I've just come across this very enjoyable article about Ince & Mayhew on Christie's features page. Charlie Cator is interviewed about the book he wrote with Hugh Roberts about the firm; Industry and Ingenuity. The article is illustrated with some lovely furniture attributed to Ince & Mayhew and there is an interesting section about their upcycling of various items, including some beautiful chairs which they re-upholstered for Sir Cecil Bisshopp, now at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, but unknown as Ince & Mayhew pieces when we visited in 2015, as the bills for Parham Park had not been found then.
It was a privilege to attend the book launch of 'Industry and Ingenuity' at Christie's on Monday evening, and a delight to meet the authors, Hugh Roberts and Charlie Cator. An extra bonus was the Ince & Mayhew furniture on display as part of the auction of the Collection of Lord and Lady Weinstock.
The auction was held on Tuesday and it is interesting to note the prices that were realised. The pair of gilt-brass mounted, marquetry and giltwood pier tables had an estimate of £100,000 to £150,000 and realised £163,800, the pair of gilt-metal mounted marquetry and painted demi-lune commodes had the same estimate and realised £151,200, and the satinwood-crossbanded mahogany chest, estimated at £5000 to £8000, realised £44,100! The pair of gilt-brass mounted, marquetry, painted and giltwood demi-lune console tables were not sold. A joy to be able to read all about these pieces and the people who commissioned them in 'Industry and Ingenuity'.
Cousin Matt and I were privileged to attend the Furniture History Society lecture last week given by Sir Hugh Roberts on the forthcoming book Industry and Ingenuity - The Partnership of Ince and Mayhew. He and Charlie Cator have been researching this book for some 40 years and it looks as though it will be an absolute treat.
They have uncovered 97 patrons of the firm and identified some 300 pieces of furniture but the lack of complete documentation has made it hard as there are so few bills. Lord Kerry paid the firm some £15,000 but only 8 pieces have been identified, including the urns at the Lady Lever Art Gallery that some of us visited.
One chapter in the book is about the leitmotif of the firm that provides a signature when identifying a piece and includes the use of yew wood, ebonised borders, foliate ring boss handles and chequer line inlay.
The authors’ hope is that they have provided for Ince & Mayhew a corpus of adequately documented pieces discussed in the context of the original commissioning. There are some 500 photographs, which will be a treat for any I & M fan, especially the descendants of the two partners. If you have not yet pre-ordered your copy I urge you to do so.
It was a delight to receive a message from my American cousin Jodee James the other day. She has been researching the family of John Mayhew, partner of William Ince, and has discovered that the doctor son of William, Henry Robert Ince, married John Mayhew's first cousin once removed, Ann Elizabeth Saunders. Having found John Mayhew's mother's maiden name, Gray, hidden in his father's will, she discovered his mother was born, baptised and when first married was of the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley.
This answers a riddle that's been puzzling me for about six years. Why was John Mayhew's first wife, Isabella Stephenson, buried in Monken Hadley? The answer? Because her mother -in-law came from the parish.
I was then able to answer a puzzle for Jodee. Henry Robert Ince and Ann Saunders lived in Presteigne and she wanted to know if there could be a link between the Mayhew family and a J Mayhew who took out a game licence in Presteigne in 1822 and 1824 and was then mentioned in an ad for a cottage to let with "valuable Modern Household Furniture, the residence of J Mayhew Esq." I knew that Irenaeus Mayhew, youngest son of John Mayhew, was living in Presteigne when the Land Registry document of 1825 was signed by all the parties involved in the Ince Mayhew court case. It is very likely that Irenaeus was the J Mayhew (I and J were often muddled) and he may well have introduced his second cousin Ann to Henry Robert Ince.
I really enjoy this interweaving of the two families and receive great pleasure from my own connection with Ince Cousins all over the world.
Yesterday I visited Buckingham Palace, as you do, when giving your grand-daughter a birthday treat, and was delighted to come across the Ince & Mayhew side table that was bought by Queen Mary in 1931 from a dealer in Oxford Street for £200. It was made between 1777 and 1782 for Sir Thomas Rumbold of Woodhall Park, Hertfordshire.
The commode was just inside the East Gallery and I recognised it from previous research. The lion on the frieze reminded me of the lion commode at the Lady Lever Gallery. The table was made from walnut and pine and was gilded at Queen Mary's request. Further details and picture on the Royal Collection Trust website.
We both enjoyed going round the State Rooms, especially the Rubens and Titians in the Picture Gallery and the astounding jewellery on display for the Platinum Jubilee, many familiar from the photographs taken by Dorothy Wilding for postage stamps and currency. There were so many outstanding works of art, but of course my favourite was my ancestor's table as I imagined William Ince checking it over before it left their workshop,
Industry and Ingenuity:The Partnership of William Ince and John Mayhew by Hugh Roberts and Charles Cator
The publication date of this highly-anticipated book – by me anyway – has been changed to 8th December 2022 in the UK. There will be 500 plus photos of their furniture and all family descendants will be delighted to see that in the blurb the firm’s pre-eminent importance is noted. The partners' clientele was probably larger, and, arguably their work was more influential over a longer period, than most other leading metropolitan makers – even, perhaps, than that of their older contemporary, the celebrated Thomas Chippendale.
