Recorded in Holden's London Directory (1806, 1807) as 'statuaries, masons and plaster figure makers' the firm of Benjamin Shout, and his son Robert (fl. 1778-1823) operated from a studio and spacious showrooms at 18 High Holborn. A bill-head dated 1806 lists their production to include 'several hundreds of figures from the Antique, and likenesses of distinguished personages' (T. Clifford, 'The plaster shops of the rococo and neo-classical era in Britain', Journal of the History of Collections, 1992, vol. IV, no. 1, pp. 63-64).
Probably purchased for Seaforth House by Sir John Gladstone as part of his fervent acquisition of objet d'art around the time he was making extensive alterations to the Library in 1817, the present plaster busts of luminaries would have been a fashionable addition to the where they have henceforth safeguarded the reading matter of many a studious Gladstone. The Shouts also supplied plaster busts for the library of Alexander Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport, at Cricket St. Thomas, Somerset, for Salters' Hall in 1827, and of Leigh Hunt's studio, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote:
'His room no doubt
Is still adorned by many a cast from Shout'
(R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, London, rev.ed., 1968, pp. 350-351).