A HISTORY OF THE WILKINSONS
(Compiled by David Allison. 2004)
JOSHUA WILKINSON 1725 - 1790
Joshua Wilkinson was born in 1725 and was the son of Joseph Wilkinson, a clothier of Leeds, Yorkshire. Joshua is thought to have had at least two brothers, William and Joseph. Joshua's wife was named Sarah, however as no record can be found of a marriage to a Sarah in London it is likely that Joshua was married in Yorkshire. Sarah was possibly either a Sarah West or a Sarah Walton who, in 1754 and 1757 respectively, had married a Joshua Wilkinson in Leeds. No record can be found to determine which Sarah, if either, she may have been. Joshua and Sarah Wilkinson probable moved down to London after his father's death sometime before 1756. Joshua and Sarah Wilkinson had two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah, and three sons, William born 1763, Joshua junior born before 1769, and John Henry born after 1769. By 1766 Joshua Wilkinson is known to have been in business in Moorfields as an upholder, cabinet-maker and broker.
In the 18 century, Upholders upheld or undertook to furnish peoples' houses, and were typically dealers, manufacturers, upholsterers and repairers of furniture, and were also often brokers and auctioneers. Great names in l8 century furniture such as Chippendale, Vile, Ince and Mayhew, were proud to call themselves upholders first and cabinet-makers second. Some of the larger upholders employed several hundred workers and were stockists of furniture, mirrors, fabrics, marble, wall-paper etc. and waited on clients, prepared designs and undertook the making, upholstering and installation of furniture, draperies and blinds, and hanging of wall-paper. Upholders were pre-eminent in the furniture industry throughout the 18 and the first quarter of the 19 century, and the Worshipful Company of Upholders was the pre-eminent guild or company regulating the industry. However, some furniture makers belonged to other companies. Joshua Wilkinson senior was a member of the Goldsmith's Company, having been admitted to the Freedom of the City in 1756. On the record of this there was the notation that he was the son of Joseph, late of Leeds, Yorkshire, Clothier.
In 1778, with his brother Joseph, Joshua Wilkinson Sr. established Wilkinson and Sons with his son, Joshua Jr. From their premises at 24 Change Alley they took out a license to employ twenty non-freemen for three months. However, the following year a fire forced them to relocate to 107 Cheapside opposite the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, where they again took out a license to employ the same number of men for six months.
From their Cheapside premises Wilkinson and Sons advertised themselves as a Cabinet, Upholstery, Carpet and Looking Glass Warehouse, and indicated that their stock included down, goose and other feather beds; Turkey, Brussels, Wilton, Kidderminster and Scotch carpets; library, writing, ladies' dressing, Pembroke card, and tea tables; cabriole, japanned and Windsor chairs etc. By the number of men employed it is evident that there was a fairly extensive manufacturing side to their business. The amount of insurance coverage also provides an indication that the enterprise was of substantial size. In 1788 stock and utensils were valued at 300 pounds out of a total insurance coverage of 1500 pounds. Another policy of 1782 was for 2,100 pounds including stock and utensils of 1400 pounds.
No further references to Joseph Wilkinson can be found after 1784. Perhaps he died about that time, as the record show that in 1784 Joshua Sr. and Joshua Jr. moved to the sign of The Easy Chair, 7 Broker's Row, Moorfields, still trading as Wilkinson and Sons. Joshua Jr. was of course also an upholder, cabinet-maker and broker, as was his father, and in 1781 he was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Upholders of the City of London. After 1785 no further reference to Joshua Jr. can be found. In 1790 Joshua Wilkinson Sr. died, at the age of sixty-five.
WILLIAM WILKINSON 1763 - 1833
William Wilkinson, the second son of Joshua Sr. was born in Broker's Row, London on May 20th 1764. It is probable that in the 1780s he worked as a cabinet-maker with his father in the premises at 7 Broker's Row.
