Ceremonial Chair

ca. 1815-1817 (made)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This imposing chair was designed for the Great Hall of Battle Abbey in Sussex. The site was close to the place where the Battle of Hastings had been fought in 1066, when William, Duke of Normandy, triumphed over the Anglo-Saxon king Harold. The owner of the Abbey, Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster, was keen to commemorate such an historical association. Between 1810 and 1822 he remodelled the entire house in the Gothic style. This included the re-roofing and redecoration of the vast Great Hall, 57 feet (17.4 metres) in length. Webster must have worked with an architect (possibly William Atkinson), but keen amateur architects were often given the credit for the buildings they designed, even when the detail of the plans was undoubtedly drawn up by professionals.

For the interiors, Webster turned to the fashionable cabinetmaker George Bullock and the designer Richard Bridgens, who was working for Bullock at that time. The chair was illustrated in a fashionable magazine, Ackermann's Repository, in 1817. It was designed as a 'state chair'. Originally it stood under a carved Gothic canopy on a dais (a raised floor) at the end of the hall, under an enormous painting of the Battle of Hastings.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved oak
Brief Description
Ceremonial chair of oak, carved in Gothic style
Physical Description
A ceremonial chair of carved oak, in the form of a throne, carved with Gothic motifs. The chair is raised on four cluster-column legs, joined by apron panels carved and pierced with Gothic trefoil motifs. The edge of the seat flares outwards and is carve with quatrefoils. The seat surface shows four panels set in a saltire frame. The uprights supporting the arms are set a little back from the front legs. They are square-sectioned, the front and sides with recessed panels. Moulded top rails to the arms run over these uprights and end in carved lions' heads. The arms are panelled and carved on the inside and outside with a single Gothi arch, with quatrefoils in the spandrels. The back of the chair shows three tiers of motifs. At seat level the back is carved with four square panels enclosing quatrefoils. Above this is a tall panel with rather plain arcading, then a narrow panel with alternate saltire crosses and square paterae, and finally a deeper panel with a single ogee arch with quatrefoils in the spandrels and centre. The chair is finished in a dark brown varnish.
Dimensions
  • Height: 175cm
  • Width: 76cm
  • Depth: 58.2cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • THRONE ENGLISH; about 1817 Design attributed to Richard Bridgens (1785-1846) Made in the workshop of George Bullock (1782/3-1818) Oak This throne and the table and chair nearby were all designed for the elaborate Gothic Revival interiors created within the medieval abbey at Battle in Sussex from 1815-1818 for Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster. The throne stood under a canopy at the west end of the Great Hall. Given by the Associates and Friends of the V&A.(pre October 2000)
  • THRONE ENGLISH; about 1815 Oak Designed for Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster by Richard Bridgens to stand under the canopy at the west end of the Great Hall, at Battle Abbey, Sussex. Made in the workshops of George Bullock (died 1818). Given by the Associates and Friends of the Victoria & Albert Museum.(pre October 2000)
Credit line
Given by the Associates and Friends of the V&A
Subjects depicted
Summary
This imposing chair was designed for the Great Hall of Battle Abbey in Sussex. The site was close to the place where the Battle of Hastings had been fought in 1066, when William, Duke of Normandy, triumphed over the Anglo-Saxon king Harold. The owner of the Abbey, Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster, was keen to commemorate such an historical association. Between 1810 and 1822 he remodelled the entire house in the Gothic style. This included the re-roofing and redecoration of the vast Great Hall, 57 feet (17.4 metres) in length. Webster must have worked with an architect (possibly William Atkinson), but keen amateur architects were often given the credit for the buildings they designed, even when the detail of the plans was undoubtedly drawn up by professionals.



For the interiors, Webster turned to the fashionable cabinetmaker George Bullock and the designer Richard Bridgens, who was working for Bullock at that time. The chair was illustrated in a fashionable magazine, Ackermann's Repository, in 1817. It was designed as a 'state chair'. Originally it stood under a carved Gothic canopy on a dais (a raised floor) at the end of the hall, under an enormous painting of the Battle of Hastings.
Bibliographic References
  • Naomi Yin Yin Szeto, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary. Chairs for Viewing the World Through Time. Hong Kong, 2014, p. 43. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 2014, to which the chair was lent.
  • Graham, Clare: Ceremonial and Commemorative Chairs in Great Britain. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1994. ISBN 1 85177 136 0, pp. 99-100, fig.99.
Collection
Accession Number
W.56-1980

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record createdApril 2, 2001
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