I have just pre-ordered a copy and am especially looking forward to reading the sections on Workshop Management and ‘House Style’ and Stylistic Development. Both authors have been enthusiastic about Ince & Mayhew for many years and have been responsible for raising the profile of the firm in the antiques world. Their research in all sort of different archives has led them to uncover much new evidence about the business and its influence within cabinetmaking circles.
Other aficianados will recognise that the title Industry and Ingenuity comes from the preface of the Universal System of Household Furniture in which they praise the Duke of Marlborough for being ever willing to promote and encourage Industry & Ingenuity.
I am sorry I have not been keeping up to date with recent sales of the firm’s furniture, but I have become engrossed with my Irish ancestors and am off to the gathering of Clan Shaughnessy in Galway in mid May!
There was an interesting article in The Times this Saturday, suggesting social media is behind a trend for younger people to start buying antique furniture. It is much more eco-friendly than buying something new and prices have declined as mahogany and walnut have fallen out of fashion. My question is whether Antique Dealers will be willing to lower the prices of more desirable pieces to make more of their furniture affordable, or whether they will wait for the market to heat up.
The Ince & Mayhew furniture listed in my previous blog sold for more than any student I know would be willing to pay. The bookcase went for £12,000, the pair of giltwood chairs for £10,000 and the pair of chairs with lions' heads were sold for a staggering £42,500! What a gift!
Interestingly the pair of commodes did not sell; presumably they did not reach the reserve price, but there is more Ince & Mayhew furniture for sale in another Christie’s Auction to be held on 10th November in London.
There is a secretaire-bookcase which has been attributed to Ince & Mayhew, dated circa 1775. It is made of burr-yew, mahogany and engraved marquetry, the yew wood with ebonised details being an Ince & Mayhew feature. If you look at photo 4 on the Christie’s web site, which shows the top of the bookcase, you will be convinced it is by the firm. The estimate is £10,000 - £15,000, a quarter that asked for the two commodes, so it will be interesting to see if it finds a buyer. In the lot essay I learnt that “A pair of mahogany bookcases by Ince & Mayhew with carved fluted friezes was purchased by the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother for Clarence House from Olantigh, Kent. One of these appears in a photograph of the refurbished Lancaster Room, M. Hogg, 'Clarence House,' The World of Interiors, October 2003, p. 199.” Olantigh House was near Wye in Kent and one of the owners, Jacob Sawbridge made a fortune as a Director of the South Seas Company and slavery, then was expelled from parliament when the South Seas Bubble burst. His great grandson was also an MP and was unseated twice for bribery!
Also in the sale are a pair of giltwood open armchairs, attributed to Ince & Mayhew as they are identical to twelve cabriolet chairs made for James Alexander for Caledon House, estimated in May 1783 at 3 guineas each. They were made for the Oval Drawing room. The estimate for these is £8,000 - £12,000.
Finally there are two giltwood chairs with lion heads on the back and the arms and this time there is a sofa with a similar design which was sold in 2018. The estimate for these is £30,000 - £50,000. The lion motif was possibly designed by Sir William Chambers who was closely associated with Ince & Mayhew at Blenheim Palace.
 Hugh Roberts, ‘Unequall’d Elegance’: Mayhew and Ince’s Furniture for James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon (2009) Furniture History Volume XLV 101–141. 2009 Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23410720
It's a delight to look through the photos of the two Ince & Mayhew commodes that are for sale in Christie's Exceptional Sale to be held on 13th October in New York. Both commodes have marquetry panels which depict classical designs, some derived from Sir William Hamilton and Baron d'Hancarville's, Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities, Naples, 1766-67, and some from T. Martyn and J. Lettice's, Antiquities of Herculaneum, 1773. Christie's have helpfully included some of the original engravings and it is fun to see how William Ince has interpreted them. The panels are marquetry, with the facial features finished either in pen or by burning the timber.
Some of these figures occur on other items of Ince & Mayhew furniture. For example the Bacchus and Ampellus are also on the corner commodes that are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - see p.71 of William Ince - Cabinet Maker - and they are on a commode at Badminton House, Gloucestershire - see p.232 of Catalogue of Commodes by Lucy Wood. The vestal bearing a fruit-tazza and an ewer is also on a commode sold by Christie's in 2008, and the dancer with tambourine which is on the top of one of these commodes also appears on a commode sold by
Sotheby's in 2014.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to buy these commodes and have them somewhere on public display in the UK? Alas we don't have a spare $60,000.
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.