These remarkable stools are part of a suite of hall furniture that includes a large triple-panelled hall-settee that was sold by Lord Petersham, now 12th Earl of Harrington, at Christie's, London, 9 April 1987, lot 47. This provenance suggests a Stanhope history for the entire suite but precision is extremely elusive with two possible Lord Harringtons as patrons for two different houses, both of considerable architectural interest. This elusiveness of history is compounded by the designs of both bench and stools which, although probably dating from the 1770s or early 1780s pay homage to the Palladian movement of the second quarter of the 18th century and in particular to the work of William Kent.
The politician-soldier 1st Earl of Harrington had commissioned Lord Burlington to build Petersham Lodge in Richmond Park in 1733. Lord Harrington later used Edward Shepherd, largely known now as the builder of Shepherd's Market, to add wings in 1740. The pattern of hall that is from the suite is ultimately inspired by a group that are associated with William Kent, notably those at Chatsworth of c. 1735-40 (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, London, 1980, vol. II, p. 119, fig. 230). John Harris suggested in 1969 that the Chatsworth settees may be as late as the 1760s which reinforces the difficulty of pinning down the execution of designs that might as easily be retardataire homage to designs of Lord Burlington as actually made in the 1730s (Furniture History, 1969, pp. 88-89) . However, a more immediate derivation of the Petersham settee pattern is a pattern of 1767 made in painted deal for Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire, for which John Linnell's design is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (ibid., p. 127, fig. 251). The location of the Shardeloes hall settee is currently unknown but it is a possibly unique example where Linnell's design, bill and piece of furniture all survive. The Linnell design pattern is extremely close to the Petersham settee and suggests a number of different leg and apron block patterns. Although it is not an apron option on the Shardeloes design, Linnell frequently used the Vitruvian scroll that is such a prominent feature of both settee and stools, for example on an armchair pattern on c. 1770, illustrated ibid., p. 42, fig. 79.
The Burlington-designed house at Petersham Lodge was sold after (2nd) Lord Harrington's death in 1779. Since 1730 the family had had a lease on a house on Stable Yard Road within St. James's Palace precincts, later known as Harrington House and demolished in the 1830s. If this hall suite was supplied in the early 1780s then it would presumably have been for this house, although the Palladian style would have more obviously suited Petersham Lodge.
The storage label was applied by the Lord Chamberlain's Department, when the benches were stored at Buckingham Palace.