This ingenious table, which mechanically transforms itself from a conventional Pembroke table into a reading and writing table, is in the manner of Henry Kettle (1773-1797), cabinet maker and upholder (upholsterer), of 18 St. Paul’s Churchyard, London, and from 1774, no. 23, when Kettle took over the business of Philip Bell. It closely relates to a pair of Pembroke tables at Saltram, Devon, veneered with satinwood, cross-banded with kingwood and inlaid with oval and shaped rectangular mahogany panels, one of which bears Kettle’s trade label on the inside of a drawer (G. Wills, ‘Some Labelled Furniture at Saltram’, Furniture History, 1966, plate XVII; NT 871330). However, unlike the present table, the Saltram tables are not metamorphic. The Saltram collection also has a secretaire bookcase bearing Kettle’s trade label (NT 871382). Surviving bills at Saltram dating from 1796 and 1797 are headed ‘Oakley & Kettle’ suggesting a short-lived partnership with George Oakley, who had a workshop at no. 22 St. Paul’s Churchyard, presumably next door to Kettle’s premises at no. 23. As Kettle customarily placed a paper trade label on his work, where these survive, his furniture can be firmly identified. His labeled furniture includes bureau bookcases, chests of drawers, tables with drawers underneath and Pembroke tables (see C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, London, 1996, figs. 541-556). Much of the furniture for Ralph Leeke of Longford Hall, Shropshire, for which bills exist, was supplied in the early 1790s by Kettle (J. Cornforth, ‘Longford Hall, Shropshire: The Home of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Hall’, Country Life, 16 August 1962, pp. 356-357).
Kettle’s distinctive style of satinwood veneers, cross-banding, stringing and mahogany panels corresponds closely to the work of Ince and Mayhew in his use of contrasting and striking timbers and the addition of block feet as found on the Saltram Pembroke tables. Therefore, it is interesting to note that both of these London cabinet-making firms had a Shropshire patronage – Kettle at Longford Hall, and Ince & Mayhew working for Sir Thomas Edwardes, a Shropshire baronet, in Marylebone (a set of four giltwood open armchairs and a giltwood stool en suite sold from the collection of the late Sir Jasper & Lady More, Linley Hall, Shropshire, Christie’s, London, 9 March 2016, lots 74 and 75).