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The Beckford Lancaster State Bed

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1815 (incorporating earlier parts)

Materials

Carved ebony, ebonised walnut, oak and softwood, silk damask

Measurements

72 x 90 cm; 116 cm (Length)

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Charlecote Park, Warwickshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 533000

Summary

The Lancaster State Bed, made in England, circa 1815, for William Beckford (1760-1844), in the Lancaster Bedroom at Fonthill Abbey, incorporating a headboard and a footboard from the Coromandel coast, carved in ebony circa 1666 - 80. The spirally turned baluster shaped bed posts mounted on hexagonal sections with Gothic moldings, they support a neoclassical cornice made for Charlecote to match the door surrounds of the bedroom, with original red silk damask hangings and blue and red quilted bed cover. The bed was purchased in 1837 by George Hammond Lucy through English, the Bath Auctioneers. English's bill dated June 1837 reads 'To the Lancaster State Bedstead and hangings formerly at Fonthill - also a paliasse - 2 mattresses - feather bed bolster & two pillows & silk Quilt £ 136.10.0'. The bed appeared in the Fonthill Abbey sale catalogue but was brought to Bath by Beckford until sold for Charlecote. There was a comparable but more elaborate bed at Hamilton Palace, made up in England in the beginning of the 19th century with a seventeenth century footboard from the Coromandel Coast. It was sold by John Webb of Bond Street to the 10th Duke of Hamilton in 1826 or 1828 (See A.Jaffer, fig.66). The mid-seventeenth century ebony furniture produced in the Coromandel coast of India was very fashionable in the early years of the 19th century, especially sets of carved ebony chairs. In the 1750s, Horace Walpole (1717-1797) acquired many pieces of such carved ebony furniture for his Gothic house of Strawberry Hill. He believed they were surviving examples of early English furniture. William Beckford also had several examples of carved ebony chairs and cabinets at Fonthill Abbey. At Charlecote a few specimens can still be found (NT 533024.1-2; NT 533025; NT 533026) including a sofa (NT 533023).

Provenance

Formerly at Fonthill Abbey in the Lancaster bedroom. Purchased by George Hammond Lucy in 1837. Located in the Ebony Bedroom (created specially to house this bed) in the 1850s, and listed there in an inventory of 1891: 'Bed - The Fonthill including bolster and 2 pillows'. Subsequently relocated to the Billiard Room, but reinstated in the Ebony Bedroom following the National Trust's reconstruction of the room in 2000. Presented to the National Trust by Sir Montgomerie Fairfax-Lucy (1896 – 1965), two years after the death of his father, Sir Henry Ramsay-Fairfax, 3rd Bt (1870 – 1944), with Charlecote Park and its chief contents, in 1946.

References

Jaffer 2001 : Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, a catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, London, V&A publications, 2001. Wainwright, 1989: Clive Wainwright, The romantic interior: the British collector at home, 1750-1850. Studies in British Art. New Haven; London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 1989. [Charlecote pp.208-240]

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