A Magnificent Pair of Carved c.1860 Stone Gate Pier Carvings; Ex Duke of Sutherland, Trentham Estate


Origin: English
Period: Mid Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Ex Duke of Sutherland, Tittensor, Trentham Estate, Staffordshire, England
Date: c.1840-70
Height: 14 inches
Width 20 inches
Depth: 20 inches
Weight: 125 KGS each (all approx)

The pair of mid nineteenth century stone gate pier carvings, each modelled as the head of a gothic mythical beast, and when placed together forming half of a substantial capital, originally being located on a gateway pier in the village of Tittensor, part of the Trentham estate, the Staffordshire seat of the Duke of Sutherland.

In one piece each, the carvings  (portland or limestone) show commensurate weathering with age through direct exposure of the elements with each having lichen growth and discoloration. There are chips to each, as they have been moved, but they are minor and the wholes are in as good as condition as could be expected. One of the beasts has loss to the nose. They could be cleaned if so desired.

Trentham Hall, the Staffordshire seat of the Dukes of Sutherland, a magnificent Victorian Italianate house, was eventually doomed by the relentless expansion of the nearby urban areas and demolished in 1912. If it had survived it would have easily been one of the truly great houses of England.  Today, all that remains of this fine house is a beautiful public garden, a selection of buildings, a gallery and the parish church. The Sutherlands stopped using Trentham as one of their homes at the turn of the century, and Trentham Hall was demolished in 1911 before the Trentham Gardens Pleasure Park opened in the 1920s. The Sutherlands continued to run Trentham Gardens until 1979. Tittensor, the village where these carvings came from, was originally mentioned in the Domesday Book and became part of the Trentham Estate of the Duke of Sutherland in the nineteenth century.

The site had an extensive history first as an Augustinian Priory and then as convent. It is also known that a large Elizabethan house was built in the 1630s in the same location but it was probably demolished during the building of the Georgian Trentham Hall. This earlier house had been much plainer, built in the eighteenth-century, and had sat in extensive parks which had been designed and created between 1768 and 1778 by Capability Brown and Henry Holland. Even the River Trent was incorporated into the designs and was diverted to flow into the lake.

The house was dramatically changed when the second Duke of Sutherland commissioned the famous architect Sir Charles Barry, who was also working on the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, to produce a much grander statement of the Duke's great wealth as the largest landowner in Britain at the time.

For over ten years from the mid-1830s, Barry extended and improved the house, adding a new block containing state bedrooms with dressing rooms and its own servants' quarters, a sculpture gallery and a 100ft high clock tower. New family quarters were also added with the new tower in the centre of the creation to provide a focus. A grand new main entrance with a portico which bore the family coat of arms, supported by stone life-sized wolves, (these carvings may well have even been part of this portico) was linked to a gallery from which the important guests could go straight to the state bedroom with other visitors being channelled off to the private family apartments. The spectacular conservatory led to the extensive gardens, which were tended by 50 gardeners.

William Smith of Warwick who created drive gate-piers for the First Lord Gower; and, in the mid nineteenth century, for the Duke of Sutherland at Trentham Park, could possibly have crafted these particular carvings.

The quality of these gothic carvings is undisputed, and they prove both fantastically dramatic and historically important works, that would grace any estate befitting to bear them.