These candle-stands are first categorically recorded circa 1902 in photographs of Lowther Lodge, London, the house designed by Norman Shaw in the 1870s for the Hon. William Lowther (1821-1912), youngest brother of the 3rd Earl of Lonsdale (J. Cornforth, London Interiors, London, 2000, pp. 166-7). In 1912 Lowther Lodge was sold to the Royal Geographical Society and the works of art - including these torcheres - were taken to the High House, Campsea Ashe, Suffolk. The High House's origins lay in the 16th Century, but it was considerably enlarged in the early 18th Century when the wings and a grand marble entrance or 'banqueting' hall were added by the Sheppard family, who had owned the estate since 1648. It too was remodelled for William Lowther, this time by Anthony Salvin (d.1881) and in 1921 it became the principal seat of his eldest son James William Lowther (1855-1949), Speaker of the House of Commons from 1905, who was created 1st Viscount Ullswater on his retirement in 1921. On his death in 1949 the contents of Campsea Ashe were sold and the house and estate passed into trust until the house's demolition in 1953.
The 1949 Campsea Ashe sale included exceptional Queen Anne walnut and parcel-gilt furniture, some of which had been purchased by the Hon. William Lowther at the 1883 sale held by Messrs. Garrod Turner & Son of the original contents of The High House, Campsea Ashe following the death of John G. Shephard. This is certainly the case with the pair of Queen Anne double-chairback settees sold at Christie's London, 28 November 2002, lot 50.
Whilst it is therefore conceivable that these torcheres orginally formed part of the indigenous furniture at Campsea Ashe, the fact that they are recorded in the London house strengthens the probability that they had been inherited from another Lowther house. Perhaps the strongest candidate is Swillington House, Yorkshire, which was remodelled for Sir William Lowther from 1738 to designs by Henry Flitcroft following his marriage in 1736 to Catherine, daughter of Sir William Ramsden, 2nd Bt..
An identical pair of candle-stands is known from the Collection of the late S.B. Joel, 2 Great Stanhope Street, London, sold Christie's London, 29 May 1935, lot 128, 310 guineas, to M. Harris. These may well be the torcheres now in the Gubbay Collection at Clandon Park, Surrey. Three other pairs of candle-stands of this model are known. The closest parallels are two pairs (possibly the same) - one pair formerly in the collection of Lord Barnard at Raby Castle, Co. Durham, illustrated in O. Brackett and H. Clifford-Smith , English Furniture Illustrated, rev. edn., 1950, p. 196, pl. CLXVIII. The other pair in the James Thursby-Pelham Collection, illustrated in P. Macquoid & R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. edn., London, 1954, vol. III, p. 150, fig. 19. Both of these pairs have less elaborately pierced galleries and the fluting on the shaft is less spiralled. Another pair of the Sainsbury model, but of plain mahogany with no parcel-gilt decoration, formerly in the collection of Sir Edward J. Dean Paul, Bt., was sold from the Leopold Hirsch Collection at Christie's London, 7 May 1934, lot 50.
Samuel Messer was a part of the very small, elite group of connoisseurs of Georgian furniture who formed the nucleus of their collections with the assistance of R.W. Symonds (d. 1958). The Messer Collection of furniture, clocks and barometers, brought together at Pelsham in Sussex, was essentially concentrated on the Chippendale period with particular attention being paid to untouched condition, original patination and fine quality of timber, combined with good proportions, an elegant line and a balanced use of crisply carved ornament. Many of the pieces in the collection came from other distinguished collections, including those formed by Percival Griffiths, Fred Skull and J.S. Sykes.
A letter in Simon Sainsbury's archive, apparently written by Samuel Messer, describes in detail Messer's visit to the Campsea Ashe sale:-
Every old estate which comes under the hammer or is broken up in some way offers opportunities for learning be it amongst its furnishings, its paintings or perhaps architecturally. In 1949 a very interesting auction sale took place at High House, Campsea Ashe, in Suffolk. Some very good furniture, some good paintings and all with that nice bloom of long family possession. An unusual occasion for me as I was driven up to the sale in a new and exciting bespoke car by the proud owner who was a friend dealing in good paintings. Having individually viewed the sale we went off to a wine tasting held by a very old established merchant in a most peculiar tower followed by a memorable lunch.
During the meal we spoke about some of the things at The High House and one thing which I much fancied was a Dutch painting of sand dunes, very simple but charming. The painting was clearly signed 'M. Hobbema', a great Dutch artist who was famous for his skill in painting trees and forest scenes with watermills etc. I discounted the signature and just wanted the painting for its personal appeal thinking that someone had 'signed' it up.
My colleague with a very special knowledge of Dutch paintings dressed himself with a very peculiar expression, perhaps tinged with disappointment, when I mentioned the 'signed' sand dunes. He very quietly and firmly said that the signature was quite genuine and was really the star lot in the sale. 'Oh' thought I, under the circumstances I cannot take any advantage of his superior knowledge so I had to drop the idea of Possession.
At the sale I had to be satisfied with a really fine pair of mahogany and gilt torcheres of the late George II period which went to the S.M.Collection eventually as they were 'Good for the Soul' and so would the painting have been if I had bought it.