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Simson (or Simpson), George (1780-1839)

Simson (or Simpson), George

19 St Paul's Churchyard, London; upholder, cabinet maker and undertaker (1780–1839)

Son of John Simpson (sic) of Chatham, Kent, surgeon and apothecary. App. to Noah Chivers of London on 2 December 1772 and free of the Upholders’ Co. by servitude in February 1780. By 1787 had established his own business at the St Paul's Churchyard address at which he was to continue to trade until 1839. The long length of trading might suggest that he was assisted by a son, possibly of the same name, and for the period 1837–39 some directories do list ‘Simpson & Son’. In 1793 he subscribed to Sheraton's Drawing Book and in 1803 was included in the list of master cabinet makers in the Cabinet Dictionary. The business was of substantial size and in June 1792 insurance cover of £1,700 was taken out on utensils and stock. The total insurance cover came to £2,700 and the premises in St Paul's Churchyard were described as consisting of no fewer than seven properties adjoining no. 19. A house at Peckham was also included in the property covered. Insurance was to remain high reaching £6,000 for stock and utensils alone in October 1808. By August 1822 the total was £10,000 which included £8,200 for stock and utensils, a small quantity of which were kept in a stable building in Little Carter Lane. Earlier, in January of that year, insurance of £1,600 had been taken on 2 Prospect Pl., Chelsea which may have been Simson's dwelling house.

Little is known of Simson's customers. Payments were made to him by the 2nd Viscount Palmerston possibly in connection with Broadlands, Hants. A bill dated 13 February 1809 for £324 16s 10¼d for upholstery goods supplied by Simson is in the accounts for Gorhambury House, Herts. Much of his furniture is, however, known from pieces marked with his trade label. The marked furniture appears to be in the styles of the last two decades of the 18th century and the early to mid Regency and it is possible that this practice was discontinued in the later years of trading. In its place furniture was marked with a stamp reading ‘GEORGE SIMPSON UPHOLDER CABINET MAKER & UNDERTAKER, LONDON’. This stamp has been recorded on a rosewood writing desk dating from the 1830s. The quality of the furniture bearing Simson's label is generally high. On the plainer pieces fine figured mahogany and other timbers such as satinwood and sabicu were used. Marquetry and painted decoration was featured on pieces of late 18th-century date such as a table with Neoclassical decoration including a fine central roundel featuring Venus and Cupid. A labelled Pembroke table with a shaped top is veneered with sycamore and has an inlaid central patera. A pair of Regency calamander and rosewood card tables are embellished with ormolu and brass inlay was used on a mahogany cabinet in the Egyptian taste. A bookcase in the Egyptian style has also been noted. Chests of drawers with Simson's labels are either bow or serpentine fronted and fitted with slides. Items that have been noted with his label range in size from wardrobes and sideboards to a cutlery box and an inlaid two division tea caddy. A fine inlaid secretariat cabinet of c.1800 has close resemblances to the style of work used on cabinets sold by Weeks's Museum, Titchborne St (Figs 22– 23). It is therefore probable that these fine fitted pieces of furniture supplied through the business of Thomas Weeks were made in Simson's workshops. [Heal; GL, Upholders’ Co. records; Sun MS vol. 388, p. 81; vol. 444, ref. 821734; vol. 487, ref. 978846; vol. 489, ref. 987506, ref. 995571; Herts. RO, Gorhambury account bks, XI 81; Antique Collecting, September 1979; Antique Collector, March-April 1946, p. 58; C. Life, 10 June 1939, p. lxviii, 10 April 1975, supplement p. 48; 29 January 1981, p. 290; Conn., vol. 104, p. 160, November 1969, p. cxxxviii; V&A archives; Anderson Galleries, NY, 8 December 1921, lot 333; Christie's, 26 January 1984, lot 133; Phillips’, 18 May 1976, lot 189; Sotheby's, 26 March 1965, lot 114] Simson’s  two labels, both of which have the same wording but one probably introduced c.1800, the other later, and a number of labelled pieces of furniture are illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs. 840-866.

Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).


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