Recently I went to Sissinghurst to see the new Delos gardens. It is based on the vision of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson to create a classical garden with the feel of the Isle of Delos, which they had visited in 1935. The garden is very relevant to present day gardening as it is an arid garden. I really enjoyed its calm ambience amid a scattering of Greek columns and Kent ragstone boulders. Two of the columns were carved with ram’s heads, which I immediately linked to the ram’s heads carved on many Ince & Mayhew items of furniture. This reinforced the importance of the Grand Tour and the fascination with classical items in eighteenth century England.
Both Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) and Robert Adam (1728-1792) used rams’ heads in their designs. The V&A holds the Franco-Italian album of drawings by William Chambers, many of which contain rams’ heads. William Chambers was born in Sweden and travelled widely, visiting China, and studied at the Ecole des Arts in Paris from 1749 and in Italy from 1750 to 1755 when he moved to London. His Treatise on Civil Architecture was published in 1759. Ince and Mayhew worked with him at Blenheim Palace in the early 1760s, dedicating their Universal System of Household Furniture to the Duke of Marlborough in 1760. They also worked with Robert Adam at Croome Court from 1764. Born in Kirkaldy, Scotland, Adam went on the Grand Tour in 1754, studying in Italy until 1757. In 1761, Robert Adam was appointed Architect of the King's Works, jointly with Sir William Chambers. Both architects would have influenced Ince & Mayhew and provided designs for some of the furniture produced by the firm. Plate VIII in the Universal System, entitled Therms for Busts or Lamps, has a rather skeletal ram or goat's head on the top on a column, drawn by John Mayhew.
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.