This suite of seat-furniture was almost certainly commissioned by
George, 1st Marquess Townshend (d. 1807) for Raynham Hall, Norfolk. It is recorded in an 1811 inventory taken after the death of his son, also George, 2nd Marquess, thus:
In the 'Drawing Room', 'Two Sofas in White & Gold frames stuffed &
Covered with Crimson Satin welted & Gimp'd square flat bolsters on
Castors & pink trellis Cotton thro' over Covers lined' and 'Eight
Elbow Chairs to correspond with thro' over Covers to match',
and in the 'Saloon East', 'Two Sofas stuffed in Crimson satin welted & Gimp'd white & Gold framed on Castors with Pink trellis Cotton thro' over Covers lined - 6 ft. 6 long' and 'Eight Elbow Chairs stuffed & Covered to correspond with thro' over Covers' (An Inventory of
Furniture, Plate, Linen, China, Glass, Wines, Beer, & other Effects the Property of the Most Noble Marquis Townshend at Rainham Hall in the
Country of Norfolk taken August 1811, PRO Ms. C107/39, pp. 76, 78).
George, 1st Marquess Townshend (d. 1807) had a glittering military
career serving under General James Wolfe at the siege of Quebec in
1759, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1767-1772, and had close connections to the royal family; his second wife, Anne
Montgomery, was Mistress of the Robes to Caroline, Princess of Wales, from 1795 to 1820.
The suite was later inherited by Captain John Townshend (d.1863), a
Royal Naval Rear-Admiral, and M.P. for Tamworth, Staffordshire (from
1847 to 1855). It was during this period that the handwritten labels
were fixed to the chairs, describing them as 'Gilt' and 'White and Gold with Sattin Cushion'; ten chairs were in the 'Salloon' and six in the
'White Drawing Room'. John Townshend succeeded as 4th Marquess in 1856.
In 1909, Country Life photographed the suite in situ at Raynham Hall, in the 'Red Drawing Room' and 'Dining-room', republishing some of the images in two articles on the mansion in November 1925 (see Literature).
The suite is conceived in the 1790s George III 'French/antique' or 'Grecian' style, promoted by the francophile advisers in the retinue of George, Prince Regent, later George IV, who employed the influential architect, Henry Holland (d.1806), and Paris-trained chair-maker, François Hervé (d.1796) in the remodelling of his residence at
Carlton House Terrace. The design relates to chairs with rectangular
scrolled padded backs, down-swept arms and columnar fluted supports at Southill, Bedfordshire, perhaps Holland's most celebrated commission,
for Samuel Whitbread II between 1796 and 1800, and at no. 44 Berkeley
Square, London, remodeled by Holland for Lord Clermont in circa
1790 (D. Stroud, Henry Holland, His Life and Architecture, London, 1966, figs. 97, 99, 126).