With their characteristic elm seat-rails, lap-joints to the front legs and incised Roman numerals, these "antiquarian" chairs are characteristic of Anglo-Dutch seat-furniture executed for the English market in the first half of the 19th century. An identical suite of eight chairs, labelled "F. Neale Maker and Furnisher 288 High Holborn", who is recorded at this address between 1835-39, was supplied to the Greene family of Whittington Hall, Lancashire. Whittington had been restored by the Kendal architect George Webster to its present state in 1831-36 and the suite of chairs were undoubtedly acquired as part of the refurbishment. In that the current chairs - originally from a set of at least three - are known to have been acquired by James Watt for Aston Hall before 1851, and their Roman numerals suggest they were originally from a set of at least twelve chairs, it is tempting to conclude that they were all originally part of the same set. The Whittington Hall chairs were sold from the collection of Mr. Stanley Seeger of Sutton Place, Sotheby's, Olympia, 13th December 2002, lot 128.
This most interesting chair pattern is the last manifestation of a design that originates in a set of chairs at Hampton Court Palace with a closely similar back, and a variant of the hoof foot. Although traditionally identified with a payment of 1717 to Richard Roberts for supplying "eighteen chairs with bending backs and girt web bottoms for His Majesty's dining room", these may actually be of circa 1725 (See Adam Bowett, "The India-backed chair 1715-1740", Apollo, January 2003, pp. 3-9). That set has carved 'H' stretchers and a tapering square seat, whereas this pair has a later stouter balloon design of seat, with drop-in squab.
A more elaborate set of four walnut chairs of similar design was sold from the Leverhulme collection in the 1920s (The Anderson Galleries, New York, The Art Collections of the Late Viscount Leverhulme, 9th-1 3th February 1926, lot 14). Another is photographed at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (Country Life, February 1919, figure 4, p . 121), and a related chair with stuffed overseat was at Coleshill House (Country Life, August 1919, figure 13, p. 145).