Championed from the 1830s by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) gothic architecture was infused with the high Christian ideals and values that had been eclipsed by classicism and were being destroyed by industrialisation. In his 1835 publication, Gothic Furniture in the Style of the 15th Century, Pugin illustrates furniture designs based on his interpretations of what were in fact slightly later styles. Some of the designs showed the joints exposed rather than covered up, described by the late Clive Wainwright as the “earliest published exemplification of his principle of revealed construction applied to the design of an object”. As Pugin states in his book: “the smallest detail should have a meaning or serve a purpose; and even the construction itself should vary with the material employed, and the design adapted to the material in which it is executed.” The Gothic Revival architect/designers who followed him, notably William Burges and George Edward Street carried on this new approach, taking responsibility for designing the building and its internal fittings and furnishings.
The present lot of eight oak ‘Glastonbury’ armchairs, carved and decorated with the arms of William King, 1st Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham, exemplify the gothic influence on 19th century furniture design. Based on an original medieval chair that survived in the Bishop's Palace at Wells where Pugin almost certainly saw it, and another example at Strawberry Hill, Pugin copied the form exactly, although he did not add the original carved decoration to his versions (see V&A collection, British Galleries, Room 122e). The present examples are elaborately carved with the full coat of arms which date from 30 June 1838, when William King, 8th Baron King of Ockham was elevated to the titles 1st Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham. The chairs were likely made after 1846, when the 1st Earl started living at Horsley Towers, Surrey, the extensive mansion he had renovated in the gothic style, and before 1860; as from that year William King adopted the name and arms King-Noel by royal licence.
The chairs are part of a collection of items from the estate of the 5th Earl of Lovelace to be offered at auction in 2019.