Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A GEORGE III GILT BRASS-MOUNTED MAHOGANY PEDESTAL DESK
A GEORGE III GILT BRASS-MOUNTED MAHOGANY PEDESTAL DESK
A GEORGE III GILT BRASS-MOUNTED MAHOGANY PEDESTAL DESK
2 More
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION 
A GEORGE III GILT BRASS-MOUNTED MAHOGANY PEDESTAL DESK

ATTRIBUTED TO BECKWITH & FRANCE, CIRCA 1805, THE DESIGN BY THOMAS SHERATON, 1803

Details
A GEORGE III GILT BRASS-MOUNTED MAHOGANY PEDESTAL DESK
ATTRIBUTED TO BECKWITH & FRANCE, CIRCA 1805, THE DESIGN BY THOMAS SHERATON, 1803
Line inlaid thoughout, the shaped top with gilt-tooled tan leather lining and guilloche-pattern galleries to the D-shaped ends, with a long frieze drawer centred by tablet and oval panel, flanked to each side by a bowed door with wire grille and lined oval panel, enclosing four graduated drawers, the reverse with false drawer and similar bowed panels, on ebonised naturalistic feet, originally with two candle sconces to the gallery, the drawers cedar-lined throughout, some with later divisions, the centre drawer restored and probably originally fitted, the replaced door locks stamped 'J.T. NEEDS, 100 NEW BOND STREET/LATE J BRAMAM/124 PICCADILLY', chalked '219', the feet probably originally with castors
41 in. (104 cm.) high; 90½ in. (230 cm.) wide; 42½ in. (108 cm) deep
Provenance
By tradition commissioned by Phillip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
and thence at the Regent's Park house of the 5th Earl of Hardwicke, and then Dale Park, West Sussex.
In the collection of Mr. and Mrs. A. McNicol at Middleton, Berkshire in 1950.
With Mallett in 1954.
With Glaisher and Nash Limited in 1966.
Acquired by the Hon. Mrs. Marten O.B.E., D.L., for Crichel, Dorset
Literature
'Middleton, Sunningdale, Berks., The Residence of Mr. and Mrs. A. McNicol', The Antique Collector, January-February 1950, p. 5.
R.Edwards and P.Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1954, vol. III, p. 259, fig. 47.
Exhibited
The Antique Dealers' Fair & Exhibition, 1966, Grosvenor House, with Glaisher and Nash Ltd.

Brought to you by

Gillian Ward
Gillian Ward Auction Administrator & General Enquiries

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

By tradition this impressive library desk was commissioned by Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke (d. 1834), for Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. It was possibly intended for the Book Room, an ante room to the Library, which was being refurbished in 1806 by the architect, Sir John Soane (d. 1837). Philip Yorke, later Lord Hardwicke, initially met Soane on 28 January 1779, among the Greek ruins of Paestum while both men were on the Grand Tour. Soon after returning to England, Yorke commissioned Soane for alterations to his residence at Hamels Park, Hertfordshire, and when Yorke inherited the earldom from his uncle ten years later he immediately called on Soane for building work at his country seat, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. The desk was later moved to another of Lord Hardwicke's houses, probably New Cavendish Street, Portland Place, and later to Dale Park, Hampshire, which the Earls of Hardwicke owned from 1936-42.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to corroborate this family tradition. An 1835 inventory for Wimpole Hall lists in the 'Large Library', 'a 7 feet by 4 ft 2 Wainscot enclosed Library Table top Cov'd Green Cloth Cupboard enclosed by doors in bottom Part', which may be the present desk though the dimensions differ. The desk is not recorded in an 1881 Wimpole Hall inventory, nor in an 1835 inventory for Lord Hardwicke's London house, 3 St. James's Square, London.
However, in early 1950, the desk was photographed in 'The Hall' at Middleton, Berkshire, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. A. McNicol where it was described as having belonged to 'Lord Chief Justice Hardwicke' (The Antique Collector, Jan. - Feb. 1950, p. 5). It was probably acquired the previous year when the McNicols started to collect antique furniture in earnest (ibid. p. 4). In 1954, the desk was with the dealer Mallett and Son (illustrated in P. Macquoid, R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, 2nd ed., vol. III, London, 1954, p. 259) and in June 1966, it was exhibited at the Antique Dealers' Fair & Exhibition, with Glaisher and Nash Ltd. from whom it was probably acquired by the present owner.

