Somerset, UK - A small team of dedicated dealers from South West England has spent fifteen years restoring a very fine and rare 'sarcophagus' fire grate. Led by Bathhouse Restoration's Peter Linnett and Paul McGowan, the dealers went to great lengths to find out where the grate came from. Mr McGowan says 'Despite great efforts, we have been unable to ascertain the provenance of this example'. He explains how the dealers came across the grate. 'It was painstakingly re-assembled from components trawled from architectural antique dealers across the South West of England over a period of almost 10 years, and is believed to have been previously stored, in pieces, with a large collection of antique 'junk' in farm buildings in Gloucestershire. Perhaps it was removed from a grand house for safekeeping during WWII... or rescued from a house destroyed by fire? If any historians out there have a viable theory, please get in touch!'
The sarcophagus grate measures a considerable forty two inches wide, is made of cast iron and bronze, and decorated with stylised sea-shell, seaweed motifs and sea lion masks. It has been attributed to M&G Skidmore of Holborn, London, and dates from c1820. A similar fire grate was manufactured for Attingham House, Shropshire, but is unfortunately in poor condition, and not currently on public view.
The story behind the grate's restoration is an interesting one. The early 19th century grate was rescued from farm outbuildings in Gloucestershire. The decaying pieces had probably been stored there since before WWII. In the mid 1990s a barn was cleared for conversion to residential use. The 'junk' contents of the barn were sold to various architectural salvage yards in the South West of England as job lots.
Initially by sheer chance, then through meticulous research and trawling of salvage yards, Mike Kemp, Paul McGowan and Peter Linnett, at the time all associated with Walcot Reclamation, gathered components and the firegrate was re-assembled.
Peter Linnett says 'The grate is of a very rare design. We have identified a similar model in the National Trust property Attingham House near Shrewsbury. Although the Attingham example is in a poor state, it has provided the essential 'model' for reconstruction of missing elements.'
'We have painstakingly modelled and re-cast parts to complete the reconstruction. The process has taken more than fifteen years, but the firegrate is now restored to what we believe to be near original appearance.'
'The castings making up the firegrate bear no makers marks, nor has any documentation been traced to attribute this fine rare piece, but it is thought to have been made by the firm of M&G Skidmore of Holborn, London around 1820. Only a few examples of this design are known to exist, and our restoration team believe this to be the most refined in its proportions - suggesting that it may have been a late example of the model.'
'It has also not been possible to identify the original client or to verify how it found its way to the farm buildings. We think that perhaps it was salvaged from a house fire, or removed for safekeeping from a house commandeered as military barracks during war? '
'Our research will continue, but in all likelihood, the full story is forever lost. However, the visual impact of this piece of history more than makes up for the lack of solid provenance. And perhaps the mystery simply adds to its appeal.'
The firegrate is currently available to purchase for £24,000. Call Paul McGowan from Bathhouse Restoration on 