Bruce J. Talbert (1838 – 1881) Scottish architect and designer

Laburnum, ca. 1876 by Bruce James Talbert, Detroit Institute of the Arts
Laburnum, ca. 1876 by Bruce James Talbert, Detroit Institute of the Arts

Bruce J. Talbert (1838 – 1881) was a Scottish architect and designer. He was born in Dundee, Scotland.ย In the United States, he influenced the Modern Gothic work of the Herter Brothers, Kimbel and Cabus, Frank Furness, and Daniel Pabst.


He was apprenticed to cabinet-carver Millar and subsequently to Charles Edwards, an architect in Dundee, who worked on the Corn Exchange Hall. 

Bruce J. Talbert
Bruce J. Talbert

In 1856, he settled in Glasgow, working in W.H. Tait and Cambell Douglas’s architecture office. He served as an apprentice to architect Charles Edward (ca. 1855โ€“57), an assistant to architect William Nairne Tait (1857โ€“60), and a draughtsman for architect Campbell Douglas (1860โ€“62) in Glasgow. In 1862, he relocated to Manchester to design furniture for Doveston, Bird & Hull. Francis Skidmore employed him at Art Manufactures in Coventry. He worked on Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Hereford Screen (1862) and Scott’s Albert Memorial at Art Manufactures (designed in 1863, and completed 1872).

Gothic Style

In the early 1860s, he began to design furniture and execute some decorative work in a simple Gothic style.

In c 1862, he began working for Doveston, Bird and Hull in Manchester and shortly after designing silver and wrought-iron work for Francis Skidmore’s firm Art Manufacturers in Coventry. 


He settled in London in 1865 or 1866; he began designing furniture for Holland and Sons. He published Gothic Forms Applied to Furniture, Metal Work, and Decoration for Domestic Purposes (1867), which influenced cabinetmaking in England and the USA. 

Drawing-Room Cabinet, 1871-1872, designed by Bruce James Talbert,
Drawing-Room Cabinet, 1871-1872, designed by Bruce James Talbert,

Preferring 12th-and 13th-century Gothic styles, he designed furniture based on framed construction with low relief work, inlay and piercing, attempting to integrate it with its architectural environment. 

Ecclesiastical metalwork

His ecclesiastical metalwork was produced by Cox, wallpaper by Jeffrey, carpets by Brinton, ironwork by Coalbrookdale, and textiles by Cowlishaw and Nicol, Barbone and Miller, and Warner. 

Candlestick (one of a pair) ca. 1870 by Bruce. J Talbert The met
Candlestick (one of a pair) ca. 1870 by Bruce. J Talbert The met

His work by 1876 had become more Jacobean in style. He published Examples of Ancient and Modern Furniture, Metal Work, Tapestries, Decorations, Etc. (1876). By the 1860s, he had become one of the most influential industrial designers of the Aesthetic movement in Britain.


He received a; 

  • Gold medal for architectural design, 1860; 
  • Gold medal for drawing 1862, Edinburgh Architectural Association. 
  • 1870-76, he showed architectural drawings regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. 
  • Talbert’s furniture for Holland and Sons was shown at the 1867 Paris ‘Exposition Universelle.’ 
  • His Pet Sideboard for Gillow was shown at the 1873 ‘Weltausstellung Wien.’ 
  • His Juno cabinet for Jackson and Graham was shown at the 1878 Paris ‘Exposition Universelle’. 


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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