Oh for Heaven’s Sake!

That Orson Cart chap is tinkering again here!

Jack Plane

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A Chocolate Egg Day Concern

Not all bunnies come bearing chocolate. Natheless, happy Easter one and all.

Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 4th April, 2023

Following the conclusion of Woolley and Wallis’ recent auction, a set of George III Chippendale style padouk hanging shelves (lot 217) rose well above their estimate of GBP2,000 – GBP3,000 (AUD 3,725 – AUD5,588; USD2,490 – USD3,734), realising GBP10,000 (AUD18,629; USD 12,448) – plus buyer’s premium.

George III padouk hanging shelves, circa 1770. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Regular readers of this blog would be familiar with the furniture, silver and porcelain associated with serving and partaking of tea during the seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, but many may not be aware of the fervor behind the fashionable drink.

China has a long history of cultivating and drinking tea dating back almost 3,000 years. The leaves of Camellia sinensis, a medium-sized evergreen shrub, are harvested and processed in a variety of ways to produce leaf tea.

In 1625, the trader Samuel Purchas, wrote how the Chinese prepared “… the powder of a certaine herbe called chia of which they put as much as a walnut shell may contain, into a dish of Porcelane, and drink it with hot water“.

Traders in the mid-seventeenth-century brought such teas as Bohea, Pekoe and Congo to Britain from the Chinese ports of Canton and Shanghai. The darker teas, Bohea and Pekoe, were considered the best varieties and Congo somewhat less so. Green tea was considered inferior and therefore cheaper. Of the green teas, Hyson (named after the first merchant of the East India Company to import tea into Britain) enjoyed broad popularity. The East India Company received their first shipment of tea (amounting to 143 pounds – 65 kilos) from their agent in Bantam in 1669.

In seventeenth-century North America, traders first introduced tea to the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam however, it wasn’t initially too well received: “Some tried to serve it like spinach with salt and butter, others ate it on toasted bread”. [i]

Worse was still to befall the colonists.

Meanwhile in England, tea-drinking defined respectability amongst the aristocracy, spurring the importation and manufacture of all manner of tea paraphernalia. Chinese tea wares – essential to the ritual of drinking tea – were simultaneously imported along with tea. However, the cost of Chinese porcelain (figure 1) was colossally expensive, but English porcelain factories like Chelsea (fig.2), Worcester (figure 3), New Hall et al answered to the demand and produced delightful interpretations at a fraction of the price.

Fig. 1. Jean-Etienne Liotard, Still Life: Tea Set, circa 1783.

Fig.2. Chelsea tea service, circa 1755. (Brian Haughton Gallery)

Fig.3. Early Worcester octagonal Red Bull tea bowl, circa 1754. (Leslie Antiques)

Fig. 4. New Hall Teapot, circa 1782-87. (Juno Antiques)

Many forms of tea tables (fig. 5) and tea caddies (fig. 6) also proliferated.

Fig. 5. George II walnut tea table, circa 1740.

Fig. 6. George II burr oak tea caddy, circa 1740-50.

At its introduction, tea was prohibitively expensive to all but the gentility, due largely to the East India Company’s monopoly of the commodity and the Government’s high taxes on its importation.

Fig. 7. Joseph Van Aken, A Tea Party, circa 1720.

Fig. 8. Johann Zoffany, The Garden at Hampton House with Mr. and Mrs. David Garrick taking tea, circa 1762.

As is the world though, tea soon found its way onto the black market, making it affordable for the everyday man (figure 9).

 Fig. 9. William Redmore Bigg, A Cottage Interior: An Old Woman Preparing Tea, circa 1730.

By the 1770s, all foreign tea had to be first imported into London by registered merchants to be levied before distribution to domestic and foreign markets. Several popular means of circumventing taxation were adopted by enterprising individuals: Genuine tea was frequently adulterated by the addition of various domestic tree buds including those of the ash, elder and hawthorn along with innumerable herbs and sheep faeces. Chamomile was an important addition in teas preferred by British women. Great fields of the stuff were grown in the South West of the country and harvested by specialized horse-drawn cutters (fig 10).

Fig. 10. Chamomile cutter along with a set of leather horse boots to help protect the valuable crop.

It was these exports of toxic and adulterated tea – as much as extortionately high taxes – to the North American colony that ultimately resulted in the Sons of Liberty (disguised as Mohawk Indians) boarding three ships in Boston Harbour and throwing 92,000 pounds of tea overboard in 1773.

Smuggling tea into Britain avoided the cripplingly high taxes and accounted for approximately 34% of domestic consumption. The practice flourished to the extent one commentator declared so many people were employed in smuggling that the country’s agriculture was suffering as a consequence.

Fig. 11. Giles Grinagain (pseud.), Loading A Smuggler.

Fig. 12. Thomas Rowlandson, Rigging Out a Smuggler.

The arse eventually fell out of the illegal tea trade in 1784 with the introduction of the Commutation Act, which slashed the tax on tea from 119% to 12.5%. Consequently, many former smugglers, with an intimate understanding of the tea trade, themselves, became bona fide tea merchants.

Jack Plane

[i] Israel, Andrea. Taking Tea. (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987.

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Out of Sight

Christopher Storb has just posted a well-illustrated monograph on the unseen, hastily prepared secondary surfaces of furniture and architectural woodwork.

Jack Plane

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Happy New Year

Cheers to everyone who took the time to read my posts over the past year, and a special thank you to those who commented on them.

Wishing everyone happiness, health and prosperity in 2023.

Jack Plane

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Season’s Greetings

Whatever your persuasion and situation, I wish you all well during the festive season.

Robert Cruikshank, High Life Below Stairs, circa 1825.

