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Channon, John (1711-83)

Channon, John, 109 St Martin's Lane, London, cm (b. 1711–d. c. 1783). In the 18th century there were many Channons living in Exeter and Tiverton, and it is not always possible to establish their precise relationship to each other. However, it is likely that John was the younger brother of Otho, an Exeter chairmaker, and that both were the sons of Otho Channon who on 8 October 1697 married Anne Sone and who appears in the Exeter poor rate bk between 1699 and 1732 wherein he is described as innkeeper, 1714 and 1719, and as a serge maker 1725–26. Otho Channon snr lived in the parish of St Sidwell, the baptism of his son Otho being listed in the church register on 4 November 1698 and of his son John on 21 May 1711. In 1726, at the age of fifteen, John was app. to his elder brother Otho ‘of Exeter joiner’ for a consideration of £8. [PRO, IR 1/13/155, vol. 6, p. 1012] He would have completed his training in 1733 and is next heard of in London in 1737 when he set up a cabinet making business at premises ‘upon the Pavement’ on the west side of St Martin's Lane, later numbered 109. His name first appears in the Westminster poor rate bk for the last quarter of 1737. He lived in the house until 1783 when he was succeeded by Hugh Channon who vacated it after a year. The church registers of St Martin-in-the Fields record the baptism and subsequent burial of five children born to John Channon and his wife Martha between 1758 and 1771.

No trade card or label issued by Channon has been recorded, but it is possible that his shop sign was ‘The Golden Fleece’ since the inner hinge plate of a cabinet on stand in the V & A [W. 7–1964] which has been attributed to him is engraved with a ram pendant from twisted snakes and it is known that, in 1742 and 1747 one house ‘on the Pavement’ in St Martin's Lane displayed the sign of ‘The Golden Fleece’. However it is not mentioned in the following advertisement which appeared in The Craftsman, 24 July 1742: ‘This is to give Notice, that Furbur's Collection of Twelve Monthly Flower Prints are now reprinted, and to prevent the Public being imposed upon, by spurious Copies sold about Town, the original Prints are Sixteen inches and a Quarter by Twelve, with a Handsome Title Plate of the Subscriber's Names, and under each Plate is engrav'd these words, From the Collection of Robert Furbur, Gardener at Kensington, design'd by P. Cassteels, and engrav'd by H. Fletcher; and now sold colour'd for Two Guineas a Set by Samuel Sympson, Engraver and Print Seller, in Maiden-Lane, Covent Garden; John Channon, Cabinet maker and Frame Maker, in St Martin's Lane and George Lacy who colours the said Flowers, in RedLion Court, Long-Acre. NB At the above Places are sold Mr. Furbur's Collection of Fruit Pieces’. Another notice mentioning Channon appeared in the Daily Advertiser, 23 November 1742: ‘Mr Eade having left off his publick school in St. Martin's Lane, continues to teach (only abroad) some few Persons Writing, Arithmetic and Merchants’ Accounts, in a very short and easy Method. His Lodgings are at Mr. Channon's, a Cabinet-Warehouse, upon the Pavement in St. Martin's Lane’.

John Channon's fire insurance policy dated 9 January 1760 gives the following values: on household goods, utensils and stock in trade in dwelling house £500; glass in trade £100; household goods, utensils and stock in trade in a house behind £150; wearing apparel £50; glass therein not exceeding £50; utensils, stock in trade in shop only in the yard behind £150. Total £1,000. [GL, Sun MS vol. 130, p. 283] In 1741 in the app. records John Channon is described as a joiner, but in 1752 when he took app. named Rowland Jackson, as a cm. He required a fee of £25 and £15 respectively on these occasions, but when in 1762 Edward Henry Williamson was taken as app. the sum of £50 was charged. [S of G, app. index]

