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Chairs from Taunton Castle, Somerset, Used During the Bloody Assizes to Sell at Bonhams
A set of six Charles II oak and upholstered chairs. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- A set of six Charles II chairs believed to have been used in the court room of Judge Jeffreys during the Bloody Assize at Taunton Castle, Somerset, in 1685, is to be sold at Bonhams’ Fine English Furniture and Works of Art sale on 3 November 2010. The set has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £10,000 – 15,000.

Jeffreys became known as ‘the hanging judge’ for the part he played in the Bloody Assizes, the series of trials that took place in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor and put an end to the Monmouth Rebellion. He was imprisoned after the Revolution of 1688 in the Tower of London, where he died one year later.

Taunton Castle was acquired by the Somerset Archaeological Society in 1873 and the chairs were either removed or sold. They remained in the Taunton area until shortly after the Second World War when they were purchased by R. T. Gwynn and brought to London. The whereabouts of the remainder of the set is unknown.

Another important lot from the West Country is a George III white painted salon suite from Place, Fowey, Cornwall, which has been estimated at £80,000 – 100,000. The suite was written about in Country Life in 1962: ‘The most elaborate room is the drawing room, which looks south and east over the harbour. It contains a beautiful and unusually large set of twelve arm chairs and two sofas. They are English but in the French taste and in their elegance and lightness form a complete contrast to the apparently massive ceiling...’ The suite has remained in the Treffry family at Place ever since it was installed by Joseph Thomas Treffry, an entrepreneur and the first Sheriff of Cornwall, in 1831.

The sale also includes two important George II carved giltwood mirrors from Castle Howard in Yorkshire, the stately home featured in the 1981 TV series and the 2008 film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. Estimated at £100,000 – 150,000, they are thought to have been designed for Henry, 4th Earl of Carlisle (1694-1758) by John Vardy and show the influence of his colleague William Kent.

Another sale highlight is a set of six George III armchairs (estimate £6,000 – 8,000); a card table (estimate £4,000 – 6,000); and an escritoire (estimate £4,000 – 6,000), that passed by descent through the Windham, Dalling and Meade families at Earsham Hall, Norfolk from the 18th century. Earsham Hall was finally sold in the 1970s.

A George III steel fire grate, commissioned by Sir Robert Shafto Adair (1862-1949) for Flixton Hall, near Bungay, Suffolk, is expected to fetch £3,000 – 5,000. Lady Shafto Adair gave the fire grate to Oliver Bradbury, a bloodstock dealer, in 1943, and it was purchased from him by the present owner in 1976. Flixton Hall was demolished by a speculator in 1952.

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