Jack Plane

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Benjamin & John Osgood, Carpenters

Trade card of carpenters, Benjamin and John Osgood, possibly between 1811 and 1820. (Lewis Walpole Library)

Benjamin & John Osgood carpenters, at the Rising Sun by London Stone in Cannon Street, perform all sorts of carpenters work; survey and measure land, and all kinds of work, & draw accurate plans &c. They also furnish funerals to any part of Grt. Britain &c.
NB. A convenient house for publick or private funerals.

Jack Plane

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Incy Wincy Mayhew – a New Book

Hugh Roberts and Charles Cator, Industry and Ingenuity: The Partnership of William Ince and John Mayhew (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, November 2022), 448 pages, ISBN: 9781781301098. Via Bloomsbury.

The first comprehensive study of William Ince and John Mayhew’s famous eighteenth-century cabinetmaking partnership, complemented by high-quality photographs of their work.

The partnership of William Ince (1737–1804) and John Mayhew (1736–1811) ran from 1758 to 1804 and was one of the most enduring and well-connected collaborations in Georgian London’s tight-knit cabinetmaking community. The partners’ clientele was probably larger, and their work was arguably more influential over a longer period, than most other leading metropolitan makers – perhaps even than that of their older contemporary, the celebrated Thomas Chippendale.

Despite their considerable output and an impressive tally of clients and commissions, much of Ince and Mayhew’s work has remained unidentified until recent times. The authors’ substantial research in private family archives, county record offices and bank archives has allowed them to uncover much new evidence about the business and its influence within cabinetmaking circles. In Industry and Ingenuity, the results of these new investigations are presented alongside an impressive selection of more than 500 colourful, vibrant photographs of Ince and Mayhew’s works, many previously unpublished, which together emphasise the partnership’s proper position in the pantheon of great eighteenth-century cabinetmakers.

Table of Contents



Apprenticeship and Partnership
Premises and Family
Role of the Partners
The Universal System of Household Furniture
Branches of the Business
Workshop Management
Accounting and Finance
Relationship with Architects
‘House Style’ and Stylistic Development
Dissolution of the Partnership
The Suit in Chancery

Documented Commissions
Possible Commissions


Select Bibliography (with Abbreviations)
Photographic Credits

Jack Plane

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He’s at it again!

I just noticed that daydreamer Orson Cart has posted another bulletin here.

Jack Plane

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This just in…

If remotely interested, you can read the latest from Orson Cart here.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXLVII

All right sleuths; let’s be having your opinions again please.

Fig. 1. (Box House)

Fig. 2. (Box House)

Fig. 3. (Box House)

Fig. 4. (Box House)

Fig. 5. (Box House)

Fig. 6. (Box House)

As per usual, I may withhold some early comments for a short period to let others have a stab at it.

 Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 30th of June 2022

The George II mahogany desk (lot 256) mentioned in Woolley and Wallis’ recent auction realised GBP1,000 (AUD1,764; USD1,217).

The pair of Irish-style Chinese export padouk elbow chairs (lot 526) realised the lower estimate of GBP15,000 (AUD26,460; USD18,249).

All plus buyer’s premiums.

Jack Plane

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Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks at Woolley and Wallis, June 2022

The upcoming Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks two-day sale will take place at Woolley and Wallis’ rooms at 51-61 Castle Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Wednesday, 29th June and Thursday 30th June 2022.

There are many fine lots on offer, and a few piqued my interest: Lot 256 is a rather elegant George II mahogany desk with a very fair pre-auction estimate of GBP500 – GBP800 (AUD873 – AUD1,398; USD629 – USD1,006).

Lot 256, a George II mahogany desk, circa 1740. (Woolley and Wallis)

The top billing is lot 526, an extraordinarily fine pair of Irish-style Chinese export padouk elbow chairs (with a somewhat ambiguous Catalogue Note), carrying a pre-auction estimate of GBP15,000 – GBP20,000 (AUD26,197 – AUD34,922; USD18,861 – USD25,148).

Lot 526, A pair of George III Chinese export padouk chairs, circa 1760. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Another communiqué from Orson Cart here.

Jack Plane

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The Original Chelsea Bun House

Roll on Cross Bun Day!


All Things Georgian

As it  is approaching Good Friday I thought I would share some information about the original Chelsea Bun House. Easter is traditionally the time for hot cross buns which are slightly different to Chelsea buns as the Chelsea bun is made of a rich yeast dough flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice and are much sweeter and stickier than hot cross buns.

The Chelsea Bun House is believed to have originated in the early 1700s and was run by the same family for over 100 years, producing what we still know today as Chelsea Buns, although the recipe may have changed slightly over the centuries to cater for modern tastes.

The shop was owned by the Hand family and for some considerable time was run by Richard and Margaret Hand. Richard died in 1767 leaving the business to his second wife, Margaret. The couple raised two sons, but…

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Exhibition | Boilly: Parisian Chronicles

If at all possible, take yourself along to see this exhibition: You’ll talk about it for the rest of your days!



Louis-Léopold Boilly, Trompe-l’oeil aux cartes et pieces de monnaie, detail, ca. 1808–15
(Lille: Palais des Beaux-Arts)

◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊

From the Cognacq-Jay:

Boilly: Parisian Chronicles
Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris, 16 February — 26 June 2022

Curated by Annick Lemoine and Sixtine de Saint-Léger

A virtuosic and prolific artist in a class of his own, Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845) was the enthusiastic chronicler of Parisian life for sixty years, spanning a period from one revolution to the dawn of the next (1789 and 1848). In addition to being a portraitist for Parisians and a painter of city scenes, Boilly was also the inventor of stunning trompe-l’œil paintings and the author of witty caricatures. This monographic exhibition explores Boilly’s productive career through a selection of 130 works, giving us a glimpse into the artist’s uniqueness, brilliance, humour, and inventiveness. It presents several previously unseen masterpieces, some of which have…

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 30th of March 2022

The harlequin table (Lot 129) mentioned in Woolley and Wallis’ recent auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, realised GBP900 (AUD1,582; USD1,182).