The only signed or labelled pieces of furniture by John Channon are a spectacular pair of bookcases at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon, bearing brass tablets engraved ‘J Channon Fecit 1740’. In 1965–66 John Hayward published a group of furniture which, on account of design, type and quality of wood, manner of construction, similarities in brass inlay decoration and ormolu mounts appeared to come from the same workshop. He attributed them all to John Channon on the evidence of stylistic analogy and technical parallells with the Powderham bookcases. [V & A Bulletin, January 1965 and April 1966] John Channon's furniture displays a strong continental influence in the association of brass inlay with Boulle-work, the use of tortoiseshell veneer on arched pediments, refined gilt brass mounts and vigorous serpentine shapes which show an affinity with German furniture. In addition to engraved brass inlay, pieces attributed to Channon exhibit the following characteristics. The wood is not ordinary Cuban mahogany but is particularly richly figured, often with rosewood cross banding. Drawer linings are frequently mahogany and when oak is employed the bottoms may be of framed panel construction. Cabinets have brass cock beads, mouldings and stringing, the latter sometimes precisely engraved with very fine bordering lines. The inlay work on many pieces differs from the familiar Boulle technique of veneering sheets of worked brass onto a carcase; instead, decorative brass elements are inset directly into the mahogany or rosewood surface. The locks on several cabinets and boxes are fitted with an unusual hinged keyhole cover, released by a concealed spring. Two writing cabinets have a desk drawer that pulls forward on divided front corner trusses. Channon's distinctive repertoire of flamboyant ormolu mounts include satyr and nereid masks, elaborate cartouche-shaped handle and keyhole plates and elaborate foot mounts. His decorative brass inlay work is curiously old fashioned, almost Bérainesque in character compared with the progressive Rococo mounts. The principal items attributed to John Channon are:

Pair of bookcases signed and dated 1740 (Powderham Castle, Devon)

Cabinet on stand (V & A, No. W. 7–1964)

Bureau cabinet (V & A, No. W. 37–1953)

Writing table (V & A, No. W. 44–1947)

Armchair (V & A, No. W. 32–1959)

Bureau (Kenwood House, London)

Bureau cabinet, stamped ‘J.GRAVELY’ (Hayward, 1965, p. 15)

Library desk (V & A, No. W. 4–1956)

Library desk, companion to above (Sotheby's, 12 February 1965, lot 88)

Medal cabinet (Bristol City Art Gallery)

Commode (Temple Newsam House, Leeds)

Commode (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

Writing cabinet, made for the Murray family of Ochtertyre, Scotland (Temple Newsam House, Leeds)

Writing cabinet, ex. Leverhulme Coll. (C. Life, 13 January 1950, p. 104, fig. 2)

Cabinet on stand (C. Life, 18 October 1956, p. 893)

Tea caddy (V & A, No. W. 11–1956)

Tea caddy (V & A Bulletin, October 1966, p. 146)

Supper table (V & A, No. W. 22–1962)

Bureau cabinet (C. Life, 3 June 1962, p. 1620)

