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.

2 thoughts on “A pair of oak hall chairs by Richard Bridgens and George Bullock, circa 1815-1818.”

    1. Thank you Angelyn, these are very idiosyncratic chairs. They certainly have a presence about them, as does anything with Gothic tracery (if well done). Some can be a bit chunky. Best wishes Robert


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