David Morley was a substantial businessman as well as a craftsman.  In 1774 he had been sent to Manchester to be indentured
to the cabinet-maker John Owen, where he learned not only the techniques but the commercial practices of the trade. 
He returned to Carmarthen in 1780 and had a workshop and warehouse in Lammas Street.  He subsequently featured in all of
the directories and became a leading figure in the town.


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He became a churchwarden and burgess and was particularly successful in gaining the patronage of both local gentry and ecclesiastical and municipal institutions.  Here is a picture of a bow-fronted chest of drawers raised on splay feet bearing a paper label in the top drawer identifying it as from 'Morley’s Cabinet-Manufactory, Upholstery and Looking-Glass Warehouse, in Lammas-St, Carmarthen'.  

Although the mahogany veneers on the drawer fronts were slightly figured it was a relatively unadorned piece; it epitomized the cabinet-maker’s technique, with an absence of framing of any sort providing a carcase with clean lines for reasons of both style and ease of production.

Chest of drawer in mahogany. Bearing paper label:
‘Morley’s Cabinet-Manufactory Upholstery
and Looking-Glass
Warehouse in Lammas-Street, Carmarthen’,
circa 1790-1800.‘Morley’s Cabinet-Manufactory
Upholstery and Looking-Glass


Another exceptionally well-made table made by David Morley of circa 1815 with drop leaves and raised on a pedestal with swept legs, and with hidden sliding rails allowing an extra leaf to be inserted, bore an identical label.




Telescopic table in mahogany. Bearing brass plaque:
‘Morley Upholsterer Carmarthen’, circa 1815.

(This Table is in Stock - Click Picture for Details)



Sideboards became a standard product of Morley’s workshop.  Well-made andsubstantial, they used figured veneers on the drawer fronts (often with ebony or brass stringing), spiral-turned side columns, turned and sometimes fluted legs and distinctive central corner spandrels.  They were suited to the different domestic arrangements and greater space that separated the wealthiest section of local society from their neighbours.  Morley’s products appealed particularly to the middle-class nonconformist ethos of the town. 

David Morley, Carmarthen, oil by Hugh Hughes.
Inscribed verso: Taken in his 64th year
by Mr Hughes, April 16th 1824.

Although initially fashionable items, sideboards made by David Morley were regarded as sufficiently prestigious to become heirlooms and in 1910 it was recorded that: Some very fine pieces of furniture made at his workshops are still in use in the town, and as it was the custom for the workman who finished an article of that description to write his name on some part out of sight, such furniture can easily be identified. 

Mahogany sideboard made by David Morley of Carmarthen,
decorated with ebony stringing, circa 1835.

(This Sideboard is in Stock - Click Picture for Details)

Inscribing the craftsman’s name and date in pencil on some hidden part was not unusual among cabinet-makers in general, and Morley appears to have encouraged the practice among his journeymen and, possibly as a result of this, it became common throughout the Carmarthen area among furniture makers in the 19th century.

Sideboards of a later date were fitted with a raised and shaped backboard, one of circa 1830 being based on a pattern published in P A and M A Nicholson’s The Practical Cabinet-maker, Upholsterer and Complete Decorator of 1826 and featuring a distinctive pediment which, with variations, became a favourite local style . 

Mahgogany sideboard made at the workshop of
David Morley, Carmarthen, circa 1830

Morley supplied a large set of robust oak chairs with fluted legs comprising six armchairs and twenty singles, for the jury room of the Guildhall at Carmarthen in 1830.

The central feature of the furnishings of the jury room, for which he was paid £214 6s, was a massive oak table, 20ft by 5ft, raised on four pedestals supported on platforms with lions’ paw feet.


Oak extending table and set of chairs
made at the workshop of
David Morley, Carmarthen, 1830


The choice of oak to an extent negated the fashionable intentions of the style, apart possibly from its use on the hall chairs, but might have seemed to be a more sensible timber to the authorities and was considered appropriate in a metropolitan context for the Gothic-style.

Many designs might have been offered in either mahogany or oak, the latter being a particularly local taste perhaps for those who needed to match existing pieces rather than refurnish.  References to ‘British oak’ in a number of advertisements probably referred to Welsh timber (possibly pollarded or figured), which was commercially available from estates such as Golden Grove, as opposed to the Baltic oak whose main use was as a secondary timber for drawer linings and interior fittings of mahogany pieces. 

By the end of Morley’s life, his market had extended to the top of the Towy valley and even beyond.  When he died his obituary in the Carmarthen Journal showed the status he enjoyed in the town, stating that, ‘as a parent, a neighbour, and an employer, it would, we are convinced, be difficult to see his like again’

The business was carried on by his son, also David, until his own death in 1837 with the firm going into bankruptcy under his brother-in-law later in the same year.




© 2010 Richard Bebb
All rights reserved. No part of this site/page may be reproduced, stored on a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Richard Bebb.

Images taken from Richard Bebb's publication :

Welsh Furniture 1250-1950 : A Cultural History of Craftsmanship and Design published by Saer Books 2007




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