We recently played 'furniture detective' after finding this stunning reading table. It is of exceptional quality. We date it to around 1830 in the William IV period. The ornate detail on the upright and mahogany are typical of this period. The brass castors are stamped Copes patent which are found on high quality pieces from this period.
We love the table, but what intrigued us was the inscription on the inside. It appears to say ... of Ingwell, Whitehaven, Cumberland. It also has wax stamps but the initials are not clear. We hoped that some research in to Ingwell would give a clue to the owner of the wax seals.
The Ingwell estate was first owned by Joseph Gunson. Gunson was a company commander in the British Army Medical Department at the time of the Napoleonic wars.
The Mansion House at Ingwell was commissioned by Gunson and was completed around 1826 which fits with our dating of the table. The last letter on the wax stamp could be a G, but the other initials do not match Joseph Gunson.
Some research in to the Gunson family revealed that both Joseph's wife and one of his daughters was called Anne Francis. The initials are clearly AFG, but do they belong to the mother or daughter?
It is our belief that the table was used by the daughter, Anne Francis. Anne Francis was the youngest of three daughters and an invalid. So the table could have served as a reading aid over a bed or a table. The adjustable height makes these tables perfect for this purpose.
Sadly, the table would only have been used by Anne Francis for a short time. She was to die in 1837 aged only 15. A stone monument to Anne Francis can be found in a wood at Dovenby Hall called Lake Walk, beside Bride’s Beck.
Although the story behind this monument is not clear, it is believed that Anne Francis, spent a great deal of time in the woods and the site where the monument was later erected had become her favourite place in the woods.
We do love finding pieces and researching its history. We are mere custodians of these pieces and it is wonderful to give them a new life in their next chapter.
Our blog and research ends with the inscription on Anne Francis' monument:
By all who love piety, meekness and gentleness. Let this stone be ever held sacred and preserved, in remembrance of Anne Frances Gunson she was recalled by him who gave her at the early age of fifteen. Her short life was adorned by innocence and every virtue, and her death was deeply mourned. For she was in truth a pious Christian daughter. Born August 29th 1822 died July 24th 183 inter’d July 29th at St John’s Chapel Edinburgh.