The pine cabinet maker’s tool chest (lot 159) realised GBP750 (AUD1,318; USD985) – somewhat less than its lower pre-auction estimate of GBP800.

All plus buyer’s premiums.

Jack Plane

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Please, Come In

The entrance halls of some of the great English houses of the affluent could oft be places of unbridled conviviality, or conversely, dens of apprehension, abasement, and even injury.

In a time when an Englishman’s home was his castle, uninvited visitors were strongly frowned upon. Visiting cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use.

The essential convention was that a first person would not expect to see a second person in the second’s own home (unless previously introduced and invited) without having first left his visiting card at the second’s home. Upon leaving the card, the first would not expect to be admitted initially but instead might receive a card at his own home in response from the second. This would serve as a signal that a personal visit and meeting at home would be welcome. On the other hand, if no card was forthcoming, or if a card was sent, sealed in an envelope, a personal visit was thereby discouraged.

The whole song and dance routine depended upon there being servants to open doors and receive the cards and was, therefore, confined to the social classes who employed servants.[i]

The exception might be trades people offering their business flyers (figures 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5), in the hopes of patronage.

Fig. 1. Flyer of John Hinge, ‘operator for corns and nails’.

Fig. 2. Flyer of John Brailsford, cutler.

Fig. 3. Flyer of William Woodward, nightman.

Fig. 4. Flyer of Thomas Hedges, comb and brush maker.

Fig. 5. Flyer of Benjamin Tiffin, bug-destroyer.

Once admitted into the house by the butler, visitors, of all ranks, were requested to wait in the hall while the butler went and sought the pertinent inhabitant. Callers of quality, assured of an audience, would merely pace the stone or marble floor for a few moments until being received, while most vendors and service providers would be told to sit on one of the solid, exacting, chairs that were positioned round the walls. Hall chairs (figure 6) were intentionally uncomfortable; designed to intimidate tradespeople, potential suitors, and other uninvited callers.

Fig. 6. Mahogany hall chair, circa 1825. (Thakeham Furniture)

Butlers would often receive perquisites from certain unsolicited callers, but ultimately, were responsible for conducting a well-oiled house. If confronted with some repugnant or fainéant individual upon opening the front door, the caller might well have been unceremoniously dragged inside, held down on one of the hall chairs and treated to an horrific ordeal with a leg clamp to ensure their non-return.

Such was the case with one Bernard ‘Bernie’ Clay (figure 7), a London brick dust seller, intent solely on equipping the household with the necessary brick dust to polish their mahogany.

Fig. 7. Bernie Clay, brick dust seller.

The butler concerned, one Percival Leftlegs, took exception to Clay, admitted him, and then summoned a few accomplices to deal with him. Clay was constrained in a hall chair and set about by Leftlegs who applied a leg clamp to the unfortunate’s right leg (figure 8).

A. Bernie Clay. B. Sebastian Bellmouth.
C. Percival Leftlegs. D. Bellmouth’s brother-in-law.

Fig. 8. Bernie Clay being coerced.

History does not relate whether Bernard Clay suffered lasting physical or mental impairment, nor if he ever returned to the same premises.

A more satisfactory outcome, under similar circumstances, was achieved by Edward Rhododendron, a gardener from a large estate near Dulwich who sought counsel with his master to apply for the vacant position of head gardener.

An overzealous butler caused sever bruising and lacerations to Rhododendron’s right leg, but the unsavoury incident came to the attention of the estate owner, who indeed, granted Rhododendron the hallowed position of head gardener (figure 9).

Fig. 9. Edward Rhododendron, with leg on the mend.

Jack Plane

[i] Wikipedia.

Posted in 17th and 18th Century Culture, Antiques, colouring and polishing | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks at Woolley and Wallis

Viewing the Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks will take place at Woolley and Wallis’ new exhibition venue at Unit 1B, Castle Gate Business Park, Old Sarum, Salisbury, SP4 6QX, on Wednesday the 30th of March 2022.

I have a keen regard for harlequin tables, having restored several originals and made one copy. Lot 129 in this sale is a George II mahogany harlequin table with a pre-auction estimate of GBP800 – GBP1,200 (AUD1,435 – AUD2,150; USD1,050 – USD1,575).

Lot 129, a George II mahogany harlequin table, circa 1740. (Woolley and Wallis)

Also, of interest to anyone wishing to make it easier for a thief to purloin all one’s tools in a single manoeuvre, is lot 159, a pine cabinet maker’s tool chest (minus its original beckets). The chest similarly carries an estimate of GBP800 – GBP1,200 (AUD1,435 – AUD2,150; USD1,050 – USD1,575).

Lot 159, a late eighteenth-century mahogany-lined pine tool chest. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

Edited to add a few images of beckets:

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Auction Results – Woolley and Wallis, 12th of January 2022

Following the conclusion of Woolley and Wallis’ Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks auction, the Channel Islands painted pine chest on stand (Lot 31) realised its upper estimate of GBP8,000 (AUD14,855, USD10,658).

The needlework picture (Lot 101) exceeded its estimate, running all the way up to GBP5,500 (AUD10,360; USD7,540).

The mahogany Grendey ladderback side chair (Lot 108) doubled its upper estimate to sell for  GBP300 (AUD565; USD411).

All plus buyer’s premiums.

Jack Plane

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Important Americana up for Grabs

Christie’s New York are conducting their on-line Important Americana sale on the 20th and 21st of January 2022.

Lot 360, a joined, red-painted pine chest-of-drawers, Boston or Essex County, Massachusetts, 1690-1720. (Christie’s)

Sorry, I can’t help myself.

