A Follow-up to Spencer Perceval’s Death-Table
My blogpost of 11 May 2012, which sparked a lot of interest, needs an update – especially in relation to my speculation that it may have been the Commons Chamber table between 1730-1800. In thinking about the comments to that posting, I had forgotten that Phillis M. Rogers, Curator of Works of Art at the Palace of Westminster in 1984 had also speculated about this table in an exhibition catalogue relating to the 150th anniversary of the fire. In it she wrote of the table:
“Mahogany, height 3ft 2inches, width 6ft, depth 5ft 1.5 inches. The table-top is supported on a substructure with 8 console legs resting on a base. Each of these is carved with a lion mask above an acanthus leaf and beading. Beneath a scroll the sides are carved in relief with trailing foliage and husks with the outer legs having pendant husks carved on their backs. There are three drawers in the apron on either side with 2 adorsed sets of drawers beneath the middle transverse compartment (one drawer is missing).”
She goes on to add that this table,
“was returned by Mr Plunket, the First Commissioner of Works, to the Palace and placed in the Tea Room [of the House of Commons] in 1890. Plunket in an answer to a Parliamentary Question, maintained that this was the Clerks’ Table from the old Commons’ Chamber and had been provided by Sir Christopher Wren as part of his remodelling of the interior fittings after the Union with Scotland . Plunket, however, had been misinformed and the Table is far grander than any of the pictorial evidence in the many eighteenth and early-nineteenth century illustrations of the Chamber shows of the Commons table. The First Commissioner also drew attention to the four brass sockets let into the edges of one end which he believed had supported the brackets for the Mace. These metal pieces are clearly secondary as they are let into the top with infill veneers around them with the grain running counter to that of the edging veneer. If in indeed these brass sockets were inserted to receive a Mace, as suggested by Plunket, the poor workmanship of the infill veneers may suggest that it was done in a hurry. Could this be the large table which was moved into the Lords Library after the Fire when it was hastily fitted up for the Lords for the prorogation of Parliament on 23rd October , 25th November and 18th December?
Although the tradition of its being the Clerks’ table from St Stephen’s is unproven, this table was undoubtedly saved from the ravages of the Fire, but its earlier provenance still remains a mystery. Such a grand piece must have been originally destined for an important location, and stands comparison in quality with the great Treasury Table in [William] Kent’s Cabinet Room in Whitehall of about the same date.”