Whatever the truth, it is the case that the Hon. Humphrey Sturt, 3rd Lord Alington, married in 1883 Feorowdna Yorke, daughter of the Earl of Hardwicke, and the 20th century acquisition of the desk, with the Hardwicke tradition, for the Sturt family seat, Crichel, would have seemed entirely appropriate.

THE DESIGN AND ATTRIBUTION

The desk follows the design by Thomas Sheraton (d. 1806) for a Library Table published in The Cabinet Directory in 1803 (plate 55), and was probably executed by the partnership of Samuel Beckwith (who until 1774 worked for Thomas Chippendale) and William France Jnr. (d. 1840), cabinet-makers of 105 St. Martin's Lane, London. In 1783 and 84, Beckwith & France received Royal Warrants as cabinet-makers and upholsterers to King George III, an appointment which William France Jnr. held for the remainder of his life. The partners subscribed to Sheraton's Drawing-Book in 1793, and in 1812, William France Jnr. presented the son of William Banting, his then business partner, with a copy of Sheraton's Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book (G. Castle, 'The France family of Upholsterers and Cabinet-makers', Furniture History Society, 2005, p. 37).
Throughout its long and illustrious history, and despite a number of name changes, the firm was among London's leading cabinet-makers, supplying a significant amount of furniture to the Royal Family, some of which still survives in the Royal Collection. In 1810, the firm now called William France & Son supplied a closely related rosewood kidney-shaped desk for Windsor Castle; this desk is now at Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh (H. Roberts, For the King's Pleasure, The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV's apartments at Windsor Castle, London, 2001, p. 409, fig. 483). The royal desk 'A most superb black rosewood kidney enclosed writing table on pedestals richly inlaid with brass' corresponds to the present desk in its overall form with 'drawers enclosed with circular paneled doors' and 'bronzed' carved paws for which the Lord Chamberlain's office paid £220 (ibid., p. 35).
William France Jnr. also supplied furniture to the Prince of Wales who, it was claimed, 'changes the furniture so very often, that one scarcely finds time to catch a glimpse of each transient arrangement before it is all turned off for some other' (ibid., p. 36). In July 1812, the Prince was delivered 'a superb black rosewood kidney enclosed writing table' at Carlton House, London at a cost of £210.
One of William France Jnr.'s workbooks, 'Journal B', survives in the National Archives; this workbook records two hundred of the firm's clients and their commissions from May 1804 until 1811 (LC 9/352). Although Lord Hardwicke is not listed in the workbook, importantly this archive is incomplete; other workbooks are referred to that no longer survive and gaps in the numbering system suggest cancelled orders or orders not entered in the workbook. However, 'Journal B' does describe furniture of similar character to the present desk. On 16 December 1806, France supplied George Villiers of Cranbourn Lodge '3 pair folding Doors fitted to Commodes in Library with strong trellis brass wires & Green silk Curtains behind'. On 29 June 1807, Bookcases 'the bottom part enclosed with folding Doors wire pannells & Curtains behind of silk' 'to stand on Carved & Bronzed Lions Paw feet' were made for General Harcourt of St. Leonards Hill. In August of the same year, Thomas Littledale Esq., received a 'Mahogany Library table' altered with 'Mask handles with brass rings to the ends', and in 1810, a Mrs. Cook was supplied with 'A neat Mahogany Sideboard on Pedestals with 2 long drawers in middle neatly ornamented with brass Water gilt Lions head handles'.
Interestingly, the firm of Banting & Co., a later incarnation of Beckwith & France, was responsible for compiling the 1835 inventories for Lord Hardwicke's heir, Charles Yorke, 4th Earl of Hardwicke (d. 1873) suggesting that the family retained a close relationship with their former cabinet-maker over a not insignificant period of time.

COMPARABLE DESKS

A very similar 'pedestal library table' with Temple Williams is illustrated in M. Jourdain, Regency Furniture 1794-1830, London, 1934, p. 75, fig. 166, and C. Musgrave, Regency Furniture, 1800 to 1830, London, 1970, pl. 7). Another related pedestal desk, of circa 1810, was sold anonymously Christie's London, 25 November 1976, lot 71 (£3,200 including premium), and again Sotheby's London, 10 July 1992, lot 135 (£45,100 including premium).

More from The Exceptional Sale

View All
View All