The Germanic personality of some of the pieces ascribed to Channon's workshop raises the question as to whether he may have been German or have employed German craftsmen. The name Otho recurs in the family, certainly over three generations, while his mother's name Anne Sone, could be an Anglicised version of Anne Sohn or Sonne. Peter Thornton and Desmond Fitz-Gerald have explored a possible link with the great Abraham Roentgen who came to London about 1733 and worked for several different masters over a number of years. Their hypothesis rests on certain similarities between furniture made by Roentgen after his return to Germany and pieces thought to have been produced in the Channon workshop. The items of furniture listed above all date from about 1740–55. It may be that John and his elder brother Otho were both involved in the business since the subscribers to Chippendale's Director, 1754 include ‘–Channon, Senr.’, and ‘—Channon, Jnr.’ If this is so, Otho's death in 1756 coincided with a change in the firm's style to conform more with routine fashions, which explains why Channon's later products are not readily distinguishable from others working at the time. POWDERHAM CASTLE, Devon (Sir William Courtenay). A massive and very richly styled pair of rosewood library bookcases with fine engraved brass inlay work and gilt carving, each bear a brass plaque inscribed ‘J. Channon Fecit 1740’ (the initial was originally misread ‘T’). The Powderham Castle papers [Ledger 1, f. 104] record under 29 April 1741 ‘Cash to John Channon part on acct — £50’. The entry presumably refers to these bookcases. The bookcases, now in the ante-room on the ground floor, were commissioned for the library on the first floor of the north east wing, created 1739–46. The room still retains its original chimney piece, possibly by Otho Channon. HORNBY HALL, Lancs. (Mrs Anne Fenwick). A bill, some letters and a receipt spanning the years 1766–69 survive. The account dated 18 June 1766 totals £6 8s 5½d and itemises ‘2 pictures in carved and gilt, frames £5.5.0.’ and ‘a small pair of garrendoles painted flack white with brass norsels, hold fasses and screws 15s 6d’. [Preston RO, RCHy 2/6/8] At the bottom of this bill Channon wrote: ‘If you have a Desire for any Perticular Picture or Pictures please to lett me know what will sute for it Offon falls in my way to Meet with Some Very Good I shall take A pleasure to Oblege you Without any fee or Reward’. In a further letter to Mrs Fenwick, (4 August 1766), written by Martha Channon, John's wife, it is stated that ‘Mr Channon has been in pursuit of some Vast Curious and Valuable pictures which at last he has purchased its our Blessd. Savour and Six of his Apostles Supposed by the best Judges to be done by Raphel Urbin the Size of the pictures and frames together is 19 by 14 in neat Carvd. frames the price is thirteen Guineas in all probability worth three times the Money but Mr. Channon was Requested by you he would take no Advantage and if you please to Desire it they shall be sent Down for you to see and if you dont like them Mr. Channon will keep them himself he Coud not Get them to Send without Buying them and their being a great bargain he will take them if Dislikd. by you’. The seven pictures were sent up to Hornby, but were returned. Friendly relations evidently continued since there is also a receipt dated 19 December 1769 for £7 worth of Channon's lottery tickets.

HENRIETTA ST, Covent Gdn, London (Richard Crosse, miniature painter). [V & A Lib., R. Crosse accounts. Shelf mark 86. GG.23] 1773 June 20: To Repaireing a Mahogy Clock case head a New frett to Do. Cleaning & Lackering the Capitles & bases & varses & polishing Do. alover Screwes & c 0 – 6. 6 To Repaireing a Serpentine teatable a New frett to Do. scrapeing & polishing Do. Alover 0 5.6 July 12: To a 5ftt. Bedstead Stout Mahogy Pillers fine Wood Carv on Strong Castors the best Double horsecloath Ticking bottom & Laceing line Compas rod & base latts & a Scerpintain Cutt cornis &c Compleate6 – 16 – 6 To 55yds… of the best Crimsen Moreene at 2s 9p. Yard 7 – 11 – 3 To 102yds of the best Coverd, lace1 – 9 – 3 To 8yds of brown hesings to Back line the head & teaster 0 – 10 – 6 To 2 Torsels0 – 3 – 0 Buckram to back line the Vallens & Bases & tamme to back line Do.0 – 17 – 0 Brass Rings Silk tape thread Studs tax &c– 10 – 6 To Makeing the Furniture and Covering the Cornishses 2 – 12 – 6 To 3 Men & fixing up the bedstead & furniture at Yr House tax &c0 – 5 – 0 Cash paid for a Bedwrinch left at Yr House0 – 2 – 0 To a paper case to the teaster of Cateredge paper0 – 2 – 0 Octobr 18 1773£21 – 11 – 6

Recd, the Contents in full & all DemandsJohn Channon [John Hayward, ‘Brass-inlaid Furniture’, V & A Bulletin, January 1965, pp. 10–23 and ‘The Channon family of Exeter and London, chair and cabinet makers’, V & A Bulletin, April 1966, pp. 64–70; Peter Thornton and Desmond Fitz-Gerald, ‘Abraham Roentgen “englische kabinetmacher” and some further reflections on the work on John Channon’, V & A Bulletin, October 1966, pp. 137–147; Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture; Gilbert, Leeds Furn. Cat., pp. 177–78; Christopher Claxton Stevens and Stuart Whittington, Eighteenth Century Furniture: The Norman Adams Collection, 1983, pp. 182–86, Mark Girouard, ‘Powderham Castle, Devon 1’, C. Life, 4 July 1963, pp. 18–21; Rococo Art and Design, exhib. cat., V & A, 1984 (L2)] C.E.L.-J.

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