A 1775 commode attributed to Ince & Mayhew is being offered for sale by Frank Partridge. The commode is made from padouk, sycamore and holly, a trademark of Ince & Mayhew. A striking attraction is the painted oval panel of the central door which depicts Diana in her chariot. There are three doors, each enclosing three blue paper-lined drawers. The marquetry on the top and the frieze are beautiful, with the typical swags and bows of the firm.
The top is in excellent condition as it lifts up so would not have had objects placed on it, ruining the surface. The commode would have been kept in a lady's boudoir. As it is semi-elliptical, it really needs to be placed in front of a mirror to fully appreciate the design, which shows half a sunflower.
The description on the dealer's website gives full information and photographs.
I was interested to see that Nicholas Wells Antiques has a tripod table for sale which is attributed to Ince and Mayhew, though it could equally be by James Allen of Fredericksburg. This has led me to read up about tripod tables, in particular the publication by Ronald Phillips entitled 18th Century Tripod Tables, which tells you everything you could possibly want to know.
The table for sale is made of mahogany, which was the best wood to use as it grows wide enough for the table top to be made from one piece, with no joins. The table top of the piece for sale is solid, ie no veneer, dished and scalloped. It has a birdcage support which enables the table top to be rotated round the column. Tripod tables became popular in the eighteenth century partly because of the rise in popularity of drinking tea. You can imagine the value of being able to spin the table! A number of family portraits of the time feature a tripod table.
Some tripod tables were made for gaming, especially for playing hombre, a three player game. Plate LIII of the Universal System of Household Furniture shows a drawing by William Ince of a three sided card table with three money wells. Plate XIII shows three Claw Tables and Plate XIV shows Tea Kettle stands, some of which would also have had three legs. At Burghley there are a number of examples of Ince & Mayhew's three-legged work, including candlestands, torcheres and pole-screens.
Peter Holmes of Arlington Conservation, writing in the Tripod Tables publication, says 'Even the simplest tripod can have a breath-taking line of beauty..... Look for line and proportion - these are as important to the success of a tripod as the relationship between the top and base. ..In a good example the drawing of the legs often achieves the poise of an alert animal, giving the tripod elegance and tension.'
18th Century Tripod Tables, Ronald Phillips, 7 July 2014 https://issuu.com/artsolution/docs/84191_rp_for_web-edited (accessed 11/8/2018)
In my book on William Ince I stated that there were no apprentice records for his father, John Ince. Well, I was wrong!
I knew that John Ince was born in 1699 in the village of Stone in Worcestershire and moved to London where he worked as a glass-grinder. He died in 1746 and was buried back in Stone.
Now thanks to the new database British and Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO) I have found his apprentice records from the Joiners’ Company. In this record he was described as the son of William Ince, husbandman of Stone and was apprenticed to James Welch for seven years from 26th July 1720.
I wondered how come a twenty-one year old from Worcestershire would be apprenticed to someone in London, so I looked up James Welch on the same database. There I found an apprentice record for a James Welch from Stourbridge, Worcestershire dated 1699. Stourbridge is only eight miles from Stone, so it seems very likely that the families knew one another.
James was the son of Henry Welch, a tailor and was apprenticed to John Smalwell for 7 years, from 27 Feb 1699. However the record then says that this was turned over to John Wight Cit. & Haberdasher of London to learne the Art of a Joyner by consent, so at some stage of his apprenticeship James Welch went to London. He did well there and was Made free by servitude on 11 Nov 1718. On the report of Thomas Taxon Cit & Haberdasher of London and William Hayes Cit & Grocer of London the said Wight being out of Towne. (I am not sure how haberdashers taught him how to be a joiner.)
He was at ‘The Rose & Crown’, Broadway in July 1724 when he advertised his ability to supply wholesale or retail a great Variety of Peer, Chimney or Sconce Glasses, fine Dressing-Glasses, Coach, Chariot or Chair-Glasses, with Plate Sash-Glasses &c. He also offered to clean and modernise old glasses. [Daily Courant, 29 July 1724]
If John Ince completed his seven years apprenticeship he would have been working for James Welch in 1724, presumably as a glass-grinder. John and Mary Ince’s first child, Timothias, was born in 1725 and was baptised in St Faith’s Church, near St Paul’s Cathedral so hopefully John was earning a wage by then, and able to support his family. Their next child to be born was Elizabeth in 1728, by which time he would certainly have finished his apprenticeship. See Chapter 5 of William Ince Cabinet Maker for more details.
Today’s episode of the BBC programme Flog It came from Croome Court, Worcestershire.
