The BBC TV programme Bargain Hunt continued its series of items on Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire this week, with a look at a superb set of early 18th century chairs which were most probably commissioned by the Leigh family, who built and owned Stoneleigh, from the Cabinet Makers to George I, Moore and Gumley. The chairs are thought to date from 1715-1725.

These chairs, of carved walnut, have survived en suite, and are still on show for visitors to see today.

James Moore and his partner John Gumley  specialised in richly carved pieces of furniture, particularly mirror frames and tables. James Moore was a highly skilled worker in gesso. This was a mixture of chalk and size that was built up in layers on a wooden ground, carved in low relief and gilded, and you can see his work  in evidence on these chairs. Here you can see  a close-up of the carved top rail of the chairs, which have been carved with the arms of the Leigh family, and their baron’s coronet…

The two arms chairs have beautifully carved arms,

that splay outwards,

and which had been gessoed and guided with bell flower motifs and which terminate in this deliciously elegant curlicue

The centre of the frame supporting the seat of the chairs is decorated with more of  Moore’s gilding, in the form of the Leigh cypher:

But the glory of them to me, as a once keen needleworker, is the original early 18th century needlepoint which covers the seats and backs of all the chairs

You might also like to see another chair that was featured: an 18th century hail chair, plainly carved

but painted with the Leigh family crest, of a Unicron:

Jane Austen’s keen eye must surely have noticed these interesting chairs when she visited Stoneleigh in 1806. For those of you in the UK, the programme is available to see for the next five days on the BBC’s iPlayer and you can access it here.