Since 1770 the premises almost next door at 9 Broker's Row had been the address of Alderman Samuel Swain, who was also an upholder and had been appointed Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Upholders in 1787. The Wilkinsons and Swains had to have known each other well. In 1790, both Joshua Wilkinson and Samuel Swain died. That same year, Joshua's son William established a successor firm to Wilkinson & Sons at Swain's former premises at 9 & 10 Broker's Row in partnership with his cousin Thomas Wilkinson. This firm was to become known as W & T Wilkinson, cabinet-makers. Either the wife or daughter of Samuel Swain may have stayed on with the new Wilkinson firm, as Kent's Directory of 1794 indicates an Elizabeth Swain, upholsterer, carrying on business at 8, 9 & 10 Broker's Row.
William and Thomas operated a very successful cabinet-making and real estate business together for seventeen years. Their particular specialty was extending tables, and in 1807 they were advertising tables covered by the King's patent 1 and absolutely original in their construction. They claimed that their dining tables, when closed, occupied a space considerably smaller than that necessary for the standing of any other dining table then in use, and which could with the utmost facility be extended to any required length. They also made a specialty breakfast table and a patented card table remarkable for its ornamental effect and for the singularity of the principles for which it is made. William and Thomas claimed to be the sole sellers of such tables, which could be obtained from their manufacturing and warerooms at No 10 north side of Moorfields near Finsbury Square.
1. William and Thomas patented several of their tables. One extending on the lazy tongs principle bears the patent number 523, and another is marked Patent 284 Moorfields. Wilkinson, London
The partnership broke up in 1807, when William left to take over the extensive old established firm of Quentin Kaye at 14 Ludgate Hill. The premises had been occupied by Quentin Kaye since 1754, and William took over very shortly after Quentin's death in 1807. Perhaps for a while, William had been considering the dissolution of the partnership with his cousin, and the availability of the Ludgate Hill business provided him with the opportunity he needed. Thomas then renamed his business Thomas Wilkinson & Co., and continued at Broker's Row, eventually occupying numbers 7 to 10. By the early l820s, Thomas had also established an address at 1 Finsbury Square, continuing in business until 1828.
On December 17 1791, William Wilkinson married eighteen-year-old Jane Ayscough at St. Giles, Cripplegate. Jane was born in 1773, and was thus almost ten years younger than William. They had thirteen children: Mary 1794, Elizabeth 1795, William Ayscough 1796, Jane Ayscough 1798, Charles 1800, Sarah 1803, Josiah
1804, Thomas 1809, Alfred 1810, Francis and Hannah 1812, and Peter Richard 1814. Up until 1807 all of the children were born at 9 Broker's Row, Moorfields, after which the remaining children were all born at 14 Ludgate Hill. This presumably meant that William and Jane Wilkinson and their family resided at the same address as the business, perhaps an apartment over the premises below.
Of William's sons:
William Ayscough Wilkinson, was born January 21 1796 in Moorfields, and died in London in 1853. He was taken into the business by his father William about 1825, and in 1830 married eighteen year-old Emma Meacock, possibly the sister of Eliza Meacock who married William's brother Josiah. William and Emma had twelve children.
Charles Wilkinson, was born February 9th 1800 in Moorfields, became an upholsterer and also joined the family furniture business about 1825. His life and times are described in more detail in the next section.
Josiah Wilkinson, was born November 19th 1804 in Moorfields, became a solicitor and in 1826 married twenty- one year-old Eliza Meacock. It is known that by 1881 the couple had retired and were lodgers at 9 Campden Grove, Kensington. They had five sons, three of whom became solicitors and one an artist.
Thomas Wilkinson, was born June 16 1809 in Ludgate Hill. Nothing more is known of him.
Alfred Wilkinson was born December 29 1810 in Ludgate Hill, and died in 1868. He first became a curate in Teddington, and later, in the 1 860s, was appointed to a position in Kingsdon, Somerset. In 1837 he married twenty-one year-old Caroline Arabella Blunt. They had ten children.
