Pictorial furniture for Montacute

Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Figured walnut and gilt sofa with embroidered upholstery depicting a scene from the History of Troy, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Acceptance in Lieu panel has recently published its review for 2012-13. This also included a number of pieces of early Georgian furniture which has been allocated to Montacute.

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Beechwood chair veneered with walnut and decorated with gesso and gilding and upholstered with embroidery depicting Boreas and Oreithyia, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ,©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The furniture was originally commissioned for Chicheley Hall, mostly by Sir John Chester, 4th Baronet (1666-1724). It remained in the house until it was given on loan to Montacute by Major Greville Chester in the late 1940s. Chicheley Hall was sold to the 2nd Earl Beatty in 1954 and to the Royal Society in 2009 (and there is an excellent history of the house by Peter Collins and Stefanie Fischer on the Royal Society website).

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Detail of one of the embroidered chairbacks, this one depicting Diana and her nymphs, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The National Trust acquired Montacute in 1931 through the generosity of Ernest Cook, but without any contents. During the Second World War the house was used as one of the stores for the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which was under threat from bombing. Towards the end of the war a project was initiated to gather suitable furniture and furnishings to bring Montacute to life. The loan from Major Chester was one of the groups of items that came to the house then.

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Folding screen decorated with embroidered mythological scenes and floral motifs, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The single most important item in the group is a swaggering giltwood and gilt-gesso side table probably made for Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet (1693-1748) incorporating his coat of arms and those of his wife, Frances Bagot.

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

Giltwood and gilt gesso side table with the arms of Sir John Chester, 6th Baronet, and his wife Frances Bagot, 1720s, formerly at Chicheley Hall. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Montacute. ©National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The group also includes a sofa, ten chairs and a screen upholstered with embroidery. Although the furniture is English, the embroidery may be French, depicting various scenes from Ovid based on engravings. Dudley Dodd identified the embroidered scenes in an article in the 2011 National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, but the identity of the makers remains unclear.

4 Responses to “Pictorial furniture for Montacute”

  1. deana Says:

    I just got a great book about England’s lost houses that has old Country Life photos of so many that have been torn down or burned over the last 100 years –– does make me wish I could snag a ride with Dr Who and visit them. Their dispersed contents live on, thank heavens. I wish I could have seen Chicheley Hall in its prime. These pieces are really extraordinary. Montacute is on my “must visit” list.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Deana, yes that is a fascinating book (the one by the late Giles Worsley, I assume?), I have it too. And it actually demonstrates that the loss of houses was not as massive as is sometimes though. But of course the old photographs of lost interiors are poignant.

    I have just found a Country Life archive photograph of Chicheley Hall when the furniture discussed above was still there: http://bit.ly/InkNst – fascinating. Luckily the building was preserved and is now very well looked after by the Royal Society.

  3. Andrew Says:

    Chicheley Hall still exists, just not as a private house any more. Compare, say, Hamilton Palace, or Trentham Hall, or Tong Castle, or Great Brickhill, or Nuthall Temple, or (most of) Eaton Hall, or indeed around 2000 others, which were demolished.

    Thankfully the likes of Calke Abbey and Tyntesfield survive (and, indeed, Uppark, after its fire in 1989).

    There is a great archive at http://lh.matthewbeckett.com/

    Yes, Montacute is “must visit”. I love the long gallery.

  4. Matt P Says:

    Some very elegant pieces featured in the post, hard to believe its possible to get that amount of detail in an embroided piece.

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