In the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London there is an oil painting called A Cabinet-Maker's Office. It shows a cabinet-maker pointing to a coloured design for a commode and bookcase. The desk in the background shows the order book and account books. The figure to the right, holding a pen, is possibly the book-keeper. The notes supplied by the V&A point out that only a substantial business would require a full-time book-keeper. The painting would have been commissioned by a wealthy member of the new middle-class to show off the business he had built up. The design shown in the paper held by the cabinet-maker suggests a date of 1770. The artist is unknown.
Interestingly at the Huntingdon Museum in California there are two portraits of children of John Mayhew: one of Isabella who was the daughter of his first wife, Isabella Stephenson, and one of James Gray at the age of ten. James Gray Mayhew was the fourth son of John and Bridget and became an architect and a surveyor, working for the Westminster Fire Office. He is the man who became the Receiver for Ince & Mayhew in 1824. Both portraits were painted by Charles Ansell and are dated 1780.
Looking at the faces of all three, is there any family resemblance? Could the cabinet-maker in the V&A painting be John Mayhew? He had commissioned the family portraits, and there may have originally been more paintings of his other children, which have since been lost. Could he have commissioned a portrait of himself?
The main argument against this is that Ince & Mayhew’s accounts were in such a mess when the partnership was dissolved, it is unlikely they employed a book-keeper. However, if you will forgive a flight of fancy, suppose the man on the left is John Mayhew and he is pointing to an alteration in the design that needs to be made by the man on the right holding a pen, that could be William Ince!
The Huntington Art Gallery, originally the Huntington residence, contains one of the most comprehensive collections in America of 18th and 19th century British and French art. The collection can be viewed on their emuseum, and includes five watercolours by Joseph Murray Ince, grandson of William Ince.
On 29th April last year there was a terrible fire at Clandon Park, the National Trust property in Surrey, where I first saw some Ince & Mayhew furniture and was inspired to find out more about my Ince ancestors.
I went back to photograph the three items that had been identified as by the firm: a chair and two matching tables, one with a lion and one with a bull. According to Lucy Wood in the Catalogue of Commodes[i], the tables are related in design to a set of side tables made for the Earl of Kerry. The bull cartouche is similar to the one on the Bull Cabinet in the Lady Lever Art Collection. A parquetry kingwood and yew bombé commode in Louis XV style attributed to Ince & Mayhew, was also in the house[ii]. Sadly all these items were destroyed in the fire.
They had been part of the collection of Hannah Gubbay which she had bequeathed to the National Trust. Mrs Gubbay was born Hannah Ezra in Bombay India and was related, through her mother to the wealthy Sassoon family. She was widowed at a comparatively early age with no children, and after her husband died, did not remarry. An avid collector, she left porcelain, textiles and 18th century furniture to the National Trust on her death in 1956.
[i] Wood, Lucy, Catalogue of Commodes 1994 London:HMSO p.216
[ii] Thanks to Christopher Rowell of the National Trust for this information.
Last week I was delighted to come across this 1785 fire engine in the Anne of Cleves House in Lewes, Sussex. It cost £65 5s 0d and was made by a company called Bristow which was based in Ratcliff Highway, Whitechapel, London.
Instructions for Use: When you play the engine to its full length hold the Branch steady, let as many men work at the Handles as can stand and likewise upon ye Treadles and take Quick Strokes from top to Bottom, when you play by Suction Unscrew the Brass Cap which stands by a Chain and screw the suction pipe when you play water out of the Cistern turn ye handle in again, let the Cistern be half full of water when you play by suction and Always keep water in the Cistern in summer but none in Winter.
William Ince and John Mayhew were both directors of the Westminster Fire Office between 1763 and 1811[i]; John Mayhew serving six two year terms and William Ince four between 1771 and 1800. They attended the weekly board and carried out inspections of properties, writing up reports. This work would have provided useful business contacts, and they also introduced some of their customers such as the widow of the third Earl of Darnley and her son, who insured Cobham Hall in Kent for £24,000 in 1789. They insured their own property through the Westminster Office, receiving compensation when their house in Silver Street burnt down in 1782(£375) and again when William Ince’s house in Crouch End burnt down in 1795 (£215).
