History of the firm
- The two partners set up a formal agreement on 16th January 1759, committing themselves to a partnership of 21 years from 25th December 1758 with the purchase of the property of Charles Smith[i]. They described themselves as Cabinet-makers and Upholders.
- They produced a directory called ‘The Universal System of Household Furniture’ over a series of issues between 1759 and 1760, published as a single volume in 1762, which consisted of 95 plates of ‘elegant and practical furniture patterns’.
- Once they started working in the neo-classical style, they sometimes collaborated with architects such as Sir William Chambers and Robert Adam, when they would produce items to a specific design that was given to them.
- The marquetry in their furniture used woods from many parts of the world including East Indian satinwood and purplewood from northern South America as well as English woods such as box, holly, pear and plum. They used mahogany, deal and oak for the carcases of their commodes[iii]. The firm was unusual in their use of yew.
- Over the years Ince & Mayhew took many commissions from the nobility including the Duke of Marlborough, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, the Earl of Coventry and the Earl of Kerry and there are several contemporary accounts of their interactions with their clientele.
- A striking fact about the firm was that they kept the same family account over many years. For example both the third and the fourth Earls of Darnley employed Ince & Mayhew at Cobham Hall from 1761 to 1803 and the fourth Duke and Duchess of Bedford and the fifth Duke of Bedford used their services from 1767-1797. This indicates a high level of satisfaction from their customers.
- The land detailed in the Land Registry document of 1825 gave further details about their property in the Broad Street area.
- In 1768 John Mayhew’s father died and he inherited a number of properties[vii]. The firm expanded their business by renting these houses and obtaining more to rent. They also bought a substantial amount of land in Crouch End[viii], using loans from others to do so.
- By the end of the 1790s they were in considerable debt. They signed an agreement in 1799, detailing the arrangements and taking out a large mortgage to pay off their debts[x]. A notice about the ending of the partnership appeared in the London Gazette on 12th April 1800.
- William Ince died suddenly in January 1804 and on 14th February his widow, Ann Ince, put in a Bill of Complaint against John Mayhew in the Chancery Court[xi] requesting an injunction on selling any property. In answer Mayhew claimed he deserved a larger share of the assets (five times as much as Ince) as he had put more into the partnership when it was first set up.
- On 21st November 1806 Ann Ince died, but the court case continued to limp on for at least twenty years. Various bills were presented from the Ince side, and also from the younger Mayhew children against the executors of their father’s will.
Further details can be found in the book William Ince Cabinet-maker: His Life and Ancestry
[i] TNA:PRO C 109/204 Cowell v Mayham: Articles of partnership and inventories: London.
[iii] Wood, Lucy, Catalogue of Commodes 1994 London:HMSO
[vii] TNA: PROB 11/941/191
[viii] TNA:PRO C 109/204 and LMA MDR/1825/4/638
[x] TNA:PRO C 109/204
[xi] TNA:PRO C13/623/144 Ince v Mayhew. Two bills and two answers