The tables were almost certainly supplied to Glemham Hall, Suffolk for Dudley North, who acquired the house in 1708-09. North set about refurbishing Glemham with suitably grand furnishings for the next several years but the exact date of the work is not clear. Early photographs of the interiors show some magnificent late 17th Century furniture, including a state bed, which Dudley North is thought to have brought from his father's house in London, which is also recorded as being grandly furnished (H. Avray Tipping, English Homes, Period IV, vol. I, p. 408). North, the son of a City of London magnate, was married to Catherine, the eldest daughter of Elihu Yale, founder of the famous American University and various objects descended from Yale were also added to the collections at Glemham including a William and Mary strong box-on-stand sold from the estate of Halstead B. VanderPoel, Christie's, New York, 8 April 2004, lot 188.
Very good surviving furniture from Glemham of circa 1710-15, includes a suite of gesso seat-furniture and side table acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1970 which suggests that some of the work was completed at an early date (illustrated in H. A. Tipping, English Homes, period IV, vol. I, p. 410). A suggestion that the suite was originally from Sezincote in Gloucestershire, another North house, and only came to Glemham in the 19th or early 20th century, seems implausible, if only because the house at Sezincote at this date does not seem grand enough for such a magnificent suite (The suggestion was made in a footnote to lot 6 in Sotheby's London sale, 10 July 1998).
Some of the later furniture from Dudley North’s time at Glemham is equally impressive. Aside from the eagle tables, this latter commission includes the celebrated suite of early George III mahogany library armchairs whose elaborate needlework was executed by a member of the North family. The set was sold at Christie's in 1945 and a pair sold most recently, Christie’s, London, 16 November 1995, lot 50. The sofa in the foregound of the Country Life photograph of the Hall (illustrated here) is one of a pair now in the Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Gallery of Victoria (W.29.247, D. Fitzgerald, Georgian Furniture, 1967, pl. 2).
Sir Dudley's male line ended with his grandson (another Dudley North) in 1764. Upon his death, Dudley's sister - the Hon. Mrs. Herbert - succeeded him. She eventually left the estate to her younger sister's son, Mr. Dudley Long, who died childless in 1829 and the estate reverted to the Norths, becoming the property of the 8th Earl of Guilford, until the house was sold in 1923. It is not known whether Mrs. Hervey-Bathurst, who sold these tables in 1960, had inherited them or bought them, however they do not appear in the 1945 Christie’s sale of the family property at Waldershare Park. In the same 1960 sale she sold a mirror that was also from Glemham which may suggest she inherited them.
These impressive tables, which would have been entitled 'Roman tables' in early 18th Century pattern books, were designed in the antique manner as sideboard-tables for a stone banqueting hall or saloon, The ornament of the frame is intended to recall ancient poetry such as Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of the Gods, and as such the spread eagle would recall its role in bearing away the youthful Ganymede to serve as Jupiter's cup-bearer at the banquet of the Gods. Appropriately for a buffet-table intended to support silver water-fountains, each frame is wreathed by a festive wave-scrolled ribbon guilloche, named after Vitruvius, author of the Roman architectural treatise.
The original design of the early Georgian eagle-supported pier-table is associated with Lord Burlington's protegé, the artist/architect William Kent (d. 1748), who was granted the title 'Master Carpenter' of King George I's Board of Works. In 1725, Kent featured Roman eagles in his illustrations for Alexander Pope's translation of The Odyssey, Homer’s epic poem which recounted the history of Rome's foundation after the Trojan Wars. Kent used scenes from The Odyssey in his Roman-mosaic ceiling for King George I's apartment or gallery at Kensington Palace.