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Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games

Prototype Sarah Graydon Chess Set

  • Prototype Sarah Graydon Chess Set
  • Prototype Sarah Graydon Chess Set
  • Prototype Sarah Graydon Chess Set

An Extremely Rare Turned Prototype Oak Chess Set by Sarah Ann Graydon, circa 1851

one side stained ‘ebonised’ a very dark brown, the other side left natural (with attractive figuring to the wood), kings with spread bases and baluster knops, queens similar, but of smaller size, bishops with bulbous knops and small mitres (one bishop with distinguishing knops, the other bishop without), knights as horses’ heads with scalloped edges (one knight with distinguishing finial, the other without), rooks as double stepped turrets (one rook with distinguishing pointed turrets, the other with flat turrets), pawns with baluster knops

King: 12.1cm high

Pawn: 5.8cm high

Provenance. Major Private Collection

Stock Reference: MM 1724

Sarah Ann(e) Graydon (“Ann(e”) is spelled both ways in her registration design applications) was born in Ireland in 1829 or 1830. Her father, Thomas H. Graydon, was a land agent. By 1851, the family had emigrated from Ireland and were living in London. In the months before the Great Exhibition, she designed chess sets and registered her designs at the Patent Office pursuan to the Ornamental Design Act, 1842. They show her as living at at least three different addresses in those months and include two figural sets, Crusaders versus Saracens, and two playing sets that distinguished between rooks, knights and bishops that began the game on the king’s side and those on the queen’s side. This system of distinguishing those pieces seems to have begun with the registration of the Staunton pieces in 1849.

By May 1851, when she registered a design for a figural set (showing Crusaders versus Saracens which was exhibited at The Great Exhibition, and featured in The Illustrated London News), she was living with her father and brothers at 15, Winchester Row, New Road. The 1851 census has them living at that address.

The set for sale is clearly derived from two further “ornamental designs for chessmen” registered with the London patent office by Sarah Graydon in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition- one of which shows identical knights with scalloped edges, reins and finials to the head. It is likely that this set is a prototype which Sarah took with her when she emigrated to St Catherine’s, Canada. The set was never manufactured commercially.

Condition

Oak Side:

Traces of black or dark grey baize to the undersides (now worn), surface dirt, a few minor scuffs but generally good.

Ebonised Side:

Traces of black or dark grey baize to the undersides (now worn), a few dent marks to base of king, minor dent marks to one pawn, crack to one pawn, one pawn lighter in weight and presumably restored, chip to battlement of rook, chip to crown of queen

A Note From Luke

Sarah Ann(e) Graydon (“Ann(e”) is spelled both ways in her registration design applications) was born in Ireland in 1829 or 1830. Her father, Thomas H. Graydon, was a land agent. By 1851, the family had emigrated from Ireland and were living in London. In the months before the Great Exhibition, she designed chess sets and registered her designs at the Patent Office pursuan to the Ornamental Design Act, 1842. They show her as living at at least three different addresses in those months and include two figural sets, Crusaders versus Saracens, and two playing sets that distinguished between rooks, knights and bishops that began the game on the king’s side and those on the queen’s side. This system of distinguishing those pieces seems to have begun with the registration of the Staunton pieces in 1849. 

By may 1851, when she registered a design for a figural set (showing Crusaders versus Saracens), she was living with her father and brothers at 15, Winchester Row, New Road. The 1851 census has them living at that address. The set for sale is clearly the taken from two “ornamental designs for chessmen” patented by Sarah Graydon in 1851 and it is likely that this is a prototype which Sarah took with her when she emigrated to St Catherine’s, Canada. The set was never manufactured commercially. 

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