Grimwade (p. 562) notes that Johnson entered his first mark as a largeworker from Catherine Street (in the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden) on 3 April 1751 and his second on 22 August 1752. Ambrose Heal, who quotes from one of Johnson’s elaborately engraved trade cards in his collection at the British Museum, enlarges on this information: ‘Lawrence Johnson Working Goldsmith, at the Corner of Exeter Street, in Katherine Street, Near the Strand, London. Makes & Sells all Sorts of Plate, in the Newest Fashion, at the most Reasonable Rate. Likewise Buys, & Sells, all Sorts of Second hand Plate, Watches, Jewells &c’. This trade card, with its rococo cartouche inhabited by a diminutive Hermes and other boys is also illustrated with various items from Johnson’s stock: candlesticks, a kettle on stand, a tureen and cover, a sauceboat, a cup and cover, two tankards and other items.
Although no other firm information is at present available about Johnson’s life and work, the intriguing possibility is that before he opened a retail shop he was a working chaser. On 19 January 1751 an apprentice called John Rogers petitioned the Middlesex Magistrates to end his apprenticeship with ‘Lawrence Johnson of the Parish of Saint Paul Covent Garden . . . Chaser.’ Rogers’s grounds for such a request arose because ‘He has Constantly made it his Business Most Inhumanely to beat and Abuse [me] without any Justificable [sic] reason or provocation given him And has frequently Threatned [sic] to Murther [me] And gave Out in Speeches That unless [I] quitted his Service he wod. be the death of [me].’ Several persons were examined but Rogers’s complaint was ignored and his petition dismissed. (London Metropolitan Archives, LMSMPS504080014)
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