A set of eight George II mahogany Dining Chairs including a pair of Open Armchairs
Lot 27
A set of eight George II mahogany Dining Chairs
including a pair of Open Armchairs
Sold for £ 43,200 (US$ 57,614) inc. premium

Lot Details
A set of eight George II mahogany Dining Chairs including a pair of Open Armchairs
A set of eight George II mahogany Dining Chairs
including a pair of Open Armchairs
the double serpentine top-rails with paper scroll ears, above pierced vase shaped splats carved with scrolls and flowerheads above drop-in seats on cabriole legs with ball and claw feet, the armchairs labelled, 'PAIR ARMCHAIRS USED BY DR LINGARD D.D, AT HORNBY LANCS, SEE PORTRAIT AT USHAW COLLEGE, OWNER SIR JAMES.P.REYNOLDS.BT', with paper depository labels for Unsworth & Co Ltd, Removal & Warehousing Depositories, Liverpool, inventory number 322522, dated 21.1.47, (8)


  • Provenance
    Probably supplied to Ann Fenwick of Hornby Hall, Lancashire and bequeathed to the
    Revd. Thomas Butler, Hornby Presbytery at her death in 1777
    Dr John Lingard, Hornby Presbytery, Lancashire (1769-1851)
    At Hornby until bought by Sir James Reynolds, Dove Park, Woolton, Liverpool in March 1921
    Thence by family descent until recently sold

    Edwin Jones, Lingard and the Pursuit of Historical Truth, 2001
    Peter Phillips (ed.) Lingard Remembered, Catholic Record Society Monograph No.6, 2004
    Lingard, John (1771-1851) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
    ‘Death of Dr Lingard’, Times Newspaper, July 21st 1851
    ‘New Park for Liverpool’ Times Newspaper, September 19th 1929

    James Lonsdale, Portrait of John Lingard, 1834 Ushaw College, Durham, oil on canvas 56” x 43” (three quarter length, shown seated on one of the armchairs)

    Inventories & Primary Sources
    PROB11/2143: John Lingard’s will of 1851, National Archives
    LRO RCHY: Hornby Catholic Mission Papers (St Mary’s Church), Lancashire Record Office, Preston

    This set of early 18th century mahogany chairs has an interesting and unusual history. For many years it formed part of the furnishings of the Roman Catholic Presbytery at Hornby in Lancashire. One of the chairs was immortalised in a portrait of Hornby’s most famous priest and historian Dr John Lingard, who famously wrote his History of England (1819-30) whilst living there. Upon Lingard’s death the chairs remained at the Presbytery until the 1920’s when the mission fell into financial difficulties and was forced to sell some of its property and land. An old student of the Catholic College at Ushaw, Sir James Reynolds happened to see the chairs together with some other early 18th century furniture and made an offer for them in March 1921. When the Archbishop agreed to the sale they were transported to Sir James’s Liverpool mansion, Dove House. The chairs remained with the Reynolds family until very recently, when they were purchased by the present owner.

    Ann Fenwick and the foundation of the Hornby Mission
    The Roman Catholic mission at Hornby was established by Ann Fenwick, wife of John Fenwick of Burrow. She lived at Hornby Hall in Lancashire and owing to her devout Catholicism, she set up a private chapel within the Hall and installed a priest, the Revd. Thomas Butler, to administer to her and the local Catholics. She also built a small chapel at nearby Claughton.

    In the 1760’s Ann Fenwick employed the Gillow family to furnish Hornby Hall and extant bills for furniture, from the well-known firm Robert Gillow & Son of Lancaster, are preserved in the Lancashire Record Office (Bills paid by Ann Fenwick, January1764 -January 1767:LRO RCHY 2/4/28). Although the date of these bills is too late to include the present chairs, it is interesting to note she paid £12 for a set of ’10 mahogany French elbow’d chairs w’th open cross rails, brackets and carv’d elbows’.

    When Ann died in 1777 she bequeathed her household and personal goods together with enough money for 'a decent and Convenient House and Chapple [sic] to be built at Hornby' (LRO RCHY 1/3/30). The Presbytery was built under the direction of her executor Thomas Butler in 1778 using the money from the bequest and it was almost certainly furnished with items from Hornby Hall as set out in her will. Thomas Butler remained at the Presbytery until 1792 when the Revd. John Worswick became priest.

