William Hallett, cabinet & framemaker
William Hallett (c.1707-1781) was apparently born in Somerset, the son of William Hallett of Crewkerne. His life and work have been explored by Geoffrey Beard, to whom this account is indebted. Hallett was a significant figure in the cabinet-making world, working from Great Newport St, 1732-52 (Geoffrey Beard, ‘William Vile again', Furniture History, vol.11, 1975, p.114). He occasionally acted as an auctioneer, including selling the Earl of Cholmondeley's furniture from his Richmond house in 1748 and William Leybourne's house and furniture in 1751 (London Evening Post 29 March 1748, General Advertiser 3 April 1751). He gained sufficient funds to make purchases at the demolition sale of the Duke of Chandos's great mansion of Canons at Edgware in 1747, to purchase much of the surrounding estate in 1747 or 1748, reportedly for £7,700 (Remembrancer 23 July 1748), and then to construct himself a new house on the site. He retired from business in the early 1750s.
Hallett's portrait with his family, holding a plan of his new house, was painted by Francis Hayman in about 1756 (private coll., repr. Brian Allen, Francis Hayman, 1987, p.104). His son, William Hallett the younger (1730-67), continued in business for a time but died before him. His grandson commissioned Thomas Gainsborough's double portrait, The Morning Walk, 1785 (National Gallery). He himself died on 17 December 1781; in his lengthy will, made and proved 8 January 1782, William Hallett of Canons left his house to his grandson. He was described by his grandson as ‘an upholsterer at the corner of Long Acre and St Martin's Lane... in business about 20 years and as he assured me, was never in bed more than four hours in any night during that time' (Judy Egerton, British School, National Gallery, 1998, p.126, n.11).
Hallett was only an occasional picture framemaker, as an examination of the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers make clear. For the Duchess of Montrose in 1742 as part of a larger order he supplied 13 black frames with gilt edges for pictures for £2.9s.6d (National Archives of Scotland, GD220/6/899/63). For Sir William Beauchamp Proctor in 1748 he provided carved and gilt picture frames for £9.10s, again as part of a larger order.
William Hallett supplied much of the carved work in the Court Room at the Foundling Hospital. His charges included £11.4s on 15 November 1746 for '8 Carved Oval Frames for Pictures'. These very fine oak-leaf-and-acorn frames, matching the door friezes but smaller in scale and gilt rather than painted, were used to house the small landscapes which were presented to the hospital over the next few years, including Thomas Gainsborough's The Charterhouse (1748).
William Hallett made other charges for work at the Hospital which are not so easily linked to surviving picture frames. On 15 November 1746, in the sequence of payments for work for the Court Room, he charged £20 for '4 Carved Whole Length Frames for Pictures & Altering D[itt]o'. Subsequently, on 16 December 1746, he supplied a 'Carved Frame to go over a Chimney' at £3.15s, conceivably for Joseph Highmore's Thomas Emerson in the Picture Gallery. Two weeks later on 31 December he charged the same sum 'For Altering a Frame & Carving the Moldings & an Ornament to the Bottom', with a further unaccounted charge of £5 on 31 March 1747, 'For 1 Picture Frame new Gilt'.