The mirror can be traced to Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet (1731-1815), of Castle Goring whose arms are emblazoned on the cartouche and includes a baronet’s badge, dating the mirror to after 1806 when he was created baronet and prior to his death in 1815. It is tempting to think that the mirror entered the Shelley collection through the 1st Baronet’s second wife Elizabeth, heiress of William Perry, of Penshurst in Kent. Penshurst was the ancestral home of the Earls of Leicester and John Sidney, 6th Earl (d. 1737) appeared to have embarked on a refurbishment when he inherited in 1705. An églomisé and giltwood mirror at Penshurst dating from around 1710-1720 and displaying the 6th Earl’s crest is illustrated in A. Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, Woodbridge, 2002, p. 305, fig. 9:60.
Shelley was grandfather of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). In 1889, the title passed to the Shelley Rolls branch of the family of Avington Park, Hampshire. The mirror is likely the one listed in the 1951 Avington estate sale as lot 600 where it is listed as ‘Antique gilt-frame wall mirror with heraldic and shell pediment, 7 ft. by 3 ft.’. The description itself is accurate but the measurements are obviously smaller; it is possible they are the measurements of the mirror plate itself (which shows as 6 ft. 2 in. by 29 ½ in. in front of the frame).
The mirror bears the label of Thomas Ponsonby, ‘carver gilder and glass grinder’, who was listed at the 17 Piccadilly address from 1802-1819. Ponsonby was almost certainly responsible for the ‘updating’ of the mirror: painting the arms, regilding the frame and providing a new mirror plate and inner pierced carving overlaying the top of the mirror. The added pierced carving lacks an earlier scheme of gilding and sits where there would have been a rebate at the point of overlap between the original upper and lower divided plates. Ponsonby's label appears on a mid-Georgian mirror in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland that was restored by him in circa 1825 (C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds,1996, p. 376, fig. 736). While not commonly known today, he received substantial patronage of the Royal family, with documented work at Buckingham Palace and Frogmore. (G. Beard and C. Gilbert, eds., Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, p. 705). Interestingly, he was producing items in an early 18th century manner and there is even a reference to a Queen Anne style mirror among his work.