These antiquarian library chairs (lots 424 and 425) were almost certainly commissioned for Norton Hall, Daventry, by Beriah Botfield Junior (1807-1863) from Gillows of London and Lancaster. Botfield was a major client of Gillows, to whom he went to design both the Gothic mahogany library furniture and the more restrained oak bookcases to house his ever growing book and arms and armour collection. Sketches for Botfields furniture appear between 1829 and 1837 in their Estimate Sketch Books, while their sketch for a similar chair, is dated 13 June 1827 (no. 3603) and is described as 'A Yew tree Chair with circular seat...& fine mottled veneer back'. A set of eight very similar chairs, previously in the collection of Viscount Mountgarret, Nidd Hall, Ripley, Yorkshire, with eagle heads rather than dolphins, was sold by Guy Reed Esq., in these Rooms, 3 July 1987, lot 60 and again, 25 May 1989, lot 87. The chairs were part of a suite, including a pair of sofas and a pair of bergeres.
This form of compass-seated chair was popularised by early 19th Century antiquarians. It was associated with 18th Century Indian ebony chairs of Dutch 'round' form, that had been labelled as 'Elizabethan' by Horace Walpole and by Henry Shaw in his Specimens of Ancient Furniture, 1833. These chairs are veneered in British oak, and take their 'vase' backs from the splats of the English 'India-back chair of the early 18th Century. Their eagle-monopodia legs, which are embellished with 'Venus' shells, derive from chairs of the George II period, while their poetic 'dolphin' arms featured on a chair pattern issued in Thomas Sheraton's Cabinet Dictionary, 1803 (pl. 17). A particular prototype for these chairs would appear to be a walnut library-chair at Houghton Hall, Norfolk (P. Macquoid, A History of English Furniture, The Age of Walnut, London, 1908, fig. 184a). A pair of early 19th Century oak hall chairs bearing the arms of the Earl of Jersey are displayed at Osterley Park, Middlesex and are also likely to have been executed by Gillows (Victoria and Albert Museum no. 318-9-1947).