Some of the artefacts have been displayed in original ways, including two Ince & Mayhew commodes, which are now placed back to back in the centre of the room. Paul Martin the presenter was very enthusiastic about them.
“This is pure theatre. I love it, absolutely love it.” He explained the two commodes should be either side of a rather large imposing fireplace creating perfect symmetry. Now they are displayed back to back. He said they are by Mayhew & Ince, possibly the most important partnership in the mid-eighteenth century in cabinet work. The cabinets were made to show off great craftsmanship and to show off wealth. They were made in 1764.
The programme also mentioned the Tapestry Room being shipped out to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This included the Ince & Mayhew sofas, chairs and the pier mirror they made designed by Robert Adam.
You can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer for another 29 days. It is Flog It Series 15:44 Croome 49
I recently attended an interesting lecture on The Genius of Robert Adam. The speaker, Janusz Karczewski-Slowikowski , was a fan of Chippendale so most of his furniture examples were by Chippendale. However Ince & Mayhew are known to have had a long-standing relationship with Robert Adam and they provided a number of items of furniture to his designs.
The first known collaboration was for the 6th Earl of Coventry at Croome Court where Ince & Mayhew produced the earliest known examples of marquetry commodes in 1764. They also contributed to the Tapestry Room, producing a pier glass designed by Robert Adam, which was 8’ 9” tall x 5’6” wide and carved with a shell on top, drops of husks and goats heads all in the very best Double Burnish’d Gold.i The Earl was billed £35 for this mirror in 1769. The firm also provided the chairs and settees for the Tapestry Room, the base for the marble top pier table and sent a crew to hang the tapestries and apply the seat covers. The whole of the Tapestry Room is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
There are bills to show Ince & Mayhew worked with Robert Adam to produce furniture for Sir John Griffin Griffin 1767 at Audley End or his London house 10 New Burlington Street; also for Lord Kerry in 1771 for his Portman Square residence and for Lady Shelburne’s London house. It is also possible they provided commodes for Syon House as they are mentioned in the Duchess of Northumberland's notebooks.
The Kimbolton cabinet was produced for Elizabeth, Duchess of Manchester to designs by Robert Adam in 1774. Its purpose was to exhibit eleven Florentine pietra dura plaques. This cabinet is now in the Victoria and Albert museum, London.
In 1775 Ince & Mayhew produced a commode for the Countess of Derby’s Dressing room, part of the redesign of Lord Derby’s house in Grosvenor Square by Robert Adam. The drawings for this commode are at the Soane Museum and the design was faithfully copied by William Ince as he interpreted the drawing into a solid piece of furniture. The only difference he made was to change the feet so the cabinet did not fall over when the central door was opened. The bill sent by Ince and Mayhew to the Earl of Derby dated 3rd November 1775 made it clear that the Commode was from a Design of Messrs. Adams The firm also provided two Tripod Pedestals to the Earl and the total bill of £205 5s 6d was settled on 24th April 1776.ii According to the Soane Museum, the commode is one of very few pieces from 23 Grosvenor Square to have survived, and remains in the possession of the 19th Earl of Derby,
It is now thought that Ince & Mayhew were also responsible for the commode at Osterley Park iii. Hugh Roberts has made this suggestion as the commode has similarities to the Derby House commode. He has noted that the design of the inlaid and partly coloured marquetry tops follow Adam’s design almost exactly.
iWills, Geoffrey English looking-glasses:a study of the glass, frames and makers (1670-1820) 1965 Country LifeiiRoberts, H. (1985). The Derby House Commode. The Burlington Magazine, 127(986), 275-283. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/882065
iii Rowell, Christopher, Apollo NT Historic Houses & Collections Annual 2012
Interesting news in the Antiques Trade Gazette about a pair of satinwood inlaid demi-lune card tables sold in Chichester by Stride & Sons on 31st March. They were estimated at £800-£1200 described as George III with later additions. Apparently they would have been made into a single table in the 19th century, but were later taken apart again. There was a great deal of interest as the tables are ‘very much in the manner of Ince & Mayhew’, and nine phone lines were set up to take bids. The tables were sold to the London trade for £36,000. Thanks to cousin Matt Coles for alerting me to this information.
A recent Sotheby’s auction included a serpentine commode attributed to Ince & Mayhew, estimated at £20,00-£40,000. It was dated around 1770 and made of marquetry, padouk and mahogany. According to the catalogue ‘The serpentine form, shallow frieze drawer, rounded corners and bracket feet, and deeply etched foliate decoration all feature on other examples long associated to Mayhew and Ince’. This piece was not sold.
