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The London Furniture Trade, 1640 - 1720

Citation: Lindey, Laurie (2016) The London Furniture Trade, 1640 - 1720. Doctoral thesis, Institute of Historical Research.

The London Furniture Trade 1640-1720.docx

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This thesis examines the London furniture trade in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a period which witnessed dramatic transformations in the designs, styles and construction of English furniture. While this topic has been addressed in detail in terms of object-based analyses, it has never been examined in depth from a social, economic and cultural perspective. Although the relationship between many London livery companies and the trades they represented had greatly diminished by the middle years of the seventeenth century, the fact that the majority of Joiners’ Company members were furniture tradesmen (as has been determined by this thesis) means that its archives provide valuable empirical evidence of the people who populated the industry. This documentation in combination with other primary sources, such as parish and tax records, sheds light on the socio- economic profile of London’s furniture tradesmen, their specialised occupations, the way their industry was organised and regulated, and how it was affected by the turbulent political and social upheavals of the seventeenth century, as well as the Fire that ravaged London in 1666. The thesis begins with a discussion of the evolution of decorative design in England in the early modern period and the effects of burgeoning consumerism. It also defines the parameters and aims of this study. The second chapter introduces the tradesmen who supplied materials to the industry, the specialised artisans and craftsmen who produced new forms and styles of furniture, and the ways in which the chain of production was structured. The following two chapters discuss the relationship between the Joiners’ Company and the furniture trade. The third chapter assesses the extent to which the guild regulated the industry, protected and promoted the livelihoods of its tradesmen, and monitored the quality and standard of manufacture and training through apprenticeship. Chapter Four examines the role of apprenticeship in the furniture industry, analysing in detail patterns of recruitment and the social and geographical origins of apprentices. The fifth chapter identifies the geographical location of the trade in the City of London (focusing on the 1690s and 1721), and its spread into the fashionable West End between 1660 and 1720. The final chapter examines manufacturing networks through the case studies of two cabinetmakers and a cane chair maker. Finally, the conclusion draws together the themes discussed throughout and queries whether the standard practice of attributing particular pieces of furniture to specific makers or workshops, usually on stylistic grounds, needs to be reconsidered.

Creators: Lindey, Laurie and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Sociology & Anthropology
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 30 March 2016 (completed)


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