George Smith chair

This mahogany chair has a striking and unusual design. The ‘balloon back’ with the addition of a bar is very singular. As are the turned and carved legs. The front seat rail is carved with lappets, which again is a rare feature. These add up to a piece of some importance, and one
which I thought I’d seen before…
This detail of the leg and front seat rail are shown with the relevant section of the drawing that appears in George Smith’s, “The cabinet-maker’s and upholsterer’s guide…” published in 1826. The whole chair and drawing are also shown. The text suggests that the chair be made from rosewood.
The aperture in the back has holes indicating that an upholstered frame was fixed here originally as per the drawing.
Centre shows how the chair would look gilded and reupholstered…
Through its meticulous book-keeping the firm of Gillow, which was founded in the early 18th century, provides us with some of the best records of the English furniture industry and is renowned for stamping its name or a serial number on many of the pieces to leave its workshops. George Smith on the other hand, who claimed the title of Upholsterer and Furniture Draughtsman to His Majesty, bucked the trend and is not known thus far to have labelled or stamped anything, so it is the close adherence to a decorative detail or particular proportion as shown in his three volumes of designs (1808 – 1826) that will ally a piece to him.

Part of an article from the LinkedIn website
Music stools from George Smith,
“The cabinet-maker’s and upholsterer’s guide…” published in 1826.
A stool offered by John Bly (May 2022) corresponding to the right hand drawing above.
A rosewood stool which corresponds to features in Smith’s left hand drawing.

Set of four oak chairs attributable to George Bullock, circa 1815.

On the face of it these appear to be some fairly standard Trafalgar type chairs. That appearance belies their sophisticated design motifs and attribution to George Bullock’s workshop. The fact that they are executed in carefully chosen oak is unusual in itself for this type of chair. It points to a set that is more interesting than one might initially think…
(the fabric doesn’t do them any favours)
Demonstrating an originality with form. Bullock’s trademark tapering octagonal rear legs are amplified by boldly conceived octagonal front legs. As seen in much of his work, the mixture of turnings and faces clearly interested him and his colleagues Richard Bridgens and William Atkinson.
The facetted seats rails continue the design theme.
The facetted terminals to the back supports are highly original. A creative and unique twist on the usual carved corinthian capitals.
The facetting theme continues up from the rear legs and ends in the nicely crafted detail. Note the timber with carefully chosen grain to enhance the broadly curved elegant backs.
The legs and back support in this drawing, related to chairs supplied to Sir Walter Scott by Bullock to designs by Bridgens, show their interest in contrasting turned and facetted elements.
Victoria and Albert Museum collection

This oak hall chair strongly attributed to Bullock, again shows
turned and facetted elements to front legs and typical octagonal rear leg, akin to those supplied to Napoleon for Longwood, St.Helena.
Millington Adams
This table, sold 24 May 2007 by Christie’s, shows similar octagonal design features. There were no chairs en suite…
Regency oak hall seat in the manner of George Bullock, early 19th century. May 2022

A pair of oak hall chairs by Richard Bridgens and George Bullock, circa 1815-1818.

This pair of chairs bear striking similarities to the well known “Battle Abbey” chairs, (below). As will be shown this pair also have strong design links to several chairs in, “Furniture with Candelabra and Interior Decoration”, by Richard Hicks Bridgens, published 1838, strengthening the attribution.

Left: Victoria and Albert Museum. Centre: Authors collection.
Right: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The striking twisted upright stiles are more like the design for the Battle Abbey chairs in “Furniture and Candelabra” than the chairs themselves, (left). The edges of the twists are narrow and angular rather than rounded.

The twelve turned “buttons” are reminiscent of many of Bridgens’ pieces. For example being seen on the designs for tables. Interestingly the illustration for the Battle Abbey chair in “Furniture and Candelabra” (1822) shows “buttons” rather than the “roses”, but that in Ackermann’s Repository (1817) shows “roses”. I wonder was Bridgens altering the design or was he misremembering. The unusual horizontal rails in which the buttons sit, and the rounded end sections, are identical to the Battle Abbey chairs.

The carved panel between the two lower horizontal rails is virtually identical to that of “an Elizabethan chair” design in “Furniture and Candelabra”.

The arrangement of the legs and stretchers again follows the general design elements of the Battle Abbey chairs and another chair design found in the Wilkinson Tracings, (below). The use of the spherical element at the top of the leg with the equatorial ring, is notable. As is the tapered foot which appears on much of Bullock’s work. The top illustration from Ackermann’s has the cross rail in the wrong position, being between the front legs rather than an H stretcher further back. The image from “Furniture and Candelabra” is ambiguous in this positioning, but is perhaps in the forward position.

Design by Bridgens for a boudoir sofa for Aston Hall, 1822. The bobbin turned legs have a very similar design to that of these hall chairs.
The feet are very similar to Sir Walter Scott’s chairs designed by Bridgens and William Atkinson. Made in Bullock’s workshop around 1818.

The features found on this pair of chairs could indicate two possibilities as to their attribution: that they are designs by Richard Bridgens and possibly made by George Bullock’s workshop, or that they are a pastiche of their work created contemporaneously, or at a later date, using the designs found in “Furniture and Candelabra”. This latter option seems unlikely. Why would you diverge away from known examples to such a degree? Would you not just make a copy of one of the designs? The original designer would, however, be much more comfortable with mixing up his stock of design motifs with new ones. The craftsman, presumably in Bullock’s workshop, could also have been familiar with making the Battle Abbey chairs.