Peter Richard Wilkinson, was born on May 1814 in Ludgate Hill, moved to Brighton where he became an Auctioneer and Estate Agent. He married Elizabeth Hodgkinson and had at least four children all born in Brighton.
At the Moorfields address William and Thomas had shown an interest in patent furniture and especially tables. Once on his own at 14 Ludgate Hill, William clearly saw the commercial advantage of promoting patent furniture at his new address, and in 1812 advertised patent bedsteads which for their utter utility, firmness and simplicity, surpass everything of the kind ever presented to the public: they effectually exclude vermin and may be fixed and unfixed in five minutes. William had several such beds in his showroom, together with portable mahogany chairs, japanned chairs and portable dining tables and every other article made solid and warranted for any climate. From its commencement William's business was of substantial size, the insurance coverage in March 1808 being 2000 pounds.
In the early to mid 1820s William brought his two Sons William Ayscough Wilkinson and Charles Wilkinson into the business, which then changed its name from William Wilkinson, cabinet-maker and upholder, to William Wilkinson & Sons. In November 1824 there was a fire at the premises, thought possibly in the part used for manufacturing, although it appeared that the business was soon back on its feet in the same premises.
From the early beginnings in Ludgate Hill in 1807 William adopted a policy of stamping his products, and a wide range of furniture in the Regency style, with the impressed stamp Wilkinson Ludgate Hill, often followed by a number, although initially he used the stamp Wilkinson Late Kaye 14 Ludgate Hill London. Items so stamped include sofa tables, breakfast tables, extending dining tables, sets of tables, bookcases, cabinets, chiffoniers, chests of drawers, dining chairs, sideboards, and music and reading stands. Some patent extending dining tables bear a rectangular brass plate die-stamped with the Royal coat of arms and the words Patent/Wilkinson/14 Ludgate Hill.
William was well known as a versatile designer and craftsman, who worked in a variety of styles producing furniture in the Egyptian, Rococo and Grecian manner. In 1826 the firm signed the prefatory recommendation to P. and M. A. Nicholson's Practical Cabinet Maker. He also received important commissions including one in 1829 by the architect John Rennie to make a table for the Earl of Lonsdale at Lowther Castle. By the end of his career he had developed a flourishing business, his work was prolific, and he was respected among his peers.
Sometime after 1814 William Wilkinson acquired a house in Highbury Grove. He was thought to have been living there in 1833, when on May 29 at the age of seventy, he passed away. Jane died five years later in Stoke Newington in 1738 at the age of sixty-five. Following their father's death in 1833 William and Charles changed the name of the business to W. & C. Wilkinson.
CHARLES WILKINSON 1800 - 1871
Charles Wilkinson the second son of William and Jane Wilkinson was born on February 9 1800 at 9 Broker Row, Moorfields.
In the early 1820s Charles and his older brother William Ayscough Wilkinson joined their father's firm. After the father's death in 1833 the two brothers changed the name of the firm from Wilkinson & Sons to W & C Wilkinson. The firm continued to grow and prosper and their furniture bore the stamp of the new name. They enjoyed a prime location in the heart of the City, they had an excellent reputation and trade continued to flourish. They appear also to have had a showroom in the West End as the directories of the day make reference to Wilkinsons of Oxford Street having an extensive collection of Elizabethan and Dutch furniture. In addition to furniture they appear also to have been estate agents as their printed bill head reads: Whim & Chas Wilkinson, Cabinet & Plate Glass Manufacturing, Appraising and House Agency, 14 Ludgate Hill.
