- An important Gothic elm trestle table, circa 1520, from Rothamsted Manor and the collection of Sir Charles Bennet Lawes-Wittewronge
An important Gothic elm trestle table, circa 1520, from Rothamsted Manor and the collection of Sir Charles Bennet Lawes-Wittewronge
An exceptionally rare, Gothic, elm trestle table, circa 1520. The top is made from two 9ft long boards, which are 2" thick, displaying the fine grain of the Elmwood to full advantage. Apart from old repairs to the mortice joints, a couple of small patches to worm damage, and minor nibbles, the table has survived in remarkable authentic condition due to the fact that it has, most likely, stood in The Old Hall at Rothamsted Manor for most of its life.
Illustrated in The Age of Oak, by Percy Macquoid, 1904, Figure 77, as the property of Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge. "Figure 77 is about 1520, of elm, and very few of these elm tables exist, owing to the perishable nature of the wood. The frame and stretcher run through the trestle supports, and are kept in position by movable oak pegs. When space was important, these pegs were withdrawn, and the various parts stacked against the wall." The only other English tables documented in Macquoid, the seminal textbook on early furniture, from this period are the 2 long trestle tables in Penshurst Place which will never ever come onto the open market.
Sir Charles Bennet Lawes-Wittewronge, was the second baronet (1843-1911), a sculptor and athlete, of Rothamsted Manor, Hertfordshire, which is of 13th century origin. He was the first president of the Incorporated Society of British Sculptors. His collection of medieval furniture was highly regarded, and there is a life-sized statue of him which is now in the Prado, and some of the tapestries are now in the Burrell collection.
In 1906 "Country Life" published a three issue profile of Rothamsted (February 24th, March 3rd & 10th). There are 3 images of the table in the Old Hall, on pages 307, 308 & 309 of the 3rd March issue.
"The main table in the Hall is one of a type of which few examples remain, a table of Elmwood of the early part of the 16th century whose form keeps the tradition of the Gothic period. It is supported upon two uprights with scrolled outlines, through which are trust the ends of the frame and of the long stretcher, which are then fastened with stout pegs……These are doubtless of the 16th century"
After Sir Charles's death, the contents of the Manor were dispersed in various sales in 1936 and the table was sold in "The Important Collection of English Furniture of the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries formed by Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge, Bart. Deceased" dated Thursday May 14 1936 (Christie, Manson and Woods).
"Lot 91 is "A Henry VIII Elm Table, with plain rectangular top and frieze, on scroll trestle supports united by a plain stretcher secured by pegs - 9ft long.
Illustrated in "The History of English Furniture" by Percy Macquoid, Vol. I fig 77". It was apparently sold for 35 guineas.
Length 9 ft., Width 30 inches, Top 2" thick.
Wittewronge, Sir Charles Bennet Lawes- , second baronet (1843-1911), sculptor and athlete , born at Teignmouth, Devon, on 3 October 1843, was the only son of the agriculturist Sir John Bennet Lawes, first baronet (1814-1900) of Rothamsted, Hertfordshire, and his wife, Caroline Fountaine ( d. 1895), daughter of Andrew Fountaine of Narford Hall, Norfolk. Educated at Eton College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1865. He excelled in athletics both at school and college. At Cambridge he was the chief amateur athlete of his period, and his sporting interest continued into later life. In 1898, at the age of fifty-five, he took up speed cycling. After leaving Cambridge, Lawes made sculpture his profession, and rented a studio in Chelsea. He began his training in London under J. H. Foley RA, and in 1869 he studied under Hugo Hagen in Berlin. Also in 1869, on 8 April, he married Marie Amelie Rose ( d. 1928), daughter of Charles George Fountaine. The couple had one child, John Bennet Fountaine, who succeeded to the baronetcy. Between 1872 and 1908 Lawes exhibited twelve works at the Royal Academy, including Girl at the Stream (exh. 1872), Daphne (exh. 1880), The