemen. In 1765 and 1767 licences were granted for ten men for three months. He took as apps John Southeram, who was free 1765; John Joad from 1767–71; and his own son George, 1788–95. Early addresses are given as either Ball Ct, Cornhill, or the sign of the ‘Golden Ball’, Cornhill. His business premises were however later numbered 64 Cornhill. A trade card with a fine Rococo frame [Heal Coll., BM] describes the nature of his business. He made ‘all Sorts of Cabinets, Chairs, Upholstery, Glasses, Chests of Drawers, Desks, Book-cases, Bureau furnitures, Cabinet, Commode, Dressing, Dining, Pembroke & Breakfast TABLES; easy French Settee & Bed-Chairs, SOPHA'S, Camp, Tent, Field & Down Beds & Blankets of all Sorts. Floor Carpets made to Rooms of any Size. Sconce, Pier, Chimney, Swinging and Dressing Glasses in ye genteelest Taste’. He took out insurance cover for considerable sums but this was in the main on property in various parts of London. His utensils and stock were however valued at £400 in 1777 and a warehouse similarly valued in 1781. It is possible that he manufactured at other locations to that in Cornhill, since in November 1765 a fire in Bishopsgate St was said to have damaged the premises of many tradesmen including Kemp & Co., cabinet maker. This may well have been a correct designation for the business at this period, for directories in 1769–70 list the business as Kemp & Gould. George Kemp was a Fellow of the Society of Arts, 1762.
About 1785 he took his son Matthew into the business and it is from this date listed as George Kemp & Son. In the mid 1780s insurance cover amounted to £500 for utensils and stock and a further £500 specifically for glass. This reflected a growing interest in mirror production. In April 1794 George and Matthew Kemp petitioned the House of Commons regarding the Plate Glass Co. of Ravenhead. In 1790 this company had agreed to supply the Kemps with equipment to build a mill to polish and grind plate glass and to instruct them in their processes. In return the Kemps were to share their experience in plate glass polishing and grinding. A mirror of c. 1760 in style but later in date, is known with a trade label inscribed ‘George Kemp & Son, GLASS-GRINDERS, London’. For illustrations of two looking glasses and the label of George Kemp & Son see Gilbert (1996), figs 538-540 [GL, Upholders’ Co. records; Sun MS vol. 259, p. 520; vol. 260, p. 29; vol. 261, p. 627; vol. 296, p. 27; vol. 299, p. 216; vol. 321, p. 586; vol. 334, p. 167; Hand in Hand MS vol. 105, p. 73; City Licence bks, vols 2–5 Gents Mag., November 1765, p. 535; Heal; Wills, Looking-Glasses, pp. 50, 154; Antiques, May 1968, p. 647].
Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).