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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gillow & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mahogany, with beech seat rails, the seat upholstered and covered in horsehair

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by C. D. Rotch

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This chair pattern, with a heart-shaped back incorporating the Prince of Wales feathers, was very popular in the late 1780s and 1790s, and was probably manufactured by several different firms. The firm of Gillow & Company, of Lancaster and London, were making chairs of this type, which they called ‘Drapery and feather back’, by 1788. The design may have been suggested by the fact that, in 1787, the Prince of Wales took power as Regent when his father, George III, suffered a temporary bout of insanity as a result of the illness porphyria. The design was clearly popular because it was published as late as 1802, in a book of designs, although without the drapery. A design for this kind of chair back is also painted on a pattern board in the Museum that was used to show different ways of decorating such a chair (Museum no. W.11-1993) and another version of the design is also in the Museum's collection (Museum no. 1458-1904)

Physical description

Carved mahogany. The black horse hair covering and the upholstery, modern. The seat has been strengthend below. The back made up of bands forming a heart-shape with an elongated ovoid shape in the middle rising to form a cresting, inside which is a Prince-of-Wales feather motif. Below, draped across the whole back is a festoon. Short 'S' curved arm-rests joined to downward and forward sweeping curved supports. The front legs straight, tapering and with square section but carved as if square leg contained a round-sectioned leg inside. Curved, square-sectioned back legs. Bracing pieces across angles inside seat-rails.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1780 (made)


Gillow & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Mahogany, with beech seat rails, the seat upholstered and covered in horsehair


Height: 38 in, Width: 21.5 in, Depth: 22 in

Descriptive line

Of mahogany, the open back carved with the Prince of Wales' feathers and drapery, the seat upholstered in horsehair. English, possibly by Gillows, ca. 1788

Labels and date

ENGLISH; about 1780
Mahogany [1972]
This pattern, incorporating the device of the Prince of Wales' feathers, was one of the most popular in the 1780s and 1790s and was probably used by several makers. It is illustrated in the Estimate Sketch books used in the workshops of the firm of Gillow of Lancaster and London, who supplied chairs with this back to 'N. Crompton Esq.' of Manchester in 1788 and later to John Christian of Workington. [1996]
British; 1788-1800; possibly by Gillows
Mahogany with carved decoration; the horsehair upholstery modern
Bequeathed to the museum by Claude Rotch Esq.
This relates to the design for a single chair in the Pattern Books of the firm of Gillow of 1788, and designs for an elbow and a single chair in their Estimate Sketch Books in the same year. Though engraved designs with similar motifs relating to the Prince of Wales are found in other late eighteenth century pattern books, none are exactly similar, and Gillows must be considered a probable maker. [1994]

Production Note

It seems likely that this design originated in 1787, when the Prince of Wales took power as Regent during a period when George III was suffering insanity as a result of the illness porhyria. The design seems to have been first published in 1788 in the first edition of Hepplewhite's The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide and in the same year the design is illustrated in the Estimate Sketch Books of Gillows of Lancaster.


Mahogany; Horsehair; Beech

Subjects depicted

Prince of Wales' feathers




Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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