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!
I had a fun afternoon last weekend looking at Ince & Mayhew serving tables. Once again, someone had contacted me through this website to ask about my research and see if I had any knowledge of a particular serving table which was decorated with amazing rams' heads.
I discovered that Christie's held a sale last week at which an Ince & Mayhew serving table was sold for £17,500. This magnificent piece has swags and carved husk pendants, a good indication that it was made by the firm. The craftsmanship is superb. The Lot Essay describes a number of tables that have similar features to this one, and are proven to have been made by them.
Another beautiful carved mahogany table attributed to the firm was sold in March last year. This had a goat's mask with beribboned husk swags for decoration and went for £20,000. A magnificent I&M tea caddy was sold in the same auction for $4750. It was the property of the Earl and Countess of Perth, sold in 1996.
TODAY in Christie's New York Auction, you will find the Parham Park Ince & Mayhew Suite, a suite of George III cream and blue painted mahogany dining room furniture, including a serving table and two urns. There are matching side tables, one of which dates back to 1775 made by Ince & Mayhew, the other more recent. The Suite was supplied to Sir Cecil Bisshopp, 8th Bt (later 12th Baron Zouche) 1753-1828 for Parham Park, Sussex and sold by Christie's in 1966 by the executors of one of his descendants. It is worth looking at the photos in close-up to admire the workmanship. The estimate for the serving table and urns is $80,000 to $120,000 and for the side tables $30,000 to $50,000.
Also in this auction a copy of the Universal System of Household Furniture is up for auction in New York, with an estimate of $8000 to $12,000. At the bottom of the frontispiece is a note that the book is 'To be had of the Authors & at A Weoblys near Chancery Lane Holborn & of all other Booksellers.' It will be interesting to see what price they make.
Advanced notice that the new edition of William Ince Cabinet Maker is nearing completion. The manuscript is finished and I am just waiting for a few copyright permissions for images. All going well there will be an official book launch in a couple of months and I hope to be able to make some preview copies available at a special discount price for anyone willing to write a review.
This book will be about twice the size of the original with a greater emphasis on celebrating the work of William Ince. It will also include new information on his father and sisters in Worcestershire, his wife’s family in London and his son Frederick’s remarkable adventure in America taken from the letters he wrote to his family back in England between 1824 and 1836. There will be a chapter on John Mayhew and his family, including new research on John’s baptism and his siblings, and information about his children and grandchildren, including royal dentists and the State Trials for High Treason. There will also be information on some of William’s more notable descendants, including the colourful actress Annette Ince, who played Juliet to John Wilkes Booth’s Romeo and the artists Joseph Murray Ince, Charles Percy Ince and Charlotte Grace Cowell.
I will keep you posted.
1stDibs is an online gallery where professional dealers can advertise their items for sale in a great many different categories. It is New York based though the dealers are from all over the world. I initially searched the site on Mayhew and enjoyed the mixture of antique furniture and Star Wars memorabilia which resulted. (Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca in Star Wars for the uninitiated.) When I then filtered by Ince & Mayhew 42 items came up for sale; some are attributed to the firm, some ascribed, some are in the manner of and some are by somebody else but Ince and Mayhew are mentioned in the description. I found seven items that were definitely made by them.
Prices range from £14,750 for a Sheraton style dressing table, one of the wonderful metamorphic tables that unfolds, but which has no provenance, to £485,000 for a serpentine commode, which is exquisitely executed. I am particularly taken with the brushing slide with ivy decoration that lies above the two doors on the front. One of the commodes at Croome Court has a similar slide which would have been used as a flat surface for brushing clothes.
There is also a dumb waiter for sale at £17,000, probably from Clytha Castle in Monmouthshire. The purchaser, William Jones, kept a detailed ledger which records payments of £1,000 to Mayhew & Ince between 1791-1792. Other items that came from Clytha Castle are the pair of card tables that were sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s New York for £77,000. See 18th May 2016 blog entry.
Finally there is an extremely fine copy of the Universal System of Household Furniture for sale at £25,000. This copy has notes and drawings made by the cabinet maker who originally bought it.
Nine direct descendants of William Ince were amongst the party that were given a superb private tour of Sherborne Castle in July. The archivist, Ann Smith, shared the information she had gathered from the accounts, showed us round the rooms and then turned the pages of the 1762 copy of the Universal System of Household Furniture which resides in the Library. William Ince drew at least 75 of the 95 designs, so it was a great delight to enjoy his work,
We saw twenty-one pieces made by Ince & Mayhew, including lovely bedroom furniture, two wonderful marquetry inlaid mahogany commodes, and a metamorphic dressing-table made from yew. As there are no bills to indicate exactly which pieces of furniture came from the firm, it was possible to suggest that a delightful marquetry box was also made by them.
A number of the party intend returning to the Castle, as it is so well laid out and pleasant and we realised we had not had time to pay attention to the rest of the contents. Nor did we spend enough time fully enjoying the gardens, one of the first commissions of Capability Brown, who was working on it at the same time as working at Croome Court, where Ince & Mayhew also contributed a lot of furniture and work including hanging tapestries and dealing with the damp!
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
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.