The quality of the timber and the attention to detail is superb. All the glue blocks have chamfered edges. The main cross rails containing the buttons have gently radiused rear edges; the lower edge of the seat rails are curved to mirror the dished seat.
A nice amount of wear to the rear feet.

Lady Diana Cooper chair

It is almost certainly French and dates to c.1870-1880. It probably came from Diana’s Chantilly home. Constructed of black painted tubular iron with gold arabesque patterns and lines in a gothic manner. There are four brass castors and two ormolu finials (one top half replaced in facsimile). The back and seat are upholstered in the original dusky red horsehair fabric, as it appears in the published photograph of her cloakroom.

Diana had a home in Little Venice whose interiors were photographed by Derry Moore and published in several books, including, “The English Room” in 1985 with co-author Michael Pick. The cloakroom, page 123, features this chair.

The fabric is clean and the upholstery made good. A replacement finial is in place. The metalwork has been cleaned and microcrystalline waxed. A unique and substantial chair with impeccable provenance to grace your conservatory, bedroom, lounge or indeed perhaps cloakroom…

Provenance: Lady Diana Cooper, London (probably Chantilly)

Sale of Little Venice, London house contents on behalf of John Julius 2nd Viscount Norwich, by Dreweatts, Newbury. November 2016. Lot 33 (Note that the top half of the left finial was missing at the time of this sale).

The chair was offered for sale through Bristol Auction Rooms in 2017.

Lady Diana was born into the Manners family, the Dukes of Rutland, in Bruton Street, London on 29th August 1892. She spent part of her teenage years at the ducal seat, Belvoir Castle, Rutland. She married Conservative politician, diplomat and author Alfred Duff Cooper, in 1919. Their son John Julius Norwich, the diplomat and historian, was born in 1929.

Duff was made ambassador to France in 1944. After leaving the ambassadors residence they moved to Chateau de Fermin, Chantilly where they remained until 1960.

From the 1920s onwards Diana was friends with many of the leading actors, artists and writers of the period including Cecil Beaton, Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh (Waugh and Mitford knew her as “Honks” *), Graham Greene, Greta Garbo. Diana was herself and actress on film and stage. She was given the epithet, “the most beautiful woman in the world” and was painted by Sir John Lavery among others.

(*When Nancy Mitford started on her first biography, a life of Madame de Pompadour, she found it difficult to imagine who her readers would be. So she asked her friend Evelyn Waugh to “just put on a P.C. [post card] the name of a typical reader—he whom I should be out to entertain without irritating.” He suggested two friends to whom a number of letters in this collection are addressed: Honks & Pam Berry [i.e., Lady Diana Cooper and Lady Pamela Berry, the wife of the proprietor of The Daily Telegraph and a famous political hostess]…”Write for the sort of reader who knows Louis XV furniture when she sees it, but thinks Louis XV was the son of Louis XIV and had his head cut off.”)

Love From Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford, edited by Charlotte Mosley)

She is ex Prime Minister, David Cameron’s great aunt. A fascinating collection of images of Diana can be found in the next link…

An exceptional set of six mahogany side chairs in the manner of Thomas Chippendale, attributable to Gillows

Circa 1760-1770 strongly attributable to Gillows of Lancaster.

Secret dovetail joints on the H stretcher characteristic of chairs by Gillows and also from Chippendale’s workshop. Mid 18th century bar corner brackets and split shoe construction.

Strong affinities to the Gothic interlaced splats and constructional details found on other Gillows chairs can be seen. For example those illustrated on plates 89-92, pp 145-147 “Gillows of Lancaster and London, 1730-1840” by Susan E Stuart. They also share the intertwined, gothic influenced splat of the “Sizergh Castle” group.

Unusually, the splat design is extremely close to plate XVI ‘Backs of Chairs’ in Thomas Chippendale’s Director, 3rd edition 1762.

Richard Gillow was a subscriber to the first edition. Also in a letter dated 5 July 1760 he urged his cousin James, in London, to send “Chippendale’s additional Number as soon as possible”. This clearly referring to the hope of obtaining the new plates that were initially issued in parts from 1759-1761, and later issued as the 3rd edition.

One chair has charming, early blacksmith’s repairs to the rear of the crest rail. Judging by the off-centre placement of the head slots, these screws are handmade.

Upholstery is recent, but uses traditional techniques and materials.

Day 28 – Thursday, Final Day

Early start again. Weather app says rain by 12. BBC says 2. Unfortunately, the app was right for once! Drizzle on and off. Some quite heavy.

Passed the new Dunchurch Pools marina under construction. Has anyone thought of the extra traffic this will generate on an already busy stretch of waterway?

An thing seen occasionally, is the ridge and furrow in the fields. This is particularly interesting as it shows how the later canal cut through the older field system.

Final 3 locks just near ventnor marinas. These are double width, so we shared our decent with a lovely couple. This was their last journey in their boat of 19 years. Ill health forcing them to give up. So an end to two journeys.

Totals for the trip to Llangollen (and back)


Locks 188

Lift bridges manual 18

Swing bridges 1

Tunnels 9

9 different canal systems (checking this!)