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ONE PAIR SOLD
Four oak chairs, designed circa 1881 made 1882
Designed by George Edmund Street (1824-1881)
Provenance: The New Law Courts (now Royal Courts of Justice) The Strand, London, removed some time in the 20th Century (...) Private British Collection until 2020.
All stamped beneath the seat rail with a Royal inventory mark for King George V, this indicates these chairs were in a public building during his reign when an inventory was taken. All seats have new cane.
The new law courts are considered G. E. Street's greatest achievement. He won the competition in 1868, building started in 1874 and was completed in 1882. However the project went from being an exciting opportunity to a millstone around his neck.
With budgets being pinched*, changes in British Government and deadlines coming and going, Ultimately exhaustion led to Street's death on 18th December 1881, aged 57. The new law courts were opened by Queen Victoria on 4th December 1882, almost one year later.
See his son Arthur Edmund Street's 1888 Memoir of George Edmund Street 1824-1881 for a full account of the commission's ups and downs.
The design of these hall chairs is an eclectic mix of gothic (linenfold panels) and ancient Greek (the sweep of the legs and the horizontal splat back), combined, the result is an elegant and progressive chair.
Traditional cataloguing of these chairs attributes their manufacture solely to Gillow & Co. We assume this is owing to some examples having the firm's stamp and a drawing surviving in the 'Gillow Estimate Sketch Books' held at the City of Westminster Archives. However, no such sketch archives survive for the other firms (Holland & Sons and Collinson & Lock) involved in the supply of furniture for the Law Courts, accordingly saying Gillow alone made these chairs is flawed.
A number of extant examples have upholstered seats, of the examples we have studied with this feature all have had an original cane seat beneath. It seems their seats were upholstered in favour of the costly exercise of re-caning them.
Examples are in the following public collections:
Note, the seat is now upholstered but evidence of the original cane seat is beneath
Note, the top outside edges of the seat have been restored and rounded over to remove some apparent damage to the top section of the moulding, this has been coloured to match.
*the 6 acre site was purchased for £1,453,000 (450 houses demolished). Then the total cost of building and furnishing was just under £1,000,000.
Arthur Edmund Street. Memoir of George Edmund Street, 1824-1881, John Murray London 1888.
David B. Brownlee, The Law Courts The Architecture of George Edmund Street, The MIT Press Cambridge Massachusetts and The Architectural History Foundation, New York New York, 1984.