Highlights of the Killerton house collection

Rob Meakings, Collections Assistant Rob Meakings Collections Assistant
The grand, panelled staircase at Killerton

We bring you highlights of the Killerton collection from the comfort of your own home. Here Roberto recommends historical pieces that interest him and we are sure will delight you too. Do let us know if there is a particular piece you would like Roberto to feature.

Landscape Painting of the Holnicote estate

View of the Holnicote estate, by Francis Towne
An oil painting of the Holnicote estate
View of the Holnicote estate, by Francis Towne

This impressive large landscape by Francis Towne showing Sir Thomas Acland, 9th Baronet riding with his staghounds on the Holnicote estate, highlights a story of two men that history has not always appreciated. 

The 9th baronet is primarily remembered for two things; getting into debt and hunting, however it has always struck me that there must be more to this alleged black sheep of the family. If nothing else we must be grateful for his marriage to Henrietta Hoare, a woman who made a lasting mark on the family character, and their son, who moved away from hunting and became known as The Great Sir Thomas for his public work. 

Thomas 9th and Henrietta were also generous and enlightened patrons of the arts and employed Towne over a period of 5 years to sketch areas of their land, sadly only this oil painting and a watercolour of Columbjohn remain. Towne failed on 11 occasions to be elected as a member of the Royal Academy, only in the 20th century was he finally recognised as an artist off great skill and foresight, one of the most original landscape artists of the 18th century.


Pembroke table

Mahogany Pembroke table with rosewood line-inlay in the drawing room at Killerton
A highly polished Pembroke table with the extending flaps folded
Mahogany Pembroke table with rosewood line-inlay in the drawing room at Killerton

I love this Pembroke table as it is a great advert for the versatility of antique furniture. In its day the Pembroke table was a great innovation, easy to store its uses included dining, writing, serving tea or even being used as a bedside table, hence the attached castors.

Pembroke tables are defined by having two flaps on their long sides supported by hinged wooden brackets called lopers. Our table has two drawers one of which is a very convincing dummy that indicates the quality of the piece, the other drawer has a beautiful silver presentation plaque highlighting that the table was gifted to Sir Francis and Lady Acland by the tenancy of Broadclyst to mark their silver wedding anniversary in 1930.

Pembroke tables with their tapered legs and graceful flaps are some of the finest most delicate furniture ever produced in England. Our table made from mahogany with a rosewood line-inlay dating from 1800 is a splendid example of beauty, craftsmanship and versality that is still going strong 220 years later…

Wine Goblets

A silver 18th century wine goblet made by Andrew Fogelberg
A silver wine goblet inscribed with the Acland crest
A silver 18th century wine goblet made by Andrew Fogelberg

Two of our finest silver items are a pair of wine goblets. They were commissioned by Sir Thomas 7th baronet to mark his love and dedication of hunting are inscribed ‘Success to ye marry Harriers 1750’ and ‘Prosperity to fox Hunting 1750’.  Interestingly the assay marks on goblets confirm that they were not made till 1770/71, perhaps Sir Thomas wished to commemorate a great year for hunting or simply remember a better time, before the untimely death of his wife Elizabeth Dyke in 1753.

The goblets were produced by Andrew Fogelberg, as confirmed by the AF stamp on the base of the goblets. Fogelberg was known for making silver that was distinguished by its high quality of workmanship and elegant, restrained classicism. Fogelberg is now best remembered for having Paul Storr apprenticed to him between 1785-92, Storr is regarded by many as being the finest silversmith this country has ever produced.

Day and night roundels

One of the carved roundles, featuring 'day' by Bertel Thorvaldsen
The carved roundle featuring 'day'
One of the carved roundles, featuring 'day' by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Easily missed are the iconic day and night roundels, the originals are the works of Bertel Thorvaldsen, the greatest sculptor in Europe in the early 19th century and were inspired by his own insomnia in the summer of 1815.

What is so interesting about our copies is how they highlight the adventurous lifestyle and talents of the Aclands. In the summer of 1835/36 Sir Thomas 10th baronet and Lady Lydia spent three months in Rome, Lydia was known to have taken her music with her and often had the distinction of playing and singing before Thorvaldsen. Lady Lydia marked the book of songs “A Traveller” as a reminder, the book is still in our possession and is stored with the priceless collection of music in the Dining Room. 

The relationship appears to go back well before the families trip to Rome, Thomas 10th was a close friend of the Knudtzon brothers having travelled in Norway in 1802, when he was imprisoned in Oslo following the breakdown of the Amiens peace treaty amid the Napoleonic wars. 

Jorgen Knudtzon, the eldest of the three brothers was a patron of the arts who made numerous donations to artists. Thorvaldsen made a sculpture of all the brothers as an expression of gratitude and it was Jorgen who recommended Acland to Thorvaldsen.
The roundels were bought back by Sir Thomas as a memento of the trip, they are believed to have been executed in Thorvaldsen’s own studio, not only are they a remarkable link to a great artist they, together with Lydia’s music collection tell us so much about the spirit of the Aclands.