Jack Plane

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Rare Offerings from Woolley & Wallis

Woolley & Wallis are kicking off the New Year with their Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks sale on the 12th of January 2022 in their rooms at 51-61 Castle Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK.

Lot 31 caught my eye – a rare Channel Islands polychrome painted pine chest on stand (figure 1). Estimate: GBP5,000 – GBP8,000 (AUD9,285 – AUD14,855, USD6,660 – USD10,658).

Fig. 1. George II green-painted chest on stand, Guernsey, circa 1750. (Woolley & Wallis)

Lot 101 is a needlework picture depicting the Adoration of the Magi (figure 2). Estimate: GBP1,500 – GBP2,000 (AUD2,815 – AUD3,755, USD2,033 – USD2,710).

Fig. 2. Charles II stumpwork needlework picture, circa 1670. (Woolley & Wallis)

Lot 108 is a mahogany ladderback side chair in the manner of Giles Grendey (figure 3). Estimate: GBP100 – GBP150 (AUD188 – AUD282, USD136 – USD203).

Fig. 3. George II mahogany ladderback chair, circa 1750. (Woolley & Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Happy New Year

Belatedly (I have been away) – cheers to everyone who took the time to read my posts over the past year, and a special thank you to those who commented on them.

Wishing everyone happiness, health and prosperity in 2022.

Jack Plane

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Auction Results – Woolley and Wallis, 9th and 10th November 2021

Following the conclusion of Woolley and Wallis’ The Collection of Micheál & Elizabeth Feller auction, the oak armorial folding book stand (lot 621) more than tripled its high estimate, realising GBP1,700 (AUD3,120; USD2,270) – plus buyer’s premium.

The ash and sycamore Gibson chair (lot 432) made a little over three times its mid estimate, selling for GBP1,600 (AUD2,935; USD2,137) – plus buyer’s premium.

The Irish bentwood boat builder’s chair (lot 36) made twice its high estimate, also selling for GBP1,600 (AUD2,935; USD2,137) – plus buyer’s premium.

Jack Plane

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Mackinnon: Fine Furniture and Works of Art

Renowned London dealer, Charlie Mackinnon, is unloading 170 lots of furniture and other items through Christie’s in an on-line auction, beginning on the 10th of November 2021.

Virtually all the lots grabbed my attention in one way or another.

Jack Plane

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English and Irish Furniture at Woolley and Wallis

Woolley and Wallis are conducting a two-day sale; The Collection of Micheál & Elizabeth Feller in their Castle Street salerooms, Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Tuesday 9th November, and Wednesday 10th November 2021.

Amongst the many interesting items on offer are an oak book stand and several Irish chairs.

Fig. 1. Lot 621, an oak armorial folding book stand. (Woolley and Wallis)

Fig. 2. Lot 432, an ash and sycamore Gibson chair. (Woolley and Wallis)

Lots 434 and 890 are similar Gibson chairs. Lot 413 is a child’s Gibson chair.

Fig. 3. Lot 36, an Irish bentwood boat builder’s chair. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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A Pair of Mahogany Hall Armchairs

Christie’s The Collector: English & European Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art Online Auction 19989, is now live; concluding on the 19th of October.

Amongst the varied lots, I espied this pair of mid eighteenth-century mahogany armchairs (lot 162) with their pre-auction estimate of USD10,000 – USD15,000 (AUD13,770 – AUD20,660; GBP18,740 – GBP28,110).

Fig. 1. George II mahogany armchairs, circa 1755. (Christie’s)

The attachment of the rear legs/stiles to the seat is precisely what I would have expected on this type of chair. A pair of plugs in the back of each stile cover the screws that attach them to the seat (figure 2).

Fig. 2. Screws simply attach stiles to seat. (Christie’s)

Compare with this chair in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 22nd September 2021

Following the conclusion of Woolley and Wallis’ recent Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks auction, the William and Mary green japanned chest-on-stand (lot 180) predictably rose well above its estimate of GBP8,000 – GBP12,000 (AUD14,960 – AUD22,441; USD11,015 – USD16,523), realising GBP31,000 (AUD58,451; USD42,260) – plus buyer’s premium.

Jack Plane

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In Other News…

If at all interested, you can read the latest from Orson Cart here.

Jack Plane

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A Rare Chest-on-Stand

Woolley and Wallis are conducting a Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Wednesday 22nd September 2021.

Amongst many of the superb items on offer is lot 180, a William and Mary green japanned chest-on-stand (figure 1) with an estimate of GBP8,000 – GBP12,000 (AUD14,960 – AUD22,441; USD11,015 – USD16,523)

William and Mary green japanned chest-on-stand, circa 1690-1700. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Christie’s, 8th June, 2021

Following the conclusion of Christie’s Julians Park and Six Private Collections live auction, the early mahogany hall chair (lot 171) realised GBP3,750 (AUD6,857; USD5,309).

Jack Plane

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A Mahogany Hall Chair

Christie’s Julians Park and Six Private Collections live auction on the 8th of June has many fine lots for the collector and connoisseur.

Amongst the lots on offer is an early hall chair (lot 171), a rather attractive and Windsor-esque early eighteenth-century chair (figure 1).

Fig. 1. George II mahogany and marquetry hall chair, circa 1730. (Christie’s)

When hall chairs come up, one normally imagines the somewhat austere nineteenth-century mahogany chairs with their imposing carved or painted armorials (figures 2, 3 & 4).

Fig. 2. Pair of Regency mahogany hall chairs, circa 1815. (Christie’s)

Fig. 3. Regency hall chair armorial, circa 1815. (Christie’s)

Fig. 4. George IV hall chair armorial, circa 1822. (Sotheby’s)

Lot 171, with its marquetry armorial, is an altogether more familiar chair (figure 5).