William Ince designed a headpiece for the Westminster Fire Office policy documents in 1782 and in 1792 the firm provided 18 new chairs for the board for which they were paid £102 9s and later they were billed for other furniture when the Office moved premises.
Ince & Mayhew owned a fire engine and were paid for the use of it. In January 1773 Ince received 4s 6d being so much expended by him at the late fire in Tylers Court and in 1779 they were paid one guinea to be divided among the men as have at various times attended and worked their Engine at Fires. There was also a fire engine at Hartlebury Castle, Worcestershire when William Ince did the audit there in 1781. The outgoing Bishop bought it and took it with him to Winchester. This fire engine was valued at £5 5s 0d.
This video on YouTube shows you how a manual fire engine worked.
[i] Roberts, H.. (1993). MAYHEW AND INCE AND THE WESTMINSTER FIRE OFFICE. Furniture History, 29, 134–139. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23407791
Both William Ince and John Mayhew were actively involved in the parish of Hornsey, which in the eighteenth century was a country area. William was living there from 1780 according to the Land Tax records, and he bought the Old Crouch Hall estate in 1788. John Mayhew had a villa in Hornsey and bought up land in the area. (A map in my book gives details.)
According to the Vestry Minute Book for St Mary’s, Hornsey (London Metropolitan Archives DR0/020/C1/1) they were both surveyors for the highways and attended church meetings. William was eventually elected as Church Warden.
In 1691 an Act was passed that required each Parish to appoint a Surveyor of the Highways who had to report to a Justice every four months on the state of the roads. He had to persuade the owners of land adjacent to the highway to keep them clear of any timber or other obstructions and cleanse the adjoining gutters and drains, as well as clearing any overhanging growth or hedges. The Surveyor was also responsible for organising repair of the highways by the parishioners.
John Mayhew was surveyor and overseer of the highways for Hornsey from 1782-1784, and they were both surveyors in 1785 and overseers in 1788; William was surveyor from 1789 to 1791. In August 1792 there was discussion about paying Surveyors 10s a day instead of £50 for 6 days, as money had been used for road repair. On 22nd September 1792, the Minutes say William Ince was appointed as a Proper Person duly qualified to Serve the Office Surveyors of the Highways for Hornsey Side. From looking at an 1807 map, the Hornsey Side probably meant what is now the A103.
In 1791 after the curate was so drunk that the congregation asked him not to preach, both Ince and Mayhew were present at a meeting when it was agreed to send a letter for a Gentleman to perform Divine Service constantly as … very much dissatisfied.
On Easter Tuesday 1793, William Ince was elected Church Warden at his third nomination and he served until 1795 regularly attending meetings. While he was Church Warden there was agreement that the road needed to be widened and the surveyors were to apply to the magistrates. There was also discussion about enlarging the church yard and he and John Mayhew were members of the committee set up to look at the repairs and alterations.
In December 1793 the Vestry agreed to examine what alterations were needed in the church for the accommodation of the inhabitants. There was seating for only 200 and demand for pews greatly exceeded the number that were available, so Mr Ince gave instruction for a general survey. The report offered two options: a new aisle or erecting a gallery. The Church Wardens reported that Many inhabitants refused to pay the rate to erect a gallery on the south side. They were advised they could enforce the said Rate and it was agreed to go ahead and cause the rate to be collected and get proposals for erecting the gallery on the south side, using any Overplus for repairs. However it would appear nothing actually happened until 1815[i].
In July 1795 Mr Ince produced his Accounts as Church Warden when his Expenditure amounted to £20-9-3, and in 1796 he was elected to a Committte to assist Officers in regulating the Poor of this Parish; this Committee to meet on first Monday of the month at six o’clock in the evening.
It would seem that both partners of the firm were keen to have a decent road to get to their country villas from their workshops in Marshall Street, and they may also have found it useful for trade. It is interesting that William was more involved in his country life from 1793, spending more time there. He may have been less involved in the business by then. I discovered from reading Hugh Roberts article about the Westminster Fire Office, that William Ince’s house in Crouch End was destroyed by fire in June 1795. No wonder he stopped being Church Warden, but presumably he continued to live in Crouch End perhaps after the house was rebuilt - it was insured for £215.
