A Regency period mahogany Imperial dining table of exceptional colour and condition, attributed to Gillows of Lancaster, supplied for Westport House, County Mayo, the extending action with nine original leaves on twenty elegant turned, reeded and tapering legs, terminating in brass cups and casters. The ends shaped and with a frieze veneered in mahogany. The table is capable of extending beyond 30 feet.
The Imperial table was a refined version of the patent telescopic table designed by Gillow in 1804. In 1818, Gillow supplied for the same dining room two 'elegant mahogany sideboards supported by richly carved eagles' for £364.00 An identical table by Gillow although only extending to 19' 6" was supplied for Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire in 1813.
The Marquess of Sligo, Westport House, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland.
Commissioned by John Browne (1709-76), Westport House is one of the great Georgian houses of Ireland built in 1731, of grey limestone in the Palladian style and to the design of Richard Castle (1690-1751). Castle became one of the most prolific architects of the period and popularised Palladian architectural principles, designing the great houses of Russborough House in Co. Wicklow, Carton House in Co Kildare and Leinster House in Dublin (today the seat of the Oireachtas).
Originally, Westport House consisted of a single, east-facing block house of two storeys with seven bays, over a half-sunken basement, built with quality cut stone and designed with small windows, making the house appear larger. After his marriage to Elizabeth Kelly, heiress to sugar plantations in Jamaica, Peter (1730-80), the second Earl of Altamont, enlarged the house considerably by adding a further three sides to it, probably to the design of Thomas Ivory.
Howe Peter Browne (1788-1845), second Marquis of Sligo and the purchaser of this table, had a passion for archaeology. One of his better known exploits was his involvement with an excavation in Mycenae in 1812, during which the two great 3,000-year-old columns from the doorway of the Treasury of Artreus were removed. He spent four months in gaol for bribing British sailors to assist with the transportation of these antiquities. The columns remained in the basement of Westport House until 1906 when the sixth Marquis presented them to the British Museum in exchange for replicas. In 1943, these replicas were erected on the south-facing side of the house. Howe Peter was also Governor of Jamaica, and was presented with a silver candelabrum in 1828 in recognition of his support for the emancipation of slaves in Jamaica. The candelabrum is decorated symbolically at its base with a former slave holding up his child, suggestive of a new-found freedom. The stem of the candelabrum is a palm tree, with its fronds extending from a central branch decorated with Neo-classical inspired bell flowers, surmounted by a pineapple.
In 1781, John Denis, third Earl of Altamont and later first Marquis of Sligo, employed the English architect James Wyatt (1746-1813) to complete the interior of Westport House. His elegant plasterwork motifs were inspired by the paintings discovered at the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. His plasterwork was cast from mounds and set in low relief, featuring Neo-classical repeating figures and garlands in oval and circular medallions. Although later renovations removed much of Wyatt’s plasterwork throughout Westport House, it survives in magnificent detail in the dining room.
During the second half of the 18th century mahogany had become the preferred wood for dining tables. The mahogany for the two matching dining room doors at Westport came from the family’s estate in Jamaica; it is possible that the superb mahogany of the Westport dining table was also supplied from the estate.
Despite changing fortunes and circumstances, Westport House has remained in the Browne family to the present day. In the 1980s the tenth Marquis of Sligo, Denis Edward, opened the house and grounds to the public and has developed the estate into a popular attraction for visitors, allowing the family to maintain their Palladian home.
S. Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730 – 1840. Antique Collector’s Club Ltd, 2008, p. 241, pl.243.
CONDITION REPORT ON REQUEST.