Fig. 5. Back splat with marquetry armorial, circa 1730. (Christie’s)

Jack Plane

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Grinling Gibbons – The Michelangelo of Woodcarving

Further to a post about Grinling Gibbons a few years ago, St James’s Church Piccadilly in association with the Grinling Gibbons Society, Presents: Grinling Gibbons – The Michelangelo of Woodcarving.

Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 20th April, 2021

Following the conclusion of Woolley and Wallis’ recent auction, the William and Mary oyster veneered and marquetry chest (lot 23) – which I predicted might be a sleeper – rose well above its estimate of GBP4,000 – GBP6,000 (AUD7,266 – AUD10,900; USD5,563 – USD8,344), realising GBP16,000 (AUD28,735; USD22,291).

In the same sale, the George II mahogany bureau (lot 274) also did well. With its pre-auction estimate of GBP3,000 – GBP5,000 (AUD5,451 – AUD9,084; USD4,169 – USD6,948), it made GBP5,000 (AUD16,164; USD12,541).

Both lots plus buyer’s premium.

Jack Plane

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Fine English Furniture at Woolley and Wallis

Woolley and Wallis are conducting a  two-day Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Tuesday 20th April, and Wednesday 21st April 2021.

Amongst many of the superb items on offer is lot 23, a William and Mary oyster veneered and marquetry chest (figure 1) with an estimate of GBP4,000 – GBP6,000 (AUD7,266 – AUD10,900; USD5,563 – USD8,344), which, if it sells within estimate, would seem like a bit of a bargain to me.

Fig. 1. William and Mary marquetry chest, circa 1690. (Woolley and Wallis)

There is also lot 274, an unusual George II mahogany bureau (figure 2) with an estimate of GBP3,000 – GBP5,000 (AUD5,451 – AUD9,084; USD4,169 – USD6,948).

Fig. 2. George II mahogany bureau, circa 1760. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Harewood or Rabbit Wood?

Happy Easter to one and all.

Jack Plane

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Of Padauk Legs and Rats

In 1751, aged fourteen, Thomas Parker joined the Royal Navy where he led an unremarkable career as a seaman. In 1762, whilst bathing in Bahía de la Habana, Parker was attacked by a large shark. He survived the attack but lost his left leg below the knee (figure 1).

 Fig. 1. John Singleton Copley, Parker Saved from the Shark, 1763.

It probably wasn’t the first shark attack on a Royal Navy seaman; however, the Navy having just kicked the Spanish out of Havana, British sentiment was running high, and news of Parker’s misfortune captured the esteem of British patriots back home.

By the time Parker made it back to Blighty, he was quite the celebrity and was given a hero’s welcome… along with a rather splendid new leg made of padouk (figure 2).

Fig. 2. Robert Dighton, Thomas Parker, circa 1780.

Parker enjoyed his newfound notoriety, but it wasn’t to last. Born on the Hylands House estate near Chelmsford in Essex, Thomas was the eldest son of Charles Parker, the estate carpenter. He was an ordinary sort, and the pressures of his celebrity took their toll on him. Parker resorted to frequenting quay-side taverns where patrons would throw him a halfpenny to relate the story of the shark attack in Havana (figure 3).

Fig. 3. Isaac Cruikshank, The Hero Thomas Parker, circa 1786.

Parker was a drunkard, sleeping on coils of rope in warehouses by the docks, eventually selling his padauk leg to another unfortunate sailor to pay off some of his debts. Parker’s peg leg now resides in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (figure 4).

Fig. 4. Thomas Parker’s padauk peg leg. (National Maritime Museum)

In 1788 Parker returned home to Hylands House, where his brother, Edward (figure 5), himself now a carpenter of some repute (the celebrated inventor of, amongst other things, winding sticks), took him in.

Fig. 5. John Walters, Edward Parker, Hylands House Carpenter, circa 1797.

Edward used his position to appeal to the estate manager to secure employment for his brother. Thomas’ personage, however, cut him no favours in rural Essex and so, he was assigned to the care and employ of the estate’s mole and rat catcher. Thomas seemingly excelled at catching vermin, using the end of a crutch to extricate the pests from their hiding places.

Thomas approached Edward to make him a new peg leg – one that would be singularly advantageous in his new vocation. Again, using padauk, Edward – in conjunction with a local gunsmith – fashioned a formidable peg leg incorporating a miniature blunderbuss (figure 6).

Fig. 6. Thomas Parker’s flintlock peg leg. (private collection)

With mobility regained, renewed resolve, and equipped with a state-of-the-art weapon, Thomas set about destroying rodents on the Hylands estate with rat shot and gunpowder. His achievements didn’t escape the notice of neighbouring landowners and soon Thomas’ services were in high demand.

Thomas subsequently departed Edward and Hylands House and moved fifty miles northwards to live with his widowed sister, Elizabeth, in Newmarket, where he continued blasting rats and poisoning them with an efficacious bait of his own invention (figure 7).

Fig. 7. Thomas Parker’s trade bill, circa 1791.

In 1794, aged fifty-seven, Thomas Parker died of sepsis from a gangrenous infection after blowing off part of his right foot with his peg leg whilst in the pursuit of rats.

Jack Plane.

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Picture This CXLVI

The vendor of this chest describes it as a circa 1780 mahogany bachelor’s chest with a caddy top.

Fig. 1. Inoffensive looking late eighteenth-century chest.

What say the sleuths?

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXLV

Lot 230 in Bonham’s recent The Gentleman’s Library Sale was this late early walnut chest (figure 1).

Fig. 1. George II walnut caddy top chest of three drawers, circa 1735. (Bonham’s)

‘Late early’ may sound a little Irish, but, with its caddy top, cock-beading, bail handles and bracket feet, it’s a fairly late interpretation of an early style three (or two-over-two) drawer chest (figure 2).

