In 1759, John Mayhew and William Ince formed a cabinet-making partnership firm. Both men set up and signed a formal partnership agreement on January 16, 1759 that declared them to be in a partnership business for 21 years, starting December 25, 1758. They described their venture as “Cabinet-makers and Upholders” and the first property they purchased as a firm was that of Charles Smith.
Little did they know that this firm would go down in history as one of the most important cabinet makers in England. The beautiful furniture crafted by Ince and Mayhew is now part of the English heritage found in stately homes and museums across the globe.
The Firm Faced Their Most Direct And Strongest Trade
Competition In Thomas Chippendale.
Chippendale was a master cabinet-maker in London, known for his expert craftsmanship of English Rococo and Mid-Georgian furniture, before he ventured out into Neo-classical styles. The book “The Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director” published in 1754 was a compilation of Chippendale’s furniture styles and designs. It was circulated among aristocratic subscribers in the country – William Ince being one of them. The book set the bar for industry standards and prevailing trends for other cabinet makers.
The book brought Chippendale’s name and furniture into the limelight – something that didn’t skip the interest of Ince and Mayhew. Realising the far-reaching commercial edge of compiling their work in a printed document, the duo followed suit. Their idea may have been influenced by Chippendale’s success, but their work was original. In fact, it was notably more classical than the work of Thomas Chippendale.
Ince and Mayhew published a catalogue of their furniture drawings and description titled the “Universal System of Household Furniture”. They dedicated the book to the Duke of Marlborough for whom they had commissioned as the principle furniture makers for years.
Their Elaborate Marquetry Made Their Work Unique
Their work included an extensive use of inlaid woods and intricate marquetry. The duo used a variety of wood types for marquetry. These woods mostly included satinwood from East India and purplewood imported from South America.
They also worked with several English woods, like pear, box, plum, and holly which were ideal with their fine grain and structure. Ince and Mayhew however, were particularly appreciated for their unusual use of yew in furniture making and decorating. Oak, mahogany, and deal were used to make the commode carcases at Ince and Mayhew.
Ince and Mayhew Had the Honour of Serving Nobility
Once this dynamic furniture-making duo ventured into neo-classicism, they drew their inspiration from the pioneer Robert Adam, and even worked with him on several projects. Their most notable accomplishments to date remain the Kimbolton Cabinet which they created in 1775 for the Duchess of Manchester.
The duo also designed furniture for the Duchess of Northumberland and the Earl of Kerry (1771), Sir John Whitwell of Audley End (1776), and the Duke and Duchess of Bedford (1767-1797), among others.
By 1768 their business was thriving and it seemed like a good time to expand it, which they did through various loans. However, by 1790, they were laden with substantial debt and the two decided to end their partnership in early 1800s.
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