A giltwood mirror sold in 1951 following the death of Sir John Shelley-Rolls, has been bought back by the Estate and re-hung in its original spot in time for this year’s open season, which begins on 1st May. We believe the mirror was commissioned by the Earl of Leicester for his estate at Penshurst in the 18th Century, and later became part the Shelley collection. It was adapted by Sir Bysshe Shelley in 1806 to include his arms which are emblazoned on the cartouche, and a baronet badge.
The mirror was passed on to Sir John Shelley-Rolls and when the Estate was broken up following Sir John’s death, the mirror was shipped to the US having been sold again by London antique dealer Phillips & Harris in the 1970s.
The 7ft by 3ft giltwood mirror originally hung at the bottom of the main staircase, above a similarly dated console table. It bears the label of Thomas Ponsonby (1767-1848), a carver, gilder and glass grinder, with Royal Warrant appointments from both George IV (1823) and William IV (1830). Ponsonby is almost certainly responsible for ‘updating’ the mirror including the painting of Sir Bysshe Shelley’s arms, re-gilding the frame and providing a new mirror plate. He also added a pierced carving which overlays the top of the mirror where there would have been a ‘rebate’ at the point of overlay between the original upper and lower mirror plates.
The mirror’s journey back to the UK took several months to achieve and it is now reinstated in its original position for visitors to admire on their tour of the house. The Bullens are so please that the mirror has returned.
Many months were spent preparing for the mirror’s return to Avington Park, its history in the house dates to at least the mid 19th Century as part of the Shelley-Rolls collection. It arrived back in the UK at the beginning of the year and to Avington a few weeks ago. Now hung, it looks as if it has always been here.
The House is well known for its mirror collection, which also includes a Grinling Gibbons mirror in the state rooms and being able to add the Georgian piece to the collection was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.