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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more THE WOODHALL PARK PEDESTALS


Each with original shaped quadripartite acanthus supports headed by ram masks and supporting a glass storm shade fitted with three nozzles surrounding a pinecone finial, on a waisted square platform with beaded border above a frieze carved with guilloche and ribbon-tied drapery, the body of tapering fluted form and carved with bell flowers terminating in acanthus and anthemia, on a square base carved with foliage and beading, previously decorated, the glass shades and candle nozzle fitments replaced
77 ½ in. (197 cm.) high, overall; 44 ½ in. (141 cm.) high, the pedestals excluding fitments; 11 ¾ in. (30 cm.) square
Almost certainly supplied by Mayhew and Ince to Sir Thomas Rumbold (1736-1791) for the ‘Garden Hall’ at Woodhall Park, Hertfordshire, in circa 1781-2.
Sold in 1794 as part of the contents of Woodhall Park, together with the house and estate, to Paul Benfield (1742-1810).
Sold in 1801 as part of the contents of Woodhall Park, together with the house and estate, to Samuel Smith (d. 1824),
thence by descent at Woodhall Park, until sold by the Executors of the late Colonel Abel Henry Smith, great-grandson of Samuel Smith, ‘The Well-Known Leverton Furniture of Woodhall Park’, Sotheby’s, London, 13 March 1931, lot 108.
Angelica Livingston Gerry; sold from her estate, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 10-11 March 1961, lot 153.
H. Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – I Hertfordshire, The Seat of Colonel Abel H. Smith’, Country Life, 31 January 1925, pp. 164-171, fig. 14.
‘M.J.’, ‘Furniture at Woodhall Park’, Country Life, 26 April 1930, pp. 611-613, fig. 8.
C. Hussey, English Country Houses: Mid Georgian 1760-1800, Woodbridge, 1984, pp. 177-183, fig. 361.
Macquoid and R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, vol. III, London, 1927, p. 155, fig. 12; second revised edition, 1954, p. 162, fig. 17.
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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

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Lot Essay

These pedestals are part of the splendid furniture created for the magnificent neoclassical interiors at Woodhall Park, Hertfordshire for Sir Thomas Rumbold, 1st Baronet (1736–1791). Like much of Woodhall Park’s grander furniture, these elegant pedestals are attributed to Sir Thomas Rumbold’s principal furnishers, Messrs. Mayhew & Ince of Golden Square, London, authors of The Universal System of Household Furniture (1762).

Mayhew & Ince

The customer account ledger for Sir Thomas Rumbold at Goslings Bank, 19 Fleet Street, London, shows that substantial payments in sterling were issued to Mayhew & Ince from 1774 to 1788, comprising, in the period 1781-1782 when these pedestals were probably made, ‘1781, Nov. 8, To Mr Mayhew 500’ (Ms. 1781-83, L-R, f. 441). Furthermore, an inventory and account, dated 6 December 1782, of Sir Thomas Rumbold’s property at ‘Woodhall Park and Gardens’, includes the following entry: ‘To Mayhew and Ince for Household furniture about 3541.17.3 [pounds]’ (Parliamentary Archives, Ms. HL/PO/JO/10/7/650). This substantial sum confirms that Mayhew & Ince were supplying a significant amount of furniture to Sir Thomas Rumbold at Woodhall Park.
Most, if not all, of this furniture, including these pedestals, supplied as part of Mayhew & Ince’s Woodhall commission, was undoubtedly designed to closely conform to the architect, Thomas Leverton’s interiors, since it imitates so perfectly the character of the rooms and reflects the refined elegance of some of the architect’s plaster-work and painted interior designs (Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – I’, op. cit., p. 169). One of the pedestals, and other furniture from Woodhall Park was photographed by Country Life in 1930, and it is interesting to note the reoccurrence of Mayhew & Ince’s distinctive neoclassical motifs, executed in carving or marquetry, such as the thyrsus, anthemion and pendant husks or bellflowers (‘M.J.’, ‘Furniture at Woodhall Park’, op. cit., pp. 611-613, figs. 2, 7, 8 and 9).
The attribution to Mayhew & Ince is further reinforced on stylistic grounds, most notably the conspicuous use of finely carved drapery swags, also found on a serving table and pier table supplied by the firm to Lord Kerry for Portman Square in about 1770, now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery (Cator, op. cit., figs. 1 and 2). (1) The form of these pedestals and the profound fluting ornamentation recalls a pair of painted pedestals commissioned by James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon from the firm for Caledon Castle, Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland (Roberts, op. cit., p. 112, fig. 16). (2) This shape and decoration possibly derive from an undated extant design for a lamp and pedestal by John Yenn (1750-1821), pupil and assistant to the leading architect and designer Sir William Chambers (1723-1796), probably part of the commission for the 4th Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, for which Mayhew & Ince also supplied furniture (H. Roberts, op. cit., fig. 17). (3) Adam also adopted this form in his interiors as seen in a drawing and entry in the accounts for Kenwood House: ‘A Term [pedestal] as wanted for the Great Staircase at Kenwood. Mr. Nelson [Sefferin Nelson, Adam’s principal furniture carver at Kenwood House] is to make one Compleat, & if that is like he is to do 3 more’ (Bryant, op. cit., p. 11). (4)
Other extant furniture from Woodhall Park includes a pair of rolled-paper and decorated console tables ensuite with a mirror, sold Christie’s, London, 6 April 1995, lots 214-213, and a pair of carved and painted armchairs, sold from the house by the Executors of the late Abel Henry Smith, Esq., Sotheby’s London, 13 March 1931, lot 101, and which are now in the Victoria & Albert Musuem (W.18A to A/1-1931). The latter, part of a larger suite, formerly furnished the Music Room and similarly to the interior decoration are decorated with emblems of music.