Their work was as prolific as it been in their father's time, and they continued to receive significant commissions. In 1834/5 they received a commission worth over eight thousand pounds to equip the new Goldsmiths' Hall with furniture designed by the architect Philip Hardwick, much of which still resides in the Hall today. The furniture produced for the Court Room and the Court Dining Room, rooms intended exclusively to men's use, was of carved mahogany in the Grecian style. But the Drawing Room furniture reflected the fact that this was a venue for pleasure with ladies present, and the recently revived Rococo was used, the furniture being painted white with the detail gilt. Their location in the City made them an obvious contender for patronage by the City Companies and in 1840 they were invited to tender for furniture and upholstery for the Armourers and Brasiers Company.
On February 9 1822 Charles married Henrietta Cowland at St. Mary's, Islington. Henrietta was born about 1802 in Clerkenwell and was therefore twenty at the time of the marriage. They had eight children: Charles 1824, William Ayscough 1825, Jane 1827, Frederick 1828, Augustus 1830, Joseph 1832, Emily 1834, and Henrietta. They were all born at 14 Ludgate Hill, and it can therefore be presumed that certainly until the mid 1 830s the family had it's residence at the same place as its business.
Of Charles' sons nothing more is known of the two eldest Charles and William. Of the other three:
Frederick Wilkinson, born October 1828, became a valuer and upholsterer and joined his father in the family business. His life and times are described in more detail in the next section.
Augustus Wilkinson, born October 23 1830, was a businessman and by 1881 was living from the income from properties that he owned. He married Amelia Ridge and they resided at Laburnham House, Ridgewood Hill, Uckfield. They had at least two children: Emily born in Guernsey in 1860 and Alice born in London in 1863.
Joseph Wilkinson, born September 27 1832, became a Church of England Clergyman. From 1857 until 1874 he was the Vicar of St. Silas, Pentonville and in 1871 was residing at 23 Penton Street, Clerkenwell. He married Wilhemina Catherine Dickson, and had at least five children: Agnes 1861, Margaret 1862, Wilhemina 1863, David 1865 and Catherine 1870. David also became a clergyman and married Mary Pritchett with whom he had at least one child, Edward, born in Finchley in 1897. In 1901 David and Mary were residing with her mother Jemima Pritchett in Bristol. In 1891 Joseph Wilkinson was Rector of St. Michael, Bristol, where he resided in the Rectory with his unmarried daughters Agnes, Wilhemina and Catherine.
After the death of Charles' brother, William, his widow sold her share to Charles who then became sole owner of the firm. Shortly after Charles opened premises at 8 Bond Street, however it is not known whether he continued in the City. His son Frederick joined him in the business and was active in the firm for the rest of his life. Sometime after the mid I 830s Charles purchased his residence Sandfield, Nevill Park, Speldhurst, where he lived until his death from Bright's (kidney) Disease on May 21 1871.
Charles was a gentleman of considerable means having expanded his business to include property. At the time of his death he owned properties in Cherry, Whitney, Coventry, Leadenhall, Elbon, Eawirk, and King Edward's Streets; the Haymarket; The Strand; King's Road, Chelsea; Clapham Park Road and Mile End New Town. Upon his death, these properties, together with other investments and a considerable amount of cash, was divided between his wife Henrietta and the various children.
Here is a beautiful William IV Style Linen Press. This stunning antique features a moulded cornice above two beautifully arched, flaming mahogany paneled doors, with carved acanthus leaves. Deep, striking mahogany grain. The interior has six sliding linen trays and three large drawers. All constructed with hand cut dovetailing on the fronts, sides, and backs. Matching arched, flaming mahogany panels adorn the sides of this linen press. Truly a work art, what a statement maker! A similar pair of Wilkinson's linen press sold for $15,174 EACH. This linen press is much bigger and prettier than the ones sold at Sotheby's. This is a bargain. This shows the detail and quality craftsmanship that was put into this antique. W & C Wilkinson 14 Ludgate Hill 9389 is stamped on the inside of the door. It is in great condition, a few pieces of veneer missing along the sides due to age and usage. It remains lovely heirloom that can be enjoyed for generations to come. It measures 23"D x 56"W x 86"H, the top cornice measures 26"D.