In the same auction a lovely octagonal satinwood and wenge tilt-top table, dated circa 1780, and described as in the manner of Ince & Mayhew was sold for £5000, estimate £1000 to £1,500. Interesting times!
The Royal Collection includes a side table attributed to Ince & Mayhew, which is in the East Gallery of Buckingham Palace. It is made of gilded walnut and pine and has a marble top. The frieze has a crouching lion in the centre. This lion is similar to one on a medallion on a side table supplied to the Earl of Kerry by Ince & Mayhew, as well as one on a serpentine table at Kenwood.
The table in Buckingham Palace came from Woodhall Park in Hertfordshire and was made for Sir Thomas Rumbold. According to Historic England, Sir Thomas Rumbold bought the estate around 1777, from John Boteler for £85,000. Rumbold, who was the Governor of Madras for the East India Company, demolished the remains of the house which had partly burnt out in 1771, building a new one designed by Thomas Leverton in the neo-classical style. In 1782-3, when Rumbold returned from several years abroad, an extensive planting programme was put in hand, with plants supplied by the firm of William Malcolm and Son, Royal Nurserymen and 'Surveyors, Nursery and Seedsmen' of Stockwell (Debois 1985).
Rumbold sold the estate to Paul Benfield in 1794, who sold it on to Samuel Smith (d 1834) in 1801. Samuel Smith was a partner in the family banking business. He succeeded his father as M.P. for St. Germans, and voted with Pitt over the Regency. Upon Smith's death his son Abel Smith inherited the estate, which continued in the family into the twentieth century.
Ince & Mayhew were Rumbold’s principal furniture suppliers. A pair of side tables made of sabicu, amaranth and holly, also with marble tops, was sold at Christie’s in 2007 for £156,000. According to the catalogue notes these tables are linked to the Woodhall Park furniture. An article was written for Country Life magazine in 1930 about this furniture, mentioning some Grecian tripod candelabra-stands which were inlaid with varie-coloured woods and trompe l'oeil flutes, like the tables. Sabicu comes from a West Indian tree and resembles mahogany; amaranth is another name for purpleheart wood.
Thomas Leverton was responsible for a number of eighteenth century houses, most of which have now been demolished or remodelled, as well as Charing Cross fire engine house. His works include:
 Lucy Wood, Catalogue of Commodes
The British Antiques Dealers’ Association held their annual fair from 15th to 21st March this year in Chelsea, London.
One of the exhibitors was James McWhirter Antiques Ltd who included an Ince & Mayhew mirror in their collection. Made around 1785 it was described as a George III carton pierre mirror with a central plate from the Queen Anne period. Carton pierre is like papier-mache, being based on pulped paper fibre extended and hardened with substantial amounts of glue, whiting, and gypsum plaster, and sometimes alum and flour. Carton-pierre was pressed into moulds and allowed to harden, the result being mid-way between plaster and papier-mache in weight and density. It was often used by Robert Adam.
This mirror is surmounted by a classical urn which has trailing husks and swags inset with classical oval roundels. The husks are a classic Ince & Mayhew decoration. A picture of the mirror featured in an article in Apollo magazine. It was priced at £11,800.
There are around a dozen items of furniture attributed to Ince & Mayhew for sale in the listings of BADA with different antique dealers.
A friend of mine reports that she heard mention of William Ince in a radio play on Radio 4 the other day. In the play someone was saying she had to go to Ince to collect some deal.
It is likely that this was Lady Shelburne who wrote in her diary in 1768 “To Mayhew and Inch where is some beautiful cabinet work and two pretty cases for one of the rooms in my apartment, and which though they are only deal, and to be painted white, he charges £50 for.”[i]
We know from her diary that Lady Shelburne visited Ince and Mayhew on a number of occasions. In 1765 she wrote: Saturday the 28th We all went to Ince the cabinet makers to see our furniture for the drawing room and my dressing room at Bowood. Gave Ince plans from Herculaneum and Palmyra for ornaments for a Comode of Yew tree wood inlaid with Holly and Ebony.[ii] This was the little scene enacted in Amanda Vickery’s television programme, At Home with the Georgians: A Woman’s Touch, broadcast in November 2015. It was wonderful to see an actor playing William Ince.
[i] Encyclopedia of Interior Design edited by Joanna Banham
[ii] Vickery, A. Behind Closed Doors Yale University Press, New Haven & London 2009 p.169 Citation: Bowood Archives, Lady Shelburne's diaries, vol 3 (1766), f.1, vol 1 ff.10,13,15,16
Sarah Ingle is the great great great great grand-daughter of William Ince and has been researching her family history for a number of years. She thoroughly enjoyed the detective work involved in tracing William’s lineage.