Thomas Rumbold, 1st Baronet

Sir Thomas Rumbold entered the service of the East India Company (EIC) in January 1752, initially in the company’s Madras civil service before transferring to the military service, where he served as a lieutenant under Stringer Lawrence at Trichinopoly in 1754. By late 1760, he had moved to the Bengal civil service and together with two colleagues, Harry Verelst and Randolph Marriott, he was responsible for collecting land revenues for this province. This highly lucrative position enabled the trio to trade extensively in private, acquiring their own ships built in India, which pioneered the trade in salt with Arracan, now Myanmar. Four years after he had acquired Woodhall Park, Sir Thomas was appointed Governor of Madras from 1778-1781. Unfortunately, in this role he accumulated a number of enemies in his attempts to reform the collection of land revenues and his corrupt dealings with the zamindars or landholders, and when he returned to England in 1781, he faced a storm of criticism that culminated in the demand for a parliamentary enquiry. In consequence he was served with a restraining bill preventing him from leaving the country and he was obliged to declare his net worth and outgoings. It was the latter that recorded the aforementioned sum owed to Mayhew & Ince.

Woodhall Park and Thomas Leverton

Sir Thomas purchased Woodhall Park in 1774 for £87,000 (Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – II,’ op. cit., p. 203). (5) In the late 1770s, he commissioned the architect, Thomas Leverton (circa 1743-1824), to design an appropriate ‘Roman’ villa in which to display his spectacular wealth gained through private trading while in the employ of the EIC. In 1769, he was believed to be worth between £200,000 and £300,000, though this was only a small part of an immense fortune invested in India, later to be transferred to England. Leverton was probably assisted in his architectural endeavour by fellow architect, Joseph Bonomi the Elder (1739-1808). Bonomi first arrived in England in 1767 at the invitation of the Adam brothers, and worked for them until the early 1770s, after which date he moved to the office of Leverton (Wilton-Ely, op. cit., p. 66). (6) Leverton had mastered the neoclassical style made fashionable in the second half of the 18th century by Robert Adam (1728-1792) and James Wyatt (1746-1813), and was recognised as ‘a man of taste and originality in dealing with the planning, designing and decorating of English houses of distinction’; the mansion at Woodhall Park was among his most important commissions (Hussey, English Country Houses, op. cit., p. 177; Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – I’, op. cit., p. 164).
In the neoclassical interior scheme created by Leverton, the pedestals held pride of place in the ‘Garden Hall’, a spacious room with pale green wall colouring and a ceiling decorated with raised plaster motifs and an elegant and elaborate arabesque frieze (ibid., p. 169). When the room was photographed by Country Life in 1925, the centre of the room was left bare except for a pair of marble Campana-shape vases on stands, while set against the walls were pedestals of two designs, the present pedestals of tapering rectilinear form, and a baluster-turned version (ibid.).
Upon the death of Sir Thomas in 1791, the executors were instructed to sell the contents of Woodhall Park, including the present pedestals, together with the house and estate. Woodhall Park was subsequently purchased in 1794, by Paul Benfield, an East India Company employee, financier and politician (Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – II’, op. cit., p. 204). (5) After Benfield was declared bankrupt, his remaining assets, including the estate, were seized by the government. Woodhall Park estate and the contents of the house were offered at auction in 1801, where they were acquired by Samuel Smith, a younger son of a wealthy banker and M.P., Abel Smith (ibid., p. 205). Samuel Smith died in 1824 and was succeeded by his son and grandson, both named Abel. The entire original contents remained intact until a Sotheby’s sale in 1931, following the death of Col. Abel Henry Smith, great-grandson of Samuel Smith (Sotheby’s, London, 13 March 1931, lot 108). They were subsequently acquired by Angelica Livingston-Gerry (1871 - 1960)of Ancrum House, Lake Delaware, daughter of Commodore Eldridge T. Gerry and great grand-daughter of one of the signatories of of the Decllaration of Independence, 1776.
Despite changes of ownership, the addition of new rooms and changes in the wings of the house in 1794, the original furnishings remained in place. H. Avray Tipping, writing in 1925 in Country Life, was able to say that there was ‘no appreciable alteration made in either the disposition or decoration of the rooms in the central block, so that they remain almost as Leverton left them […]’ (Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park – I’, op. cit., p. 168).

(1) C. Cator, ‘The Earl of Kerry and Mayhew and Ince: ‘The Idlest Ostentation’, Furniture History, vol. 26, 1990, figs. 1 and 2.
(2) H. Roberts, ‘Unequall’d Elegance’: Mayhew and Ince’s Furniture for James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon’, Furniture History, vol. 45, 2009, p. 112, fig. 16.
(3) H. Roberts, ‘Nicely Fitted Up’: Furniture for the 4th Duke of Marlborough’, Furniture History, vol. 30, 1994, fig. 17.
(4) J. Bryant, The Iveagh Bequest Kenwood, Leicester, 1990, p. 11.
(5) H. Avray Tipping, ‘Woodhall Park - II Hertfordshire, The Seat of Colonel Abel H. Smith’, Country Life, 7 February 1925, pp. 198-205.
(6) J. Wilton-Ely, ‘Pompeian and Etruscan Tastes in the Neo-Classical Country-House Interior’, Studies in the History of Art, vol. 25, Symposium Papers X: The Fashioning and Functioning of the British Country House, 1989, p. 66.

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