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Supplied to Edward Leigh (1742-1786), 5th Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh, Stoneleigh Abbey, Kenilworth, Warwickshire and by descent at Stoneleigh
WILLIAM GOMM AT STONELEIGH
Stoneleigh was founded as a Cistercian Abbey by Henry II in 1155. The Stoneleigh estate passed into the hands of the Leigh family when Sir Thomas Leigh (d. 1571) and Sir Rowland Hill purchased it in 1561 from William Cavendish for £1,950. Upon Sir Rowland's death, Sir Thomas Leigh inherited the entire estate, having earlier married Sir Rowland's niece. The estate was to remain within the Leigh family over 400 years.
At the coming of age of the 5th Lord Leigh in 1763 a considerable programme of modernisation was undertaken at Stoneleigh, mainly to the bedroom floor, employing William Gomm as principal cabinet-maker. Other prominent London cabinet-makers employed to carry out the improvements included John Linnell, Thomas and Gilbert Burnett and the decorators Bromwhich & Leigh. The family archives (now deposited at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon) throw some revealing light on the evolving tastes of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century owners of Stoneleigh and give us some clues to the various purchases and furnishings.
William Gomm was born c. 1698 the son of Richard Gomm, a yeoman farmer of Chinnor, Oxon. After completing an apprenticeship with Hugh Maskall of London, a member of the Leatherseller's Co., in 1725 he established himself as a cabinet-maker at Peterborough Court, Little Britain, in the Parish of St Bartholomew, Smithfield. In 1736 Gomm moved to Newcastle House, Clerkenwell Close. In 1756 William took his eldest son Richard (b. 1729) into partnership and in 1763 the business was styled William Gomm & Son & Co. A series of manuscript designs bearing his signature and dated July 1761 exist at the Henry Francis Du Pont Museum, Winterthur. These are Rococo in character and show the influence of Chippendale, Lock & Copland and Thomas Johnson, indicating an appreciation of the contemporary Chinese and Gothick style. His son Richard was a subscriber to Chippendale's Director in 1754.
Among the surviving furniture bills dating from the time of Edward, 5th Lord Leigh's improvements, the largest and most detailed is from 'William Gomm & Son & Compy In Clerkenwell Close Who Make & Sell all Sorts of Chairs, Tables, Glasses, Cabinet-work and Upholstery Goods, Wholesale & Retail.' This is eleven pages in length, dated 12 May 1763-7 October 1764 and totals £884 0s 6d, reduced by returns to £818 9s 0d and receipted 'for Wm. Gomm & Son & Self' on 12 December 1765 by Francis Heber Mallet. A total of 183 assorted chairs were included together with dressing-tables, clothes-presses, close stools, a chest-on-chest, shaving-table, commode dressing-table and a Pembroke table and sideboard. The majority of the mainly plain mahogany case furniture is of the finest craftsmanship with discreet but elegant touches of the fashionable Rococo, Chinese and Gothic styles.
THE PROPERTY OF THE STONELEIGH CHATTELS SETTLEMENT