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Moore, James Snr (1670–1726)

Moore, James snr

Nottingham Ct, Short's Gdns, St Giles-in-the-Fields, London; cabinet maker (c. 1670–d. 1726)

Moore may be the ‘James Moore’ born to James and Mary Moore, and christened on 10 December 1670 at St Dunstan's, Stepney. However, when Moore gave evidence against Henry Joynes, Comptroller of the works at Blenheim Palace (Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough having gone to law against many of the Blenheim craftsmen in 1724–25) he stated his age to be fifty-four. We can assume therefore that he was born c. 1670, and that his presence on jobs in an app. capacity came about 1685–90. There is no note of his apprenticeship among the records of either the Joiners’ or Glass Sellers’ Companies, but it seems sensible to assume an early connection with the Gumleys. In 1708 he subscribed to a book by the architect John James — his translation of Claude Perrault's A Treatise of the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture. From 1714 he was in partnership with John Gumley for royal commissions, but he was of course able to deal also with private work and seems to have been able to undertake commissions from about 1700. The trade he had learned under Gumley included familiarizing himself with the creation of carved and gilded mirrors (on two of which Gumley's name has been noted) and with all the problems inherent in the moulding and working of japan and gesso. There is a small group of gesso-covered tables and stands in the Royal Collection, or at houses such as Boughton. One stand in the Royal Collection bears the crowned cipher of George I, and is incised ‘MOORE’ on the top rim. Others are in a style reliably enough his to warrant firm attribution. These items have been illustrated, together with an incised chest formerly belonging to the 1st Duke of Marlborough.

