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John Smallwell the elder of St Vedast

John Smallwell the elder

(d. circa 1713)



St Vedast

Researched by Henrietta Clarke

John Smallwell the elder worked as a joiner on the rebuilding of St Vedast alias Foster. In September 1697 he was paid £27 11s 5d for ‘wainscott dores’ for the west end and north side of the church, the vestry and the tower. It is likely that he was responsible for putting together the excellent pulpit and very fine altar-piece that still stand in St. Vedast’s. These would then have been worked on and embellished by the carvers.

Joiner or Cabinet maker (Schrijnwerker), Caspar Luyken, after Jan Luyken, 1694 - Rijksmuseum

John was a well-respected and successful joiner who worked on St Paul’s choir and Chelsea Hospital among other projects. He took livery in 1685 and was Master of the Company of Joiners and Ceilers or Carvers in 1705.

He was married to Elizabeth and had four children: John, Elizabeth, Edward and Frances. They lived in Red Lyon Street in the parish of St Andrew Holborn where John had a shop, saw pits and sheds. He also had property interests in Epsom, premises with yards, gardens, orchards, stables, coachhouses and outhouses. In his will of 1713 he bequeathed over one thousand pounds which he held in the South Sea Company.

John Smallwell the younger

His son, also called John Smallwell, was apprenticed to him on 5 July 1698 and took livery in 1710. He was appointed Master Joiner to the King in 1727 and Company Master in 1731. A story is told that, when he was Master, John junior opened the poor box which contained £18 17 0d and bought a Government Lottery ticket with it. The Court of Assistants initially condemned this action but as the ticket drew a prize of £100 the Master was congratulated.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

Read the stories of four that either survived or succumbed to the flames, and how they reemerged from the ruins.

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