 Fig. 2. William and Mary walnut two-over-two drawer chest, circa 1690. (Keil’s Antiques)

Whilst Bonham’s describe the chest as standing on “shaped bracket feet”, the current solid brackets (figure 3) are not original (they don’t even appear to be walnut). The chest may have formerly stood on bracket feet, however, wear to the vertical veneer on the base suggests the possible antecedence of bun feet – which would make them late in the chronology of feet.

 Fig. 3. Spurious foot. (Bonham’s)

Jack Plane

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Happy New Year

What a year! Cheers to everyone who took the time to read my posts over the past year, and a special thank you to those who commented on them.

Wishing everyone happiness and prosperity in 2021.

Jack Plane

Posted in Distractions | 10 Comments

Season’s Greetings

Whatever your persuasion and situation, I wish you all well during the festive season.


Francis Wheatley, The Mistletoe Bough, circa 1790.

Jack Plane

Posted in Distractions | 13 Comments


The only use for the timber of the swizzle tree (Quararibea turbinata) that I can find is for making goad sticks (figure 1).

Fig. 1. Goad stick with swizzle haft.

However, ‘swizzles’ are concoctions that originated on the island of Saint Kitts in the Caribbean in the early eighteenth-century. Swizzles can be rum-based libations or roborant drinks, the common component being an aromatic twig of the swizzle tree (figures 1 & 2).

Fig. 1. Swizzle (Quararibea turbinata).

Fig. 2. José Celestino Mutis, Quararibea turbinata, Real Expedición Botánica al Nuevo Reino de Granada, t. 2170 (1783-1817).

The drinks are stirred with a ‘swizzle stick’ (twig) by vigorously rolling it between the palms of the hands which action imparts its unique flavour and fragrance to the drink. 

Below is a recipe for a restorative swizzle, of which I have been taking a daily draft for many years. Sadly, I do not have a swizzle tree in the garden from which to break off a stirring twig. Natheless, the elixir is sapid, refreshing and particularly good for one’s health.

Restorative swizzle:

In a 700ml (1-1/2 pint) jar, add:
1 tablespoon of raw honey (preferably active manuka honey, if available).
2 tablespoons of unfiltered cider vinegar (with The Mother).
2 slices of raw ginger (or squeeze out two inches of ‘toothpaste’ minced ginger).
Top up with cold water, stir and refrigerate.
Shake or stir before drinking.

Jack Plane


Posted in Distractions, Furniture Timbers | Tagged , | 6 Comments


Laburnum is a genus of two species of small deciduous trees viz. common laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides) and alpine laburnum (Laburnum alpinum). Laburnums are native to southern Europe but are omnipresent throughout the British Isles.

laburnum_tree_01aFig. 1. A laburnum at Barrington Court near Ilminster in Somerset. (Pam at Twoshoes3)

The entire tree is poisonous and can cause convulsions and violent diarrhoea. Natheless, laburnum wood is one of the great unsung riches of antique furniture. It has been justly revered and normally reserved for the finest chests and chairs in much the same manner yew was employed for making Gothic Windsor chairs.

Laburnum’s heartwood is of a khaki-brown colour (figure 2), bordered by cream-coloured sapwood (figures 3 & 4). Though the wood is lustrous with an inherently waxy feel, I have occasionally seen laburnum chairs wrongly ascribed as being of wych elm.

Fig. 2. Laburnum anagyroides (The Wood Database)

laburnum_02aFig. 3. Typical narrow laburnum board showing marked difference between sapwood and heartwood. (Hobbit House Inc.)

freshly_cross_cut_laburnum_01aFig. 4. Freshly crosscut laburnum. (Wikipedia)

The alpine laburnum is a slightly larger tree than its common cousin and grows extensively in the northern reaches of the Isles. Though both species produce adequate solid timber for chairs, table frames, and oyster veneers for tabletops and chests etc., furniture made from laburnum seems to have been more abundantly produced in Scotland and northern Ireland.

I have recently been reminiscing with Sebastian Pryke, proprietor of At the Sign of the Pelican, about the laburnum trees, laburnum walk, laburnum cockpen chairs and other laburnum furniture back at home in Northern Ireland. There, furniture made of laburnum was talked about with the same or greater reverence as any made of mahogany. Sebastian whose holy grail is laburnum cockpen chairs, holds a splendid selection of mainly Scottish furniture, much of it laburnum (figures 5, 6 & 7).

Geo_III_laburnum_ladderback_chairs_c1770_01aFig. 5. Three from a set of five Scottish George III laburnum ladderback chairs, probably by William Hamilton, circa 1770. (At the Sign of the Pelican)

late_18C_Geo_III_laburnum_ladderback_armchairs_01aFig. 6. A pair of Scottish George III laburnum ladderback armchairs, late eighteenth-century. (At the Sign of the Pelican)

Geo_III_laburnum_brander-back_chair_c1800_01aFig. 7. One of a pair of Scottish Georgian laburnum brander-back chairs, circa 1800. (At the Sign of the Pelican)

Fig. 8. Laburnum child’s chair. (At the Sign of the Pelican)

Laburnum became a catchword during the seventies and early eighties with practically any unusually dark furniture made from ash, elm, chestnut, drupaceous fruitwood, cocus, olive, rowan and walnut etc. being labelled ‘laburnum’. There is a card table in the Victoria and Albert Museum (number W.64-1962) that looks remarkably similar to the laburnum table in figure 11, which they describe as “cocus (or possibly plum)”. One West End dealer I visited in the early eighties had about six ‘laburnum’ oyster chests of drawers on his showroom floor (some were dark-hearted walnut, some just plain ordinary walnut and a couple were olive). Then in the mid-eighties, laburnum was widely disparaged virtually to the point of fiction.

Thanks to research by Sebastian Pryke and others, laburnum is now much better understood and appreciated again.