    Dr John Lingard (1771-1851)
    In September 1811 John Lingard took charge of the Hornby mission, and retained it until his death on 17 July 1851. Lingard was born at Winchester in 1771 and educated at Douai in Northern France. Driven out by the French Revolution, he helped set up the Roman Catholic college at Ushaw in Durham where he became acting president in 1810. A year later he moved to Hornby and it was here that he wrote his History of England, the first volume of which appeared in 1819. In 1820, with profits from the sale of the first volumes, he pulled down the chapel at Claughton and used some of the stone to build a small church called St Mary’s adjoining the Presbytery.

    The portrait of Lingard seated on one of the armchairs was painted in 1834 by Lancaster artist and pupil of George Romney, James Lonsdale. It was paid for by 71 individual subscribers and presented to Lingard by a group of his friends. He was delighted with it saying it was a ‘noble painting and a splendid present’ (Phillips, op.cit. p.207). In 1851 Lingard died at the Presbytery which had been home to him for the last forty years of his life and of which he once said, ‘here everything, every place is endeared to me’. He was buried at Ushaw College where he had lived and taught as a young man.

    The sale of the chairs to Sir James Reynolds
    By the beginning of the twentieth century the mission at Hornby was in financial difficulties and was forced to sell both land and property in order to cover rising costs. In 1925 the farm and land owned by the mission at Ingleton was sanctioned for sale by the Archbishop of Liverpool and purchased by a Mr Worthington on the 25 July of that year (LRO RCHY 1/3/11). Five years earlier several pieces of furniture from the Presbytery had caught the attention of the wealthy Liverpool cotton merchant Sir James Reynolds. A bundle of three letters at Lancashire Record Office (RCHY 1/4/3) reveal that he had contacted the Priest at Hornby in 1920 in order to get a copy of the ‘notice of death’ of one of his relatives. Presumably at the same time he had spotted some of the Gillows furniture commissioned by Ann Fenwick in the 1760’s for he says in the first letter, ‘the history of some of the furniture is most valuable. I enclose a note from Waring and Gillow’. Although the ‘note’ is not in the collection, the next letter is from his wife Leila Reynolds:

    Dove Park
    Feb 25 1921

    Dear Father Smith
    I gave Jimmy your letter and he said he had not expected the furniture to come to more than 5 or 6 hundred but as he does not wish to haggle, he would be willing to pay seven hundred (excluding Dr Lingard’s writing table). Failing your accepting this offer he would send down another valuer from Liverpool. It has always been our experience that when we come to buy and sell anything that people have told us was worth some fancy price that when it came to the point we never could get anything like the supposed value. Perhaps it would be well for you to get some good dealer in and find out what they would be willing to pay.
    If you agree to the £700, Jimmy will go to Pennington at once and tell him you had the archbishop’s permission to sell and then there need be no more delay.
    Yours sincerely
    Leila Reynolds

    The final letter is from William Pennington to Father Smith where he says, he has ‘put before the chapter’ the question of the ‘proposed sale of the old Chippendale furniture belonging to the Hornby Mission to Sir James Reynolds for the sum of £700’ and reports that they ‘consented to the sale for this amount.’

    Colonel Sir James Reynolds Bt., D.S.O (1865-1932)
    Sir James Reynolds was a leading figure in the commercial and philanthropic life of Liverpool. Member of an old English Roman Catholic family, he was educated at Lingard’s old college Ushaw. During his career he had been a senior partner with the cotton brokers Reynolds and Gibson and was president of the Liverpool Cotton Association. During the 1st World War he commanded the 1/3 West Lancashire Brigade in France and was awarded the D.S.O. His home was Dove Park in Woolton, built in 1907 and sitting on a 14 acre site. He also had another house Levens Hall in Cumbria as well as property in London. Barely four months after Reynolds had bought the Hornby furniture, Dove Park was badly burnt in a fire and although it was rebuilt, he presented the house, garden and grounds to the City in 1929 as a thank you to the people of Liverpool for their contribution, through trade, to the wealth of the family saying, ‘the place has many intimate and happy associations for me. I trust it will bring as much happiness to the people of Liverpool…and it will be much better employed as a pleasure ground than a building site’. Although Dove House has now been demolished, its footprint has been redeveloped into sheltered housing, the residents of which can still enjoy the beauty of Reynolds Park and its walled garden.

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