On November 3rd, Bonhams held a spectacular auction in Bond Street, London. Featuring fine antiques from stately homes across England, the biggest selling point was a set of six Charles II antique dining chairs , believed to have been used in Judge Jeffreys’ notorious Bloody Assizes. The pre-sale estimate was £10,000 – 15,000.
The auction, billed as a Provenance Sale of Fine English Furniture and works of art, was dominated by antique desks, chairs, tables and cabinets. Many were pre-Victorian, originating from stately homes in Suffolk, Cornwall, Yorkshire and Lancashire. Prices were high, as you’d expect given the quality. A set of handsome Chippendale-style Victorian dining chairs had an estimated price of £8,000 to £12,000, while a set of George IV antique dining chairs by Lancashire craftsman John Lawson, of Gillows of Lancaster , had a reserve of £6000. A set of 14 Queen Anne style Victorian dining chairs (estimate: £2,000 – 3,000) would have made a good investment for a Lancashire hotelier, though they’d have to dig deep for the rare 14-piece George III salon set, valued at £80,000 – 100,000.
For historical value, though, the Charles II antique dining chairs won the day. Removed from Taunton Castle in 1873, they are thought to have been used at the 1685 Taunton Assize, which took place after the Battle of Sedgemoor. The oak and nail-hide chairs certainly resemble the one in the famous portrait of Judge Jeffries, though his was a closed style with arms, rather than open as those at Bonhams are.
If you want to buy a piece of history, a good Lancashire antique dealer will be able to help you. Even Victorian dining chairs have a story to tell.