18C_laburnum_COS_01aFig. 9. William and Mary walnut and laburnum oyster chest-on-stand, circa 1690. (Lyon & Turnbull)

William_&_Mary_laburnum_oyster_COD_c1690_02aFig. 10. William and Mary walnut and laburnum oyster chest, circa 1690. (Sotheby’s)

geo_I_laburnum_card_table_1725_01aFig. 11. George I laburnum card table, circa 1725. (Bonhams)

Fig. 12. George II laburnum armchair, circa 1735. (Christie’s)

Geo_II_laburnum_side_table_c_1740_01aFig. 13. George II marble-topped laburnum side table, circa 1740. (Christie’s)

Geo_II_Scottish_solid_laburnum_drop-leaf_table_c1740_01aFig. 14. George II solid laburnum drop-leaf table (with exceptionally wide one-piece leaves), circa 1740. (Christie’s)

Fig. 15. George III laburnum and mahogany secretaire cabinet, circa 1765. (Christie’s)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFig. 16. Set of George III brander-back laburnum chairs, circa 1800.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFig. 17. Close-up of brander-back laburnum chair.

Jack Plane

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Gothic Revival

There has been some revived interest in Gothic Windsor chairs in these parts lately. I had an enquiry from a reader about the possibility of my making a Gothic Windsor for him. That’s on-going.

I have also received mail from another reader, Peter Flynn, who, for almost thirty years, has taken a keen interest in Gothic Windsor chairs from an historical perspective. Our dialogue has focused on the central joint atop the back of the typical pointed-arch back Gothic Windsor armchair (figure 1) which was previously discussed in the comments of Picture This LXII.

Fig. 1. Yew Gothic Windsor elbow chair, circa 1765.

Peter’s findings are analogous to my own viz. the predominant method of joining the back at the point of the arch is a ‘leg-and-a-half’, lapped and mitred bridle joint, unique, I believe, to these Gothic Windsor chairs (figures 2, 3 and 4) – some barn builder will likely correct me.
Peter has come across left and right-hand variants of the same joint.

Some of these bridle joints are augmented with double-pegs (figure 1) and others with a single peg (figures 2, 3 and 4).

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01aFig. 2. Single-pegged, mitred face of a Gothic chair back. (Peter Flynn)

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01bFig. 3. Top view of a ‘leg-and-a-half’ bridle joint. (Peter Flynn)

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01cFig. 4. Reverse showing the simple lapped elements of the bridle joint. (Peter Flynn)

Another method of joining the two halves of these Gothic chair backs is by use of a separate spline.  Dr. Cotton says – as I quoted in Picture This LXII – the “complex interlocking joint” (bridle joint?) is uncommon in these chairs, and describes the use of a “narrow fillet” (spline?) as the norm. That statement is contrary to my, Peter Flynn’s and any dealer’s or furniture restorer’s opinion whom I have conversed with on the matter. I have seen several original butt-mitred joints with loose splines and double pegs; however, a good number of the splines I have encountered were implemented whilst effecting repairs.

There is an arch-back Gothic chair in the Victoria and Albert Museum which Peter has briefly inspected that has a splined back joint. He intends to make a second appointment to examine the chair more comprehensively. I am sure Peter will share his findings with us.

Jack Plane

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Random Wax of Kindness

Extensive waxing (whilst remaining customarily hirsute) gives me great pleasure for a couple of reasons viz. it means the furniture acquires a glorious glow and the weather must at last be cool. We have indeed had several recent frosty starts betimes which always prompts me to grab some sort of wax and a few cloths and go in search of something to buff.

Following my earlier post about waxing, I recommended a number of Fiddes’ wax polishes to a friend to try, as he lives quite close to the Australian importer of Fiddes’ products. He procured a small tin of their Mellow Wax.

I know Fiddes very well as, during the six years I lived in England, their delivery van was a weekly visitor to my workshop. The producers of wax polishes are many, but as I sit here typing this, I can honestly say, as a furniture restorer or reproduction furniture maker with a love of the British Glow, the only tins of (proprietary) wax polish you will likely ever require are a tin of Fiddes’ English Oak Mellow Wax and a tin of their Georgian Mahogany Mellow Wax.

If you are feeling flush, you might add a tin of their Clear Wax to your order too. I still have a little 16 oz. tin of Clear Wax that I brought out to Australia with me from England. It’s still half full and now quite stiff.

Do not be swayed one way or another by the names of the colours; think of one wax as cool and the other as warm, and they can be applied to all manner of furniture as appropriate.

Fiddes’ Supreme Wax range comes in a broader range of colours, however, for my purposes, it never rated as highly as the Mellow Wax range.

I believe Fiddes’ products are available worldwide. I have no affiliation with Fiddes – though I am running a little low on both flavours. I jest. I make my own.

Jack Plane

Posted in colouring and polishing, Materials | Tagged | 13 Comments

Picture This CXLIV

All right sleuths; let’s be having your opinions please.


As per usual, I may withhold some comments for a short period.


Jack Plane

Posted in Antiques, Picture This | Tagged | 16 Comments

Sticking with Original Recipes

Further to my instruction in L for Leather on the preparation of flour paste for laying leather and baize etc., I was recently looking for something unrelated in The Carriage Trimmers’ Manual (published in 1881) and came across a couple of snippets on the same topic.

Trimmers Paste.


Trimmers’ paste requires to be smooth, elastic, free from moisture as possible, and possessed of great adhesive qualities. The materials used are wheat and rye flour. The paste of commerce is made of a very low grade of wheat flour, cooked by steam ; it is not a good article for trimmers, as it contains too much surplus moisture.

