Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games

The Woburn Abbey Chessmen, 19th Century

  • The Woburn Abbey Chessmen, 19th Century
  • The Woburn Abbey Chessmen, 19th Century
  • The Woburn Abbey Chessmen, 19th Century
  • The Woburn Abbey Chessmen, 19th Century

A Rare Part "Garden" Chess Set of Large Size, 19th Century

the turned beechwood chessmen of solid weight,  'ebonised' and left natural, in the 'Old English Pattern', kings with Maltese Crosses, queens with spiked crowns, bishops as tulip shaped mitres, knights as carved horses' heads, rooks as monobloc turrets with carved  brickwork, pawns with baluster knops and ball finials, some bases inscribed '1855' in pencil (presumably either a date or inventory number), thirteen white chessmen, thirteen 'ebonised' chessmen (26).

King: 33.5cm high, 9cm diameter

Queen: 30cm high, 9cm diameter

Rook: 21cm high, 9.5cm diameter

Pawn: 16cm high, 7cm diameter

Provenance: Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, Christie's "Property from Two Ducal Collections, Woburn Abbey, Bedford", 20-21st September 2004, Lot 246.

Stock Reference: MJ 1823


A Note From Luke

Woburn Abbey in the county of Bedfordshire, England, is the family seat of the Dukes of Bedford. Woburn Abbey, comprising Woburn Park and its buildings, was set out and founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1145. Taken from its monastic residents by Henry VIII and given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, in 1547, it became the seat of the Russell family and the Dukes of Bedford. The Abbey was largely rebuilt starting in 1744 by the architects, Henry Flitcroft and Henry Holland for the 4th Duke.  

This rare 19th century part-set was originally purchased by the current owner at the Christie's "Woburn Abbey- Property from Two Ducal Collections" auction in 2004.  The part set is of significant size, with the king standing over 13 inches tall, and would, most likely, have been used outside on the lawn, on a table in the gardens, or in a loggia.

Five of the white pieces have the inscription '1855' in pencil on the underside of the bases. This is likely to be either a country house inventory number (suggesting that the set might, in fact, date from the early 19th century) or, as Christie's suggest, the yearly date 1855. The part set is in the "Old English" style, popular in the first half of the 19th century, before the Staunton pattern was designed in 1849.

An opportunity to purchase a genuinely rare part set with an impeccable provenance. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information.

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