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RAE 2008

Rearch Assessment Exercise 2008

John Cross

my research interests include:
The trading of timber in the eighteenth and nineteenth century; furniture history; Jamaican and American colonial furniture; The Frederick Parker Collection of chairs, carvings and its archive.

Research Outcomes

Outcome 1 - Ralph, Cuthbert and Thomas Turnbull; a 19th-century Jamaican cabinet-making family
Ralph Turnbull, cabinet-maker, was Jamaica's 19th century answer to Thomas Chippendale.
Notwithstanding he was one of only two Jamaican cabinet-makers to have advertised by labeling his work, pieces of his have frequently been attributed to other craftsmen.
This article in the Furniture History Society Journal is the first analysis of the work of a Jamaican cabinet-maker and indeed of any aspect of colonial Jamaican furniture, and demonstrate that several members of Turnbull's direct and extended family were also cabinet-makers.
Subsequent scholarly comment to this effect led to the choice of subject of the Furniture History Society Annual Symposium: Colonial Comfort - Trading in Furniture with the West Indies (Victoria & Albert Museum, February 2005).


Outcome 2 - Mahogany in Jamaica was like gold in the reign of Solomon
The reduction of import duty on mahogany following the Navigation Act of 1724 made the wood very cheap in Britain.
Using probate inventories and selecting provenanced objects, this paper, presented at the Sixth International Symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation: The Meeting of East and West in the Furniture Trade, Netherlands, makes a stark before-and-after juxtaposition, showing how the abundance of mahogany in Jamaica and the Caribbean in the 18th century not only changed fashionable sensibilities, but transformed London, and with it the national furniture trades, irrevocably. The article underlines the impact of economic circumstances on design and production.


Outcome 3 - The transference of skills and styles from the American to the Jamaican furniture trade during the 18th century
This article, in the Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, is in two parts; the first discusses the production, design and source of the Windsor chair in Jamaica in the 18th century while the second, prompted by his inclusion in a recent scholarly work on Charleston Furniture, examines the career of the South Carolina and Jamaica cabinet-maker John Fisher.
The happy juxtaposition of the common Windsor chair and Fisher's reputation in Charleston, and later Kingston, illustrates the exportation of skills, styles and design to Jamaica for much of the 18th century, not from Britain but from America.
The cultural current from the eastern seaboard of America to the Caribbean has so far been a much neglected facet of post colonial American studies.


Outcome 4 - The Frederick Parker Chair Catalogue
This work is the first stage of the process of disseminating information on the whole of the Frederick Parker Collection to the research community and the wider public.
The Frederick Parker Furniture Collection consists of a collection of chairs, a collection of carvings and the Frederick Parker Company archive.
The collection is on permanent loan to London Metropolitan University. The chairs are on public display in a purpose-built gallery and the carvings and archive are in secure storage.
Very little has been written about the chairs, thus complete catalogues of both the chairs and the carvings and an inventory of the company archive are required in the first instance. This is a catalogue of the chair collection, which includes all currently known data about each chair, an image and a description.


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