In 1716 Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough dismissed Sir John Vanbrugh from supervising the building of Blenheim Palace. She turned then to James Moore, who became known as her ‘Oracle’ and who became as much involved with building work and the supervision of fitting out apartments as with cabinetmaking. By this time Moore had set up separately from Gumley at Short's Gdns in the London parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields. Insurance he took out on 4 June 1712 ‘for his goods’ (no sums stated) was ‘over against the Golden Bottle in Shorts Gardens’ and may imply the firm date of his setting up business there. He insured further in 1714 — dwelling house £100, household goods and stock in trade, £100, stock in trade in shed, £200, glass in shed £100, stock in hand in 3 sheds, and yard £200, Total £700. From this address Moore had married his first wife, Rebecca Moss, and by her had eight children. It is necessary to set the record straight on Moore's alleged (but incorrect) association with the Meller family of Erddig, N. Wales. In 1944 Edwards and Jourdain illustrated a gesso side-table at Erdigg which they attributed to James Moore. However when the relevant archives were re-examined the frequent use of the phrase ‘received more’ to denote cash payments was noted as being the likely cause of earlier attributions of furniture to James Moore (especially the State Bed, by John Belchier and John Hutt, 1720–21, cf. John Hardy, Shield Landi and others, The State Bed from Erthig, V & A, 1975). Whilst the Blenheim Comptroller, Henry Joynes and his assistant Jefferson, against whom Moore had given evidence, may have been biased in their opinion Jefferson recorded that Tilleman Bobart, another of the Blenheim Comptrollers and James Moore were rogues: ‘Its hard to tell which is the Biggest for Bobart has as bad a name in the country as the other has in London’. In 1720 Moore's business was at a level where he had, as journeyman, a maker who became one of the most important in the reigns of George I and II, Benjamin Goodison. His own son James Moore jnr was also involved with the family business. James Moore snr died in October 1726: ‘one day last week died Mr Moore, the King's cabinet-maker of a wound on his head, Fell when walking in the Street’. He was buried at St Giles-in-the-Fields on 18 October 1726 (church register entry). His will had as its executors John Goudge and the plasterer David Audsley, and mentions, in addition to his second wife Elizabeth and son, James, two daughters. Everything was put to one quarter shares and included ‘all my estate in Kingston on Thames and all my household goods and plate and jewells together with the … dwelling house in Shorts Gardens’. Moore's entire stock was advertised to be sold in Daily Post, 1 July 1728, a seemingly surprising event in view of his son being a cm. Some light is however thrown on this by Moore's will in which he leaves his son ‘my Materialls of Trade, namely Woods and Tooles’ but if his wife Elizabeth were to follow the trade, she was to pay her son £100. DALKEITH PALACE, Scotland. 1700–01: ‘Worke done for her Grace ye Dutches of Bucclough by James Moore.’ Moore supplied ‘pedestals for china, black and gold corner slabs; poles to carry them; 2 Pedistalls for the Jarrs under the Cabinetts; a speckled Cabinett & frame with black & Gold hinges & Locks; a Buro made of Japan & Locks; 3 black & Gold frames for the Glas Painting; 4 guilt Pedistalls for Bottles; 2 flowerd Japan Cabinetts & frames with Locks & Hinges’. BLENHEIM PALACE, Oxon. (1st Duke of Marlborough). c. 1705–20: In view of Moore's association with building work at the Palace after Vanbrugh's dismissal it would be not unusual to find references to furniture provided. A gesso chest (ex coll. 1st Duke) was illus. Burlington, July 1977, pl. 11, and is similar to one at Boughton (GCM, pl. 23). The 1740 inventory of Blenheim stated ‘Long Cabinet, a black lacquired table of Mr Moores’; Little Round Room before the Three Cornered Room ‘a folding black lacquer table of Mr Moore's’. Some was noted in the C. Life article (below). ROYAL PALACES. 1707–26: With John Gumley he provided pier-glasses, hanging glasses, bureaux, tables and did repairs. Two carved and gilt stands were provided for Kensington Palace in 1707. The main commissions were for St James’s Palace, 1714-15, and Kensington Palace, 1719-27. Associated with these commissions are a gesso side-table with the crowned cipher of George I, incised ‘Moore’,, and a second, again carved with the crowned cipher of George I on the apron. This cipher also appears on the top and is incised ‘Moore’. Various stands are also incised ‘Moore’ or attributed to him on stylistic evidence. A walnut side table, one of four made for Kensington Palace, was attributed to Gumley and Moore by R. W. Symonds, C. Life, 14 March 1947, p. 473, but he noted that in their accounts there ‘appears no item that from its description would allow it to be identified as relating to them’. See however Ian Caldwell, The Antique Collector, October 1985, pp. 79–80, for a further comment on these tables. GCM, pls 18–26 gives a good idea of Moore's gesso furniture but the attribution of furniture to him at Erddig (pls 31, 35–36) is not substantiated, being as noted in the foregoing biographical account, a misreading of accounts, ‘more’ meaning more money. RALPH, 1st Duke of Montagu. 1708: DEF, 11, 369 notes that reference to Moore occurs in the domestic expenses of the Duke's household. It has not proved possible to trace the text, but a chest and table at Boughton in his style is some indication of a possible service by Moore. NORTH CRAY, Lincs. (Hon. Wrey and Lady Mary Saunderson). 1708–15, 1716–17, 1722: June 15, 1708. ‘Pd Mr Moore's Bill. £18. 10s.’ June 16. ‘Pd Mr Moore for adding more gilding in my cabinet and for mending a mitre coap & giving to his man. £10.’ Further payments appear in each year 1709–15 (with further items in 1716, 1717 and 1722) for japan dishes, glass and stands, gilding a cabinet frame, putting up pictures, including ‘Indian Pictures … in blew & gold frames’ and ‘4 Black & Gold frames’; ‘altering a scriptor’, ‘4 Dutch Fasheon Chaires’, ‘a sweet meate presse’. Moore charged on 15 September 1715 for ‘a day my selfe and horse, £1. 5s.’ and ‘2 dayes for a man. os. 10d.’. It is idle to speculate if this ‘man’ may have been Benjamin Goodison who was calling Moore ‘my master’ as late as 1720. MARLBOROUGH HOUSE, London (1st Duchess of Marlborough). 1709–11: Provided furniture and also some supervision during building. UNSPECIFIED LOCATION. 1720: 24 December. £20 paid. BURLINGTON HOUSE, Piccadilly (3rd Earl of Burlington). 1720: 1 April, Sconces and Branches £6. 6s. ‘received for the use of my Master, Mr James Moore by me Benjamin Goodison’. HARCOURT HOUSE, Cavendish Sq., London (1st Viscount Harcourt). 1724: Unspecified work.

Source: DEFM; Bowett, ‘George I’s furniture at Kensington Palace, Apollo (November 2005); Bird, ‘The Furniture and Furnishing of St James's Palace, 1714-1715’, Furniture History (2014)

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