[i] A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, M A Hicks and R B Pugh, 'Hornsey, including Highgate: Churches', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate, ed. T F T Baker and C R Elrington (London, 1980), pp. 172-182. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol6/pp172-182 [accessed 25 March 2016].
I have added a family tree to the descendants page to show how I am connected to William Ince. There are a number of cousins, mostly descended from Charles Frederick Ince, some from Edward Bret Ince, who meet up from time to time with our families to view Ince & Mayhew furniture.
Fourteen direct descendants of William Ince went to Burghley in May 2013 and had a really good time being shown round by Jon Culverhouse, the curator. We were shown the wonderful commodes, collector’s cabinets, urns and pedestals, chairs etc. I most enjoyed being allowed to sit in an Ince & Mayhew chair.
Last October some of us went to the Lady Lever Gallery in Liverpool, where there is a superb collection of Ince & Mayhew commodes, described in detail by Lucy Wood in her book, Catalogue of Commodes. After an entertaining tour of the gallery it was a delight to be able to spend time enjoying the workmanship and marvelling at the detail of the marquetry.
This July we will be heading off to Broadlands in Hampshire, where the 2nd Viscount Palmerston had his country residence. Ince is mentioned in several of Palmerston’s letters and Lady Palmerston’s inventory of 1797 mentions a ‘Secretary made by Ince’. (Hugh Roberts, Country Life 29 January and 5 February 1981)
It has also been a pleasure to find some cousins descended from Henry Robert Ince, William Ince’s doctor son. One lives in Worcestershire and helped me with some early research and now several of you in Pennsylvania are following this blog. It would be lovely to hear from any others.
There were a number of artisans in the Broad Street area in the late eighteenth century. Ince & Mayhew took over from Charles Smith in the cabinet-making trade in 1759 and were based at the western end of Broad Street in Marshall Street. When Thomas Sheraton produced his Cabinet Dictionary in 1803, there were four other cabinet-makers in Broad Street: Hudson and Corney at Nos.4 and 13, Jermain at No.10 Broad Street, Lonsdale at No. 7 and Owen an Upholsterer at No. 54.
Thomas Sheraton was himself living at 8 Broad Street where copies of the Dictionary could be obtained. It would be very surprising if he and William Ince did not meet occasionally to discuss the trade. Thomas Sheraton died in 1806 and the writer of his obituary in the Gentlemen’s Magazine was concerned that he had left his family ‘in distressed circumstances’ mainly because since 1793 he had been supporting himself as an author. He was described as ‘a very honest well-disposed man; of an acute and enterprising disposition’.
Broad Street also housed a number of instrument makers: the harpsichord maker Jacob Kirckman, who came to England in the 1730s, had his business at No.19. He was organist of St. George's, Hanover Square, and the author of several compositions for the organ and the pianoforte which he published himself at the sign of the 'King's Arms' in Broad Street, Carnaby Market. He died in 1777 but the business was continued by his nephew, Abraham. There is record of a square piano inscribed Jacob and Abraham Kirchmann dated 1775 and a grand piano dated 1780 was also theirs[i].
Frederick Beck the piano maker was at No.4 Broad Street, producing square pianos between 1772 and 1788, with attributions to 1798. Thomas Beck, pianoforte maker was at the same address. Beck was also in business with George Corrie of 41, Broad Street about 1790[ii]. Christopher Ganer was a piano maker, inlayer, music publisher and seller initially at 22 Broad Street moving to 47 Broad Street, Soho and also at 48 Broad Street from the early 1780’s. From 1779, he made very elegant inlaid square pianos on a “French” frame stand as well as plain examples.[iii]
William Blake, the painter and poet, was born at No. 74 (then No. 28) Broad Street and after his marriage in 1782 he set up in business as a print seller next-door in No. 72 (then No. 27), but had removed to Poland Street by Christmas 1785; his partner, James Parker, remained at No. 72 until 1794.[iv] The two sculptors and carvers, Sefferin Alken and Sefferin Nelson were based in Dufours Place, a little alley off the north of Broad Street.
