Monthly Archives: September 2014

Joshua Kirby – Printseller

The plates for Joshua Kirby’s Twelve Prints of 1748 were engraved by Joseph Wood of Covent Garden. Kirby’s connection with Wood went back several years at this point. In June 1745, he advertised for sale in the Ipswich Journal, “A Curious Print of Mr. Garrick, from an original Painting by Mr. Pond, engrav’d by Mr. Wood,” at a shilling each (cited in Whitley, Gainsborough, 18). Garrick had made his stage debut in Ipswich in 1741, and by 1745 was very well known.

Later, Kirby was to be found selling Hogarth’s prints of Beer Street and Gin Lane.


Whitley, W.T. (1915). Thomas Gainsborough. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.

Henry Flitcroft

Henry Flitcroft (1697—1769), the architect, was Comptroller of the Board of Works at the time when Joshua Kirby was appointed Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew. Flitcroft had risen by talent and luck from humble beginnings. His father was a labourer at Hampton Court and Flitcroft was apprenticed as a joiner. He got his lucky `break’ when he fell off a ladder in 1719 while working on Burlington House, and came to the attention of the Earl of Burlington, who noticed his drawing ability. With Burlington’s patronage, Flitcroft’s rise was swift. While working for Burlington as a draughtsman, he also gained a place at the Office of Works, being appointed Clerk of the Works at Whitehall, Westminster, and St James’s palaces in May 1726. Flitcroft remained at the Office of Works for the rest of his life, becoming Master Carpenter in 1746, Master Mason and Deputy Surveyor in 1748, and Comptroller in 1758. According to Colvin, during his years of service, he attended ‘at least 1100 Board meetings’ (89).

Alongside his government position with associated draughtsmanship and architectural work, Flitcroft built up a successful private practice, largely following in the Palladian style endorsed by Burlington and his circle. One of his first commissions, in 1725, was to prepare a set of plans for Montagu House, then lived in by John, 2nd Duke of Montagu. The house later became the first location of the British Museum and the plans are now held by the BM. Continue reading

Thomas Worsley

When George III came to the throne, he and the Earl of Bute had a plan, and part of it involve installing the new King’s favoured people in the Office of Works, reflecting his (and Bute’s) interest in architecture. The first appointment was that of Thomas Worsley to Surveyor General. Although the official appointment was on 15 December 1760, it was obviously known to the participants earlier; Henry Finch, the previous incumbent, stopped attending Board meetings three weeks before, and, on 5 December 1760, Horace Walpole wrote to his friend Henry Mann that Worsley “is made Master of the Board of Works; he was this King’s equerry, and passes for having a taste for architecture, of which I told you the King was fond” (Correspondence, 26, 460).

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Namier on Finch

The man Thomas Worsley replaced as Surveyor General in 1760 was Henry Finch. Finch had been in the position for seventeen years, but was induced to give the post up in exchange for a secret service pension of £900 a year. Sadly, he only lived long enough to receive the first quarterly installment. Here is Namier’s elegant thumbnail sketch of Finch from Structure of Politics (p. 20—21). Finch is being used as an example of the use of place and patronage. Continue reading