• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7806

    Lord St. Helens and Sir William FitzHerbert The Collections of a Diplomat and a Courtier

    22 January 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 546



    Price Realised  


    The rounded rectangular top with re-entrant corners and sliding central panel with a chess board to the underside and revealing a velvet-lined backgammon board, the frieze with gadrooned border and a drawer to either end, on baluster trestle-end supports and bun feet with recessed castors, with batten carrying-holes, with various incomplete sets of games pieces, some ivory
    29¼ in. (74.5 cm.) high; 45 in. (114 cm.) wide; 25 in. (63.5 cm.) deep

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    With its scrolled 'Grecian' trestle end-supports and reeded cup balusters, this metamorphic games-table is closely related to that illustrated in the Gillows Estimate Sketch Books for 28 March 1823. Executed for stock and recorded under the number 3242, it was described as being 'A Mahy. Backgammon Table 2ft by 1ft 8 on Pillars & Claws carved, the craftsmen Rigby and G. Romney being responsible for the carved elements'.

    In 1808 and 1809 Gillows supplied furniture to Thomas, 2nd Marquess of Bath (d. 1837) for both Longleat and Grosvenor Square totalling £626 5s 8d. Their bill in 1819 amounted to £50 9s 10d and included 'a rosewood table desk with double elevation' of very comparable form, which was sold by the Trustees of the Longleat Chattels Settlement in these Rooms, 13 June 2002, lot 362. Further related tables include the 'handsome pillar end Writing Table with Green Leather top Gilt Border 3ft 9 by 2ft 3...' supplied by Gillows in 1822 to William, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam for Wentworth Woodhouse (sold in the Wentworth Sale in these Rooms, 8 July 1998, lot 83), as well as the set of four 'handsome Mahogany (actually in rosewood) Tables to place before the sofas, 2 Drawers in each, one of the Drawers of 2 of the tables (to contain a boards for Chess and one of the Drawers of the other 2 Tables to contain Back-Gammon Boards)' supplied to William, 2nd Duke of Bolton for Hackwood Park, sold by the Executors of the 2nd Viscount Camrose, Christie's house Sale, 20-22 April 1998, lots 48-50.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

    Pre-Lot Text


    Founded around 1730 by Robert Gillow in his native Lancaster, this celebrated firm of cabinet-makers was responsible for furnishing some of the greatest British houses. The firm's zenith was reached in the Regency period, and continued to prosper after the departure of the Gillow family from the business in 1813, when the firm was taken over by the partners Redmayne, Whiteside and Ferguson.

    Gillows' designs are painstakingly recorded in the Estimate Sketch Books, now preserved in the City of Westminster Archives, which begin in 1784 and comprise some 20,000 patterns for furniture, many annotated with the patron's name and cost. Frustratingly, whilst no archival documents have so far come to light for the specific FitzHerbert commission, the distinctive designs all recur in other contemporary documented Gillows' commissions. Gillows' style is unique, developing a coolness and restraint in their designs almost touching on austerity. This direction may be in part attributable to their long connection with the Wyatt family of architects; it is no coincidence that Sir Jeffrey Wyattville drew up plans for the new Library wing at Tissington in 1820 for Sir Henry FitzHerbert, 3rd Bt. (1783-1858).

    Gillows and the furniture they made is renowned for several reasons. The quality of construction is considerably higher than elsewhere. Moreover, with the firm's proximity to the port of Liverpool and the trading links to the West Indies, the firm was actively and profitably engaged in the importation of not only top quality timbers, but also in the sale of British goods to Jamaica and the importation of other West Indian produce for sale in Britain. Finally, the innovation of their designs and the preservation of the designs' uniqueness was highly important to the success of the business. If a pattern book was published, its designs were anyone's. Because Gillows never published their designs, they were always striving for novelty and protecting their patterns from industrial espionage.

    This newly discovered group of Gillows furniture appears to stylistically date from two phases - the first around 1810-15 and the second, with a more robust, florid style of carving, from around 1820-25. Although no entries survive to reveal whether the Gillows commission was originally for Lord St. Helens' London house in Grafton Street, or for his nephew Sir Henry FitzHerbert at Tissington, interestingly several of the pieces from both phases have uncharacteristic batten carrying-holes for transport - suggesting that they may have been moved to Tissington after Lord St. Helens' death in 1839. This hypothesis would seem to be strengthened by the fact that the Italian specimen marble top (lot 550) - whose base also has batten carrying-holes - is inscribed Sir Henry FitzHerbert in pencil to the underside; Sir Henry was Lord St Helens' nephew and heir.


    G. Jackson-Stops, 'Tissington Hall, Derbyshire - II', Country Life, 22 July 1976, p. 217, fig. 11, illustrated &Iin situ in the Drawing Room