The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham currently has an interesting exhibition called SOLD! looking at the role of antique dealers over the last 200 years. It is apparently the first time the history of objects and dealers has been the subject of an exhibition staged in a public museum.
It features 25 internationally important objects, and tells the stories of what happened to them before they became museum pieces. Items on show include a 9cms high Fabergé miniature table on loan from the Royal Collection, a Ming bowl bought for just £55 in 1934, now at the British Museum, and a gilded warrior from the V&A Museum.
The Bowes Museum also holds a cabinet attributed to Ince & Mayhew, which was made to display a still life marquetry panel made by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), described by The Art Fund as his finest known work.
In an article in the Burlington Magazine, written in 1992 for the hundredth anniversary of the Bowes Museum, the cabinet is described as veneered in ebony and ebonised wood on a carcase of oak with some use of brass. The cabinet is dated c.1780 and was recorded at Warwick Castle by 1811. The article says: It has been postulated that the carcase was made by Mayhew and Ince. In the photos there are two locks in the bottom panel of the cabinet, indicating two drawers.
According to the The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 (1986) there are payments to Ince & Mayhew totalling £180 from 1774-1777 in Hoare’s Bank Ledgers for the 2nd Earl of Warwick. No work of theirs has been identified in relation to this but the cabinet in Bowes Museum is possibly attributable.
On the Our Warwickshire website there is a photo of the cabinet, which is referred to as The Warwick Cabinet. It is reported that in the 1970s following its sale to the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the export licence was deferred to allow a museum in Britain the chance to purchase this piece, described as of ‘unrivalled quality’. With generous funds from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Fund, the Warwick Cabinet was saved for the nation and acquired by the Bowes Museum. According to The Art Fund their grant was for £5700 of the total of £63,350.
Reference: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle: Acquisitions 1979-92. (1992). The Burlington Magazine, 134(1071), 411-414. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/885114
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)
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
There is some interesting information about an Ince & Mayhew Pembroke Table which is for sale at Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd. It is described as one of the finest 18th Century Pembroke tables ever made and, from the photographs, it certainly looks to be a wonderfully preserved example of their work. A full description of the table is given along with some superb photographs and an in-depth explanation of the different woods used.
In the centre there is a satinwood oval, crossbanded in kingwood, which is framed in boxwood & mahogany lines, surrounded by the harewood veneers. This is also crossbanded in kingwood with boxwood and mahogany lines and has an ebonised moulded edge. The veneers are laid on Honduras mahogany.
Harewood is created by boiling English sycamore veneer in a solution of ferrous (iron) sulphate which turns it a silvery-grey colour. Apparently in the 17th century the roots of sycamore trees were treated with ferrous sulphate for several years to turn the wood grey naturally. It is an expensive process, though it is possible to do it yourself, as explained by the Redbridge Marquetry Group!
When the table was first made the satinwood would have been yellow and the kingwood purple, a very striking combination with the silver-grey.
The table is described as A Museum quality masterpiece from two of the most influential designers & makers from the 18th Century. I have written to Nicholas Wells to ask what is known about its provenance.
On 17th November Christie's are holding an auction in London entitled The English Collector: English Furniture, Clocks and Portrait Miniatures. Amongst the items for sale is a very attractive Ince & Mayhew bowfront commode, with harewood, rosewood-crossbanding and inlaid satinwood.
What I especially like about it is that it has four graduated drawers, getting larger in size as they descend. It is dated around 1770 and the estimate is £12,000 to £18,000.
There are strong similarities between this commode and ones at Broadlands supplied to Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, for the Book Room. It has bell flowers in the marquetry and ebonised edge mouldings. The ring handles are very similar to those on other commodes at Broadlands, and to an Ince & Mayhew commode sold by Christie's in 2007.
I recently came across Pat Kirkham's book on Furniture Making in London in the Eighteenth Century[i]. There are a number of interesting facts about the firm Ince & Mayhew, many of which were included in her article for the Furniture History Society[ii].
However, one detail that had escaped me up to now was that when John Mayhew married Isabella Stephenson, she had a large dowry. Pat Kirkham writes: John Mayhew’s wife brought a large sum of money to her husband when they married in 1762, and, widowed within the year, Mayhew used approximately three thousand pounds of that money to finance his business.
I am going to re-visit the National Archives to see if there is any further information on this, but it did help to explain why Isabella's sister, Ann, William's wife, had no hesitation about taking John Mayhew to court to get a fair settlement on the break-up of the partnership. She would no doubt have known all about that money, and would have regarded it as belonging equally to her family. No wonder she insisted on a more balanced final payment.
[i] Kirkham, P. (1988). The London Furniture Trade 1700-1870. Furniture History, 24, I-219. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23406689
[ii] Kirkham, P.. (1974). The Partnership of William Ince and John Mayhew 1759—1804. Furniture History, 10, 56–60. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23403407
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.