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Willson, Thomas (1799–1854)

Willson, Thomas

68 Great Queen Street, London; furniture broker, etc. (fl. 1799–1854)

The impressed mark, ‘T. WILLSON 68 GREAT QUEEN STREET LONDON’, has been found stamped on some late 18th-/early-19th century furniture. Directories have yielded the undermentioned information:

  • 1799: Thomas Wilson, auctioneer, Little Queen Street
  • 1802: Thomas Wilson, auctioneer and upholsterer, 28 Little Queen Street
  • 1821: Thomas Willson, broker and appraiser, 68 Great Queen Street.
  • Thomas Wilson, 28 Little Queen Street.
  • 1822: Thomas Wilson, auctioneer and appraiser, 68 Great Queen Street
  • 1823–25: Thomas Wilson, auctioneer, 28 Little Queen St. 1826: Thomas Wilson, furniture broker, 68 Great Queen Street 1828: Thomas Wilson, furniture appraiser and broker, 68 Great Queen Street
  • 1829: Thomas Wilson, furniture appraiser and broker, 68 Great Queen Street
  • 1830–37: Mary Wilson & Son, 68 Great Queen Street
  • 1838–54: Matthew Wilson/Willson, furniture warehouse/ furniture works/u, 68 Great Queen Street
  • 1839: J. Willson, furniture broker, 34 Little Pulteney Street, Golden Square

This is perhaps the same man who in December 1837 supplied a ‘Large Library Table with 8 drawers, top covered with leather’, for the Soane Museum. Compilers of directories vary in accuracy and there seems to have been a predictable confusion between the surnames Willson and the more familiar Wilson. Available material suggests that the Willsons were likely to have been dealers in good quality second-hand furniture (brokers), although one label has been traced which states that the firm was founded in 1818 and that Thomas Willson was a cabinet maker as well as furniture broker. 

The latter activity is confirmed by a secretaire press of c.1800, that is stamped ‘GILLOWS LANCASTER’ and ‘T. WILLSON 68 GREAT QUEEN STREET’. Although some of the 1838–54 entries refer to ‘Furniture Works’, the term may have been employed to describe a repair workshop and not necessarily a manufactory. Pieces of furniture bearing the distinctive stamp range in date over the years c.1780 to c.1840 and are of mahogany unless otherwise stated. They include:

  • Pembroke table, the top of serpentine outline and the supports of tapering turned form with brass cup castors.
  • Chest of drawers, serpentine, top crossbanded with ebonized border and inlaid stringing; four long drawers crossbanded with satinwood and the chamfered angles inlaid with pendent husks.
  • Secretaire-chest, serpentine, top with gadrooned border, having three long drawers below a simulated pair that fall to reveal fitted secretaire, the canted angles carved with strapwork entwining foliage and flowers.
  • Chest of drawers, bow-fronted, three small drawers above four long drawers all with satinwood bandings.
  • Toilet table, banded in ebony and satinwood. Divided tray top enclosing compartments, with a drawer in the front and tapering legs.
  • Sideboard, bow-fronted, two deep drawers flanking central shallow drawer over a tambour-fronted cupboard, the drawers cross-banded with satinwood and inlaid with fan ornament and the whole raised on square tapering legs with spade feet.
  • Sideboard, Sheraton period, in the Dining Room at Wallington, Northumb.
  • Davenport, late Regency period.
  • Wardrobe, c.1835 with two narrow hanging compartments flanking six drawers.

Examples of the stamped furniture, including items impressed ‘M. WILLSON’ by his widow Mary or son Matthew, are illustrated in Gilbert (1996), figs. 989-1006.

Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996); Dorey, ‘Post-Soane Furniture’, Furniture History (2008).

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