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    Sale 7806

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

    22 January 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 600



    Price Realised  


    Comprising eighteen side chairs and two open armchairs, the dining-chairs each with a pierced trellised arcaded back with cusped points at top and bottom, centred by a band of stylised quatrefoils with brass-studded maroon leather upholstered seat upon panelled and chamfered square legs, all but two chairs with original webbing, previously with angle brackets, each reinforced to the middle of the back in the late 18th Century, and to the bottom of the back in the 19th Century; the carvers each with pointed arched pierced back centred by a shield painted with the FitzHerbert coat-of-arms of three lions rampant or on a red background, centred within a stylised flower of eight petals, with pierced cusped and pointed arcaded arms, upholstered in brass-studded maroon leather, on panelled and chamfered square legs, two-and-a-half of eight 'petals' of one chairback replaced (20)

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    These George II heraldically charged parlour chairs, bearing FitzHerbert armorial escutcheons in their triumphal Gothic arched and flower-fretted backs, are designed in the British antiquarian manner promoted by B. Langleys' Gothic [Ancient] Architecture improved by Rules, 1742. Commissioned by the patriot William FitzHerbert (d. 1772), they formed part of the banqueting hall suite designed for Tissington's Hall or great-room-of-entertainment - echoing the architecture's pointed arcading both on its walls and on its Hopton stone 'Gothick' chimney-piece, the latter executed in 1757 by Joseph Hall of Derby.

    As Alistair Rowan has pointed out in Batty Langley's Gothic, Studies in Memory of David Talb ot Rice, Edinburgh University Press, 1975, p. 207, the Tissington chimney-piece is in actual fact an amalgamation of two plates from Langley's Gothic, whilst the frieze is taken from a third plate from Langley's spurious 'Order of the Gothick Architecture'. Gervase Jackson-Stops convincingly proposed that, given his interest in architecture, William FitzHerbert could well have acted as his own designer for the 'Gothick' treatment of the Hall at Tissington - and it is interesting to note, therefore, that this same FitzHerbert was also friendly with that great champion of the 'Gothick' taste, the poet Thomas Gray, as well as Garrick, Johnson and Burke.
    Whether William FitzHerbert might also have had a hand in the design of the two suites of 'Gothick' chairs at Tissington is unknown; however they similarly recall recently published patterns for 'Gothic Chairs' contributed by the chairmaker Robert Manwaring to The Society of Upholsterers, Household Furniture in genteel Taste for the Year 1760 (pl. 15), as well as to the related pattern of 1759 for a Gothic arcaded armchair features in Thomas Chippendale's, Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director, 3rd ed. 1762 pl. XVII. Although Thomas Chippendale's original receipt for the Tissington chairs is reputed to have still existed at Tissington in the early 20th Century, an alternative and more tentative attribution has been suggested to John Hobcraft.

    William FitzHerbert's extensive 'Gothick' furniture commissioned for Tissington is described succinctly in the 1775 Inventory. As well as 'a large mahogany sideboard table' and '2 large mahogany therms or pedestals' which remain in the house, the Great Hall contained '17 Mahogany Gothic Hall chairs with Leather seats' and '4 Elbow chairs to correspond' (the suite offered here; two armchairs and one side chair remain at Tissington). The Study, meanwhile, contained 'a mahogany Card Table with fret work frame' and 'a Chimney Glass with a Gothic frame', whilst the Withdrawing Room upstairs had '6 Small Chairs & 2 elbows all Gothick and Mahogany with Leather seats', with other chairs from this suite spread throughout the house.

    This second Gothick suite - published by H. Cescinsky, English Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1910, vol. II, p. 227, fig. 232 - may well provide the clue to the maker of all of Tissington's Gothick furniture. In 1760, an identical set of 11 Gothick mahogany side chairs was supplied to Sir John Griffin Griffin of Audley End by John Hobcraft. Hobcraft, a carpenter and builder of Titchfield Street, seems to have been a protégé of Capability Brown and later worked with Robert Adam on several occasions, including at Padworth House, which has a fishing pavilion with a similarly inspired Batty Langley chimney-piece. This second suite remained at Tissington until 1983, when they were sold at Boardman Fine Art Auctioneers, Haverhill, Suffolk, 30 November 1983, lot 367.

    The seats are likely to have been upholstered in red leather appropriate to the heraldic colours for the armorials or 'three lions rampant or'.

    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.


    Commissioned by William FitzHerbert III (1712-1772) for Tissington Hall.

    Pre-Lot Text



    The Contents and amount of the Household furniture belonging to Wm. FitzHerbert Esq. at Tissington in the County of Derby as herein after mentioned, December of 22nd 1770 - 'In The Hall - 20 mahogany Gothick Chairs...£10. 0s. 0d.', and '4 Elbow ones Do...£4. 4s. 0d' An Inventory of the Household Furniture now in Tissington Hall May of 30th 1775 - 'Goods in the Great Hall - 17 Mahogany Gothic Hall Chairs with leather seats', and '4 Elbow Chairs to correspond'
    H. Cescinsky, English Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1910, vol. II, p. 227, figs. 231 & 235
    'Tissington Hall. - II. Derbyshire, The Seat of Sir Hugo Meynell FitzHerbert, Bt.', Country Life, 18 March 1911, p. 382, illustrated in situ in the New Library
    G. Jackson-Stops, 'Tissington Hall, Derbyshire - I', Country Life, 15 July 1976, p. 159 fig. 3
    G. Jackson-Stops, 'Tissington Hall, Derbyshire - II', Country Life, 22 July 1976, p. 216-217 fig. 9 & 9
    J. Abel Smith, 'Tissington Hall' Historic House, Summer magazine 2002, pp. 34 and 35


    Lent by Sir William FitzHerbert, 4th Bt., to the Bethnal Green Exhibition, 1890.