A National School was established in Marshall Street in 1827, described as situated at the end of Broad-street, Golden Square – the exact site that Ince & Mayhew bought from Charles Smith in 1758, as shown on the map in the Victoria County History[v]. Three school rooms were erected with apartments for the masters and mistresses plus a shop used as a depot for the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. There were two day-schools and two evening-schools, separate for boys and girls, and an infant-school. There were over 1000 pupils in total. The school closed in 1892.
I have been reading about the beautiful Rosebery Desk which was made by Ince & Mayhew around 1775 and was in the collection of the 5th Earl of Rosebery. It was sold by his daughter Lady Sybil Grant in 1956 to a private collector in Canada and later loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of New York. To see some photographs of this delightful piece, follow the link below.
The desk has superb marquetry throughout and is described as ‘meticulously inlaid’. It has an inlaid roll-top with a leather writing surface inside, with pigeon holes in satinwood and small drawers in burr yew, which flank a small mahogany painted cupboard door. The front has a drawer and a frieze which includes two wyverns with scaly fish tails. The desk is similar to the roll-top desk attributed to Ince & Mayhew at Syon House.
The wyvern can be found on other furniture associated with Ince & Mayhew, and appear in heraldry. Two wyverns support the arms of the Dukes of Marlborough and are so depicted on the dedication page of the Universal System of Household Furniture. I wonder if William Ince had enjoyed drawing them and wanted to include them in some of his designs, though it may be that the design came originally from Robert Adam.
Early on in my research I visited St George's Hanover Square in London. This is the church where John Mayhew and William Ince married the sisters Isabella and Ann Stephenson on 20th February 1762. The report in The London Chronicle refers to 'Nancy Stephenson', which lends an air of frivolity to her.
All four signed the entries in the Parish Register, and the witnesses were John Mayhew's father and William Ince, for John and Isabella, and again John Mayhew's father and this time John Mayhew for William and Ann. The curate, Thomas Vincent, performed the service along with the other three marriages that took place that day.
The marriages were permitted by licence, rather than the reading of Banns. As Nancy was only nineteen her mother signed a paper to confirm Nancy had no father living, and she gave her permission for the marriage to take place. Jean Stephenson wrote that she was too old and infirm to testify in person.
As many a family historian will relate, to take time to sit quietly in the church where your ancestors were married is a moving experience. I found it good to ponder on their marriage, how young they all were, still in their teens and twenties, but presumably hopeful and excited about their future together. Sadly Isabella died within the year, but William and Nancy survived to the early nineteenth century, producing thirteen children, nine boys and four girls, of whom only six survived them.
I had a most enjoyable visit to Christie’s last week to see the giltwood armchairs and stools and the superb serpentine serving table made by Ince & Mayhew in the 1770s. It was a pleasure to meet some of the staff, including Charles Cator. They were very knowledgeable about the pieces and emphasised the quality of the furniture produced by the firm. I wondered if Ince & Mayhew had some sort of quality control, inspecting pieces before they were delivered to make sure the standard of workmanship was satisfactory.
It was interesting to see the bottom of one of the chairs with the deep V-notches that were carved to allow clamps to hold the legs in place when they were being glued, necessary with the rounded backs.
The Auction was held on 8th March and the armchairs were sold for £20,000, the stools for £25,000, nearly three times the estimate, and the table for £65,000, more than double the estimate.
The National Library of Wales owns two letters written by William Ince to Richard Myddleton at Chirk Castle, one on 3rd October, 1782 and the other on 11th September, 1783 (E5126-E5128). I was able to purchase digital copies of them for my research.
Interestingly one sheet has the address written on it with the wax seal that was used to seal it. At first I thought the seal said I & M, then I realised that the letter had been folded so the seal should be read the other way up. Turning the photo round revealed a very clear M & I stamped on the wax.
I have traced the lettering to create a rough impression of their 'logo', bearing in mind that the wax would have spread and that the letter is over two hundred and thirty years old. The I is very similar to the I in William Ince's signature and is cleverly wound round the front of the M. I am using a mini-version of the seal as the favicon for this website - the little icon on each page.
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.