PROPERTY OF THE TRUSTEES OF THE SECOND BARON HESKETH'S WILL TRUST
S. E. Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Volume I, China, 2008, pp. 158-159.
The design for these chairs was discovered in an album of drawings by James Wyatt in the collection of the Vicomte de Noailles in Paris (fig. 1). The discovery of the design reinforces the link between these chairs and others of this design. The earliest documented example of this model, indeed they are the earliest examples of Wyatt designed furniture, were supplied by Gillows in July 1774 to Sir Thomas Egerton for the Dining Room at Heaton Hall, Lancashire. The firm supplied '16 Elegant mahogany chairs with carv'd back rails and legs' with two 'carv'd elbows' to match (Robinson, op. cit., p. 140). The set are listed at Heaton Hall in 1897 and were subsequently sold at the beginning of the 20th century.
Wyatt's inspiration for the interlaced hoop-back on these chairs and other related designs is not known but it is possibly derived from a printed design that was re-issued in 1766 by the print seller Robert Sayer from an original published in 1753 in Six New Designs of Chairs (see: C. Gilbert, 'Smith, Manwaring, Sayer and a newly discovered set of designs', Furniture History, 1993, pp. 129-133). Robinson notes the 'rounded backs with segmental lines related to the apsed dining room at Heaton' as would be expected of an architect-designer adept at incorporating classical architectural ornament into his creations.
What is known is the design became referred to as the 'Wyatt Pattern' in Gillows' Petty Ledger and the design is well documented in the Gillows archive as being by Wyatt. It was described as their ‘best’ chair and no other chair the firm produced in the 1770s cost as much as the ‘Wyatt Pattern’ chair.
Other examples include those most probably supplied to John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield (d.1821), for Sheffield Park, Sussex, a house in which Wyatt worked extensively in the 1770s. In October 1775 sixteen chairs in this design were supplied to Richard Pennant at Winnington Hall, Cheshire – a house associated with James and Samuel Wyatt – although the chair was on occasion supplied to houses to which the Wyatt’s had no involvement, showing Gillows were making the chairs independently for their own clients. In July 1774, ‘6 mahogany chairs new pattern Wiats [sic]’ are listed in the order books and in April 1775 there is reference to ‘another 66 chairs new pattern like Sir T. Eg[erton]’ (Robinson, op. cit., p. 142).
In addition to these and the aforementioned sets of chairs of this model, there are a small number of sets which also follow the Wyatt design and share the same idiosyncratic oak seat-rail construction. This construction is identical to that of a set of Gothic chairs exactly following a Gillows pattern and probably made by the firm in the early 1780s. The two sets of chairs share oak inner seat-rails but most importantly also the highly idiosyncratic flat angle struts. The Gillows Gothic set are now in Soho House, Birmingham (see: Susan Stuart, 'Three Generations of Gothic Chairs', Furniture History, 1996, pp. 33-8).
RUFFORD NEW HALL, LANCASHIRE
Although the present set of eighteen chairs, the largest known run of this model, are not listed in the few surviving 20th century inventories of Easton Neston, it is more likely they were supplied to Rufford New Hall, Lancashire. Sir Thomas Hesketh, 1st Bt. (1728-1778) built a new compact classical house at Rufford which was improved by his brother Sir Robert (1729-1796) and subsequently his American-born grandson and heir, Sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh (1777-1842) who employed local architect John Foster, working under the guidance of James Wyatt.
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