To make wheat paste select a low grade, but sweet wheat flour, and stir it into cold water until thoroughly dissolved ; then place the kettle [pail] over a quick fire and stir until it boils ; it should be allowed to cook five or six minutes after it is brought to a boil, and be well stirred while boiling and until it is cool ; if made in this way it will contain no surplus water and will be smooth and free from lumps.

For rye paste select good fine rye flour, place the necessary amount of water into a kettle over a quick fire, and when the water boils pour in the flour slowly, stirring it thoroughly ; continue to add flour until the desired thickness is obtained ; then allow it to boil about five minutes, after which remove it from the fire and continue to stir until boiling ceases, then cover and allow it to stand until it is cold. Rye flour paste made in this way is the smoothest, most adhesive and elastic paste in use. It is particularly valuable for pasting cloth on wood or leather.

The dry paste that gathers on the kettle should not be thrown away ; if it is soaked in cold water until it becomes soft, and again heated up to boiling heat, it is stronger and more elastic than when first made. Wheat or rye paste can be preserved from mold, etc., by adding a little carbolic acid or essential oil. The addition of a little dissolved gum Arabic adds materially to the adhesive qualities of flour paste.

To Make Paste.

To make the every-day paste for the trimming shop, where one or two trimmers are employed, have an iron pot, with a convenient handle, holding from two to three quarts ; put in nearly a quart of flour to make a pot full, stir enough water in to form a stiff dough, and with a paddle stir and beat until all the lumps have disappeared ; then stir in water gradually until it is reduced to the consistency of cream ; cook over a slow fire and stir continually, to prevent it sticking to the bottom ; do not remove it from the fire until all is well done. If these instructions are fully carried out the paste will be smooth and stiff ; be careful in mixing, for if once too thin the flour cannot be freed from lumps. Heavy paste is needed for leather and rough linings, where buckram is much used, while on some other places thinner paste will work ; heavy paste will not spread evenly on cloth, or on the muslin buggy tops, owing to the soft foundation.

Seasons have a great effect on paste ; in winter it may be made thin on account of its keeping sweet, while in summer it sours and becomes thin, and often worthless ; alum is a very good thing to put in paste in summer, and rosin is good the year round. The best flour does not make the best paste ; where flour is bolted fine the glutinous substance is nearly all abstracted, which destroys the adhesiveness of the paste ; coarser flour is the best.

The class of work requiring the best paste known to the craft, is glass frames and hammer cloths, which are exposed to the weather. To make a paste of that quality take rye flour, and to every quart of flour add a heaping tablespoonful of powdered rosin ; mix well together, then add water to make a stiff dough ; then thin to the consistency of very thick cream ; cook until well done over a slow fire ; stir all the time. Rye flour requires more cooking than wheat. A paste made this way has powers of resisting dampness that is not possessed by glue, and is very elastic ; it is the best paste known.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXLIII

Reader, Laurin Davis, kindly directed me to an English Pembroke table, currently displayed in an on-line Antiques Dealers’ Association of America ‘show‘ (I believe it is to be auctioned) which closes at 10:00pm EST, April 27, 2020.

The table, attributed to the late eighteenth century English partnership of William Ince and John Mayhew, is indeed a fine-looking table with typical marquetry decoration in line with other works of theirs. (figures 1, 2 & 3).

Ince_&_Mayhew_marquetry_Pembroke_table_c1775_01aFig. 1. Marquetry Pembroke table, circa 1775. (Clive Devenish Antiques)

Ince_&_Mayhew_marquetry_Pembroke_table_c1775_01bFig. 2. (Clive Devenish Antiques)

Ince_&_Mayhew_marquetry_Pembroke_table_c1775_01cFig. 3. (Clive Devenish Antiques)

If indeed the table is by Ince and Mayhew, then I would have expected a much richer and elaborate provenance than simply “Devenish and Company”!

I did wonder if the table was not a good late Victorian or Edwardian copy, however, the underside does look right (figure 4).

Ince_&_Mayhew_marquetry_Pembroke_table_c1775_01dFig. 4. (Clive Devenish Antiques)

My favourite bit of the whole table? The overshot saw cuts on the dovetailed cross bearer.

Jack Plane

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An Early Victim

Early bun-footed floor-standing chests of drawers and the upper chests of chests-on-chests and chests-on-stands that have subsequently migrated onto bracket feet have been the topic of many a post on this blog. Some of them evolved as their fragile feet or stands decayed and others made the transition to keep abreast of prevailing trends, while yet more are the fraudulent work of some greedy antiques dealers.

Many early transmutations look comfortable in, what are now, their old worn slippers and both dealers and private buyers are often fooled into thinking the bracket feet are original.

Such appears to be the case with the author, E.J. Warne, whose 1923 publication, Furniture Mouldings, Full Size Sections of Moulded Details on English Furniture from 1574 to 1820, illustrates a few, of what we now understand to be, inaccuracies.

Take, for example, Plate 70 (figure 1) which shows a late seventeenth century geometric chest which would normally stand on extensions of its own stiles (figure 2), but appears, in Warne’s illustration to be standing on George II bracket feet.

Warne_plate_70_01aFig. 1. E.J. Warne’s Carolean chest.

Charles_II_oak_moulded_COD_c1680_07aFig. 2. Typical oak geometric chest of around 1680. (Windsor House Antiques)

Further, Plate 75 (figure 3) clearly shows a late seventeenth century or early eighteenth century chest (determinable by its very thick-sides) with two short upper drawers, standing on mid-to-late eighteenth century bracket feet.

Warne_plate_75_01aFig. 3. E.J. Warne’s William and Mary chest.

William_&_Mary_walnut_COD_c1690_04a_LU3083312075613Fig. 4. William and Mary or Queen Anne thick-sided and bun-footed walnut chest (with replacement circa 1710 brasses), circa 1695-1710.

There are problems with a few other of Warne’s illustrations, though undoubtedly innocent.

Jack Plane

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