Basic Biographical Details

Name: Bruce James Talbert
Designation: Designer
Born: 1838
Died: 28 January 1881
Bio Notes: Bruce James Talbert was born in 1838 in Dundee, the son of James Talbert, merchant and was educated at Dundee High School. He was articled to ___Millar, a Dundee woodcarver and commenced business as a woodcarver on his own account. This did not prove successful commercially and after two years he entered the office of the Dundee architect Charles Edward for whom he designed the heraldic motifs of the Kinnaird Hall, built 1857-58.

Probably in 1857 rather than the 1856, the date usually given, Talbert moved to Glasgow to work for William Nairne Tait, but by 1860 he was in the office of Campbell Douglas & Stevenson from which he won two prizes, an architectural design medal in 1860 and the Edinburgh Architectural Association medal.

In 1862 Talbert moved to Manchester to design furniture for the cabinet makers Doveston Bird & Hull but in October of that year he moved to Francis Skidmore's Art Manufactures in Coventry at a salary of four guineas a week. There he drew up the working drawings for George Gilbert Scott's Hereford Cathedral screen and Albert Memorial. He remained there until 1866 when he moved to London to work for Holland & Sons, furniture makers who were then preparing for the Paris Exhibition of 1867. His designs won a silver medal and commissions from Cox & Son, ecclesiastical metalworkers, and the furniture makers Gillows flowed in. In the same year, 1867, he published 'Gothic Forms applied to Furniture, Metalwork and Decoration for Domestic Purposes', the first plates of which appeared in July. But over-commitment and the London atmosphere had affected his health and he returned to Dundee where he set up 'a tasteful studio', address not traced, completed 'Gothic Forms' and provided designs for Gillows and James Lamb of Manchester.

Probably in 1869 he returned to London, living first at 10 Nottingham Place and then at 18 Bury Street (1871) and 11 Argyle Street (1872). He continued to work for Gillows, Cox & Son and the Coalbrookdale Iron Company, and began exhibiting designs for interiors at the Royal Academy. His designs were also published in Cox & Sons 'Illustrated catalogue of gothic and other artistic domestic furniture, fittings, decorations upholstery and metalwork... by architects and others..also from designs prepared by the Society of Decorative Art' issued in April 1872. In 1873 he took premises at 98 Gower Street jointly with the stained glass artist George Cook, close to the premises of Cottier & Co in which his former colleague at Campbell Douglas's, John McKean Brydon, was a partner. The Gower Street business prospered and in June 1874 he married Amy Adkins, the daughter of the well-off Birmingham maltster, Henry Adkins. They took a house at 5 Euston Square which then became both house and studio.

In 1876 Talbert brought out his second book 'Examples of Ancient and Modern Furniture, Metal Work, Tapestries, Decoration etc' and he soon had more work than he could carry out, his clients now also including Warners; Jackson & Graham; Marsh Jones & Cribb; Collinson & Lock; Vaughan & Sons; Caleb Trapnell of Bristol; Steel & Garland of Sheffield; William Frain of Dundee; Templetons Carpets of Glasgow; and many others, possibly including Walter MacFarlane & Co of Saracen Iron Works, Glasgow. The crowning achievement of his career was winning the Grand Prix at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 with the Juno cabinet made by Jackson & Graham.

Chronic overwork eventually resulted in alcoholism. He died on 28 January 1881 and was buried at Kensal Green. His wife Amy closed the studio and returned to Warwickshire.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this designer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 510, Nottingham Place, London, EnglandPrivatec. 1869 *1870 
Item 2 of 518 (or 16?), Bury Street, St James's, London, EnglandPrivate1871 *  
Item 3 of 511, Argyle Street, London, EnglandPrivate1872 *  
Item 4 of 598, Gower Street, London, EnglandBusiness18731874 
Item 5 of 55, Euston Square, London, EnglandPrivate/business1874(OR1875)1876 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this designer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3Charles Edwardc. 1855c. 1857Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3William Nairne Tait (or William Nairn Tait)1857 Assistant 
Item 3 of 3Campbell Douglas1860 Draughtsman 

Buildings and Designs

This designer was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 81866Manchester Town Hall  ManchesterEnglandCompetition design - unplaced
Item 2 of 81870Interior of a dining room    Second dining room design exhibited in 1871 - perhaps the same room?
Item 3 of 81872Design for a Chimneypiece     
Item 4 of 81873Entrance to vestibule     
Item 5 of 81874Screen etc     
Item 6 of 81875Entresol etc     
Item 7 of 81875Wall decoration     
Item 8 of 81876Staircase     


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this designer:
Item 1 of 2Jervis, Simon1989Charles, Bevan & Talbert The Decorative Arts of the Victorian Period, ed. S Wright, p15-29 
Item 2 of 2MacDonald, Sally1987Gothic forms applied to furniture: the early work of Bruce James TalbertXXIIIFurniture History, p39-66 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this designer:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Architect5 February 1881  Obituary
Item 2 of 4Art Journal1881  p95
Item 3 of 4Building News4 February 1881  Obituary
Item 4 of 4Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher1 February 1882  Obituary