Research is crucial to our restoration practice.
Understanding the restoration process for chimney-pieces that have been modified requires a thorough understanding of the development of the chimney-piece in Britain during the Georgian period. John Davis is an established authority on ‘Antique Garden Ornament’ (Woodbridge 1991) and twenty five years later is still working on a book on ‘The Chimney-piece in Georgian Britain’. His research files allow for the location of similar examples from the same craftsmen’s workshops or architect’s designs and this greatly broadens our ability to understand who made them and, where they have been altered and where required to correctly re-construct chimney-pieces. This allows us to trace provenance and establish the heritage of many chimney-pieces as well as detect forgeries.
We undertake confidential consultancy work for clients, providing reports and detailing our opinion as to the age, date and additional detail on chimney-pieces. These reports are intended to aid in appropriate planning applications, as well as detailing the specific nature of each of the chimney-pieces, and providing a detailed record. We also undertake insurance valuations and advise on suitable period replacements for listed buildings, both antique and historically correct modern copies.
Less happily, as intimated above, there has been and continues to be a proliferation of modern copies of genuine originals, of a very high quality which are often marketed as genuine originals when they are, in our opinion, deliberately constructed forgeries. It would be inappropriate for us to comment about specific chimney-pieces on this website but we have been involved with the identification of a great number of modern forgeries
Two recent reports, which reflect clients requirements for anonymity, noting some of the detail of the historic chimney-pieces, can be seen by clicking either of the following links.
An example of the development of the formation and refinement of chimney-piece design can be seen in the following illustrations. The first (Image 1) shows a design published by Isaac Ware in his ‘Designs of Inigo Jones’ 1731. Ware identifies the designer as being the famous William Kent, and suggests that the design may have been first made for “Richmond”.
However, like many Palladian architects, Kent looked back to classical prototypes for the inspiration for his designs. Which was, in this instance, the design published by Sebastiano Serlio in the ‘Five Books of Architecture’, of a composite chimney-piece. The frieze, and truss ornament forming the jamb are very closely related although Kent has abandoned the earlier ornaments above which formed part of the flue in Serlio’s design.
Kent’s design was incorporated into the ground floor hall beneath the Gallery at Holkham Hall and was still popular in the later part of the 18th Century as exemplified by the design published by Milton, Crunden and Columbani in ‘The Chimney-piece Makers Daily Assistant’ 1769. The design was also used by many other later architects including James Paine at Brocket Hall, Isaac Ware at Leinster House and Sir Robert Taylor in a number of London town houses. An example of a completed design, carved from veined Carrara marble dating to the late 1750s or very early 1760s is detailed below. Over 38 years the basic concept of the Palladian design was to remain remarkably popular.
Image 1: Isac Ware, Designs of Inigo Jones and others, 1731 (Figure 32). Find the whole 1743 version of this book animated on the homepage.
Image 2: The source for Kent’s design was a composite chimney-piece illustrated in Serlio’s The Five Books of Architecture, 1611.
Image 3: Detail of the elevation of the interior of York House, Pall Mall, as designed by Matthew Brettingham 1761-2, showing the same design in use on the ground floor level. From Vitruvius Britannicus, iv, Plate 7.
Image 4: Milton, Crunden and Columbani, The Chimney-piece Makers Daily Assistant, 1769 (Plate 39). The modified version included within this book published some 38 years after Ware’s designs demonstrates the continuing popularity of the Palladian style.