Unsurprisingly the descendants of William Ince are convinced that the firm should be referred to as Ince & Mayhew. After all, William was the talented cabinet-maker who produced the majority of the drawings for their directory The Universal System of Household Furniture. He was the man to whom Matthew Boulton offered a well-aired Bed, wholesome Bread & Cheese and a hearty wellcome[i]. He would have overseen the production of the furniture, probably choosing the workmen, training the apprentices and checking on their output. He was the man who wrote to Lord Myddleton at Chirk Castle to check the paintings on the ceiling to make sure the compartments over the Glass’s in the piers might be correspondant with them[ii]. It is not going too far to say that William Ince was responsible for the furniture produced by the firm.
Why then is it often referred to as Mayhew and Ince?
Eighteenth century records almost always refer to the firm as Mayhew and Ince. In their 1759 Agreement John Mayhew’s name comes before William Ince’s on the legal document. Mayhew and Ince is how it is written in the Land Tax returns for the houses they owned and rented; it is referred to as Mayhew & Ince in some directories and advertisements. Charles Ince, William’s son, refers to the Firm of Mayhew, Ince and Sons in his advertisement in the London Gazette of 12th April 1800 where he says he is taking over the firm. Also many of the accounts sent to their clients were headed Mayhew & Ince. However, occasionally they advertised as Ince & Mayhew, such as in an advertisement for a Lease which appeared in The Times on 23rd May 1799 and sometimes in the Bank books for their clients the name of William Ince appears, or Ince & Mayhew, Ince & Co, Messrs Ince.
It is also interesting to note how the name has been presented in the antiques world. Initially, their directory was the main focus of articles and as William Ince’s name appears before that of John Mayhew, the firm is referred to as Ince & Mayhew. In 1904 R. S. Clouston wrote an article called Minor English Furniture Makers of the Eighteenth Century Article III-Ince and Mayhew[iii]. An item in The Times dated 8th June 1921 refers to some chairs for which there is reason to think that they are the work of Ince and Mayhew as they resemble an illustration of a chair in the Universal System.
An article written by Lieut-Colonel E. F. Strange, Late Keeper in the Victoria and Albert Museum, for The Illustrated London News in 1929 entitled English Hanging Mirrors also referred to the publication of Ince and Mayhew-The Universal System… and had a reproduction of Plate LXXVIII from their Directory. This showed two designs for Oval Glass-Frames and is a delightful illustration by William Ince, with a hunter and dog, birds, squirrels and possibly a little lamb included in the carving.
Another article appeared in The Illustrated London News on 25th May 1940. This was entitled The World of Art in Wartime, Furniture “Convenient to the Nobility and Gentry.” by Frank Davis. He included four illustrations from The Universal System, each time referring to the firm as Ince & Mayhew. The particular volume from which they were taken, the 1762 edition, was specially scarce and in perfect condition so was priced by Batsfords at £150; Chippendale’s Director being priced at £25. In 1946 the furniture shop Heal’s ran a series of advertisements using quotations from The Universal System, citing the firm as Ince & Mayhew.
In The Times in 1963 Edward Pinto, in an article about the Furniture Makers’ Guild, wrote Such great names in the eighteenth century as Thomas Chippendale, William Vile, Ince and Mayhew were proud to call themselves Upholders first and Cabinet-Makers second. Pinto used the same name for the firm when writing about the Kimbolton Cabinet in another article for The Times in 1969.
Lindsay Boynton’s article in 1966 was called An Ince and Mayhew Correspondence[iv]. Colin Streeter consistently refers to Ince and Mayhew in his 1971 article Marquetry Furniture by a Brilliant London Master[v] as does Morrisson Heckscher in 1974[vi]. In 1981 Hugh Roberts wrote articles about Broadlands, called The Ince and Mayhew Connection[vii]. However in the 1990s the name changes to Mayhew and Ince as seen in articles by Hugh Roberts and Charles Cator, in Lucy Wood’s Catalogue of Commodes, and almost always in Lot Notes produced by the auction houses. Does anyone know why?
It is very pleasing to note that in his more recent articles Hugh Roberts has started using Ince and Mayhew again[viii].
[i] Boynton, L. (1966). An Ince and Mayhew Correspondence Furniture History, 2, 23–36
[ii] Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales E5126-E5128
[iii] The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 6(19), 47–52
[iv] Boynton, L. (1966). An Ince and Mayhew Correspondence Furniture History, 2, 23–36
[v] Colin Streeter, June 1971 Marquetry Furniture by a Brilliant London Master The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 29 (10), 418–429
[vi] Heckscher, M. (1974). Ince and Mayhew: Bibliographical Notes from New York Furniture History, 10, 61–67.
[vii] Hugh Roberts, ‘The Ince and Mayhew Connection, Furniture at Broadlands, Hampshire’, Country Life, 29 January 1981 pp288-90.
[viii] Hugh Roberts, 'Precise and Exact in the Minutest Things of Taste and Decoration' : The Earl of Kerry's Patronage of Ince & Mayhew (2013) Furniture History 2013
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.