THE CHIPPENDALE DESIGN
The side table is modelled on a design by Thomas Chippendale (d. 1779) first engraved in 1753, and published in 1754 in the first edition of his Director, plate XXXVI, featuring Chinese fret-carving on the frieze and the distinctive saltire-like pattern and cusped oval panel on the supports. The pattern remained popular, reissued in the 3rd edition of the Director, 1762, plate LVII, its picturesque fusion of Roman with Gothic, Chinese and French elements reflecting Chippendale's 'Modern' style. A closely related table was supplied, and invoiced on 8 September 1759, by the Scottish cabinet-maker, Alexander Peter (active circa 1730 to 1772) to William Dalrymple-Crichton, 5th Earl of Dumfries, 4th Earl of Stair (d. 1768) for Dumfries House, Ayrshire, (Christie's, 'Dumfries House: A Chippendale Commission', vol. I, 12 July 2007, lot 71). Peter, a follower of Chippendale who had subscribed to The Director, simplified Chippendale's foliated trusses and added a further fretted tablet to the base of the legs, successfully modifying the original design. Peter supplied another corresponding table of similar dimensions for the North Drawing Room or 'Parlour', which Lord Dumfries possibly returned to Peter when relations between the two men soured.
Similar side tables of circa 1760 are illustrated in the Saloon at Edgcote, Northamptonshire (R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, vol. I, London, revised edition,1954, p.13, fig. 19). Another with pierced frieze but similarly executed egg-and-dart carving was sold anonymously Christie's, London, 23 May 2012, lot 230 (£241,250 including premium).
The table was possibly commissioned by John Walker (d. 1806), later Walker-Heneage (he changed his name by royal licence at the request of his cousin Elizabeth Heneage from whom he inherited lands in Middlesex and Surrey) conceivably in 1761 when he bought Compton House, Compton Bassett, Wiltshire for £4,000 from the Northey family, or perhaps at the time of his marriage in 1763 to Arabella, daughter of Jonathan Cope of Overton, Huntingdonshire (S. Walker-Heneage, Forebears: An Excursion into Family History, privately printed, 2009, pp. 46-47). While John Walker's personal account book from 1758 to 1761 does not list individual items of furniture, it shows that he was making payments to leading cabinet-makers during this period; on 31 January 1760 £100 to Henry Hill of Marlborough (Hill courted many significant West Country clients, including the Duke of Somerset at Maiden Bradley, the Earl of Radnor at Longford Castle and Lord Methuen at Corsham Court, Wiltshire), on 18 February 1760 £100 to John Cobb, and again to the latter, £82.10 on 10 February 1761 (Somerset Heritage Service, DD/WHb/3124). In the 1818 inventory 'Of the Household goods, linen late belonging to Mrs. [Arabella Walker] Heneage of Compton House, deceased, made for G.H. Heneage 8 July 1818,a 'Large Marble Slab on a Mahy [mahogany] Frame' is recorded in the 'Cube Room'; this is possibly the table offered here (Somerset Heritage Centre, DD/WHb/3098).