Panther (exh. 1881), and the half-sized model (exh. 1888) for the group They Bound me on . A few other examples of his work appeared at the Society (later Royal Society) of British Artists, the Salon des Artistes Français, and elsewhere. In 1878 he won an honourable mention at the Paris Universal Exhibition. In 1882 Richard Claude Belt, a sculptor of some repute, brought an action against Lawes for alleged libels in the 20 August 1881 issue of Vanity Fair , and elsewhere. Lawes accused Belt of the fraudulent imposture of putting forward under his name sculpture executed by other artists. The case ( Belt v. Lawes ), which excited immense attention, was opened before Baron Huddleston on 21 June 1882 and occupied the court for forty-three sittings. Leading artists were called as witnesses on each side. Finally, on 28 December 1882, the jury decided in Belt's favour and awarded him £5000 damages. (The case was the last heard at the old law courts at Westminster.) After an appeal the verdict was upheld in March 1884. On 31 August 1900 Lawes, on the death of his father, succeeded to the baronetcy and the Rothamsted property. He became chairman of the Lawes Agricultural Trust and vice-chairman of the incorporated society for extending the Rothamsted experiments in agricultural science, in which he was keenly interested. On 18 April 1902 he assumed by royal licence the additional surname of Wittewronge, after a kinsman, Thomas Wittewronge ( d. 1763), from whom his family had derived the estate of Rothamsted. In later life Lawes-Wittewronge devoted much of his energy to a colossal marble group, The Death of Dirce ; bronze versions were exhibited in 1906 and 1908 at the Royal Academy and the marble group in 1911 at the International Fine Arts Exhibition in Rome, where he assisted in arranging the British sculpture. In 1912 the sculpture was set up in the grounds of the family estate at Rothamsted; a smaller bronze replica became part of the collections of the Tate Gallery. He was signatory to the foundation and first president of the Incorporated Society of British Sculptors, founded in 1904. Lawes-Wittewronge died at Rothamsted on 6 October 1911 after an operation for appendicitis, and was cremated at Golders Green, Middlesex. He was survived by his wife. At Rothamsted Manor there is a life-size marble statue of him, executed by J. H. Foley in 1870, as well as a portrait in oils (1905) by Frank Salisbury. A memorial portrait was placed in the pavilion at Fenners (the Cambridge University cricket ground), in July 1912. B. S. Long , rev. Martin Barnes Sources Building News , 101 (1911), 509 · The Times (29 Dec 1882) · The Times (22 Dec 1883) · The Times (18 March 1884) · The Times (4 April 1911) · The Times (7 Oct 1911) · The Times (23 Jan 1912) · Graves, RA exhibitors , 394-5 · Thieme & Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon , 22.481 · M. H. Spielmann, British sculpture and sculptors of to-day (1901), 34-5 · Hertfordshire ,Pevsner (1977) · Art Journal , new ser., 26 (1906), 171 · Art Journal , new ser., 28 (1908), 294 · J. A. Mackay, The dictionary of western sculptors in bronze (1977), 226 · Burke, Peerage (1970) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1912) · private information (1912) Archives V&A , letters to M. H. Spielmann Likenesses J. H. Foley, marble statue, 1870, Rothamsted Manor, Hertfordshire · Vincent Brooks Day & Son, cartoon, lithograph, 1883, repro. in VF (12 May 1883), facing p. 250 · Verheyden, pencil, pen, and wash drawing, 1883, Rothamsted Experimental Station, Hertfordshire · F. Salisbury, oils, 1905, Rothamsted Manor, Hertfordshire; repro. in B. A. Barber, The art of Frank O'Salisbury (1936), 10; held at V&A · oils?, c. 1912, Fenners, Cambridge · Spy [L. Ward], cartoon, NPG ; repro. in VF (12 May 1883) Wealth at death £134,981 14 s. 10 d.: probate, 17 Jan 1912, CGPLA Eng. & Wales © Oxford University Press 2004-6 All rights reserved: see legal notice B. S. Long, ' Wittewronge, Sir Charles Bennet Lawes- , second baronet (1843-1911) ', rev. Martin Barnes, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/34430, accessed 1 Nov 2006] Sir Charles Bennet Lawes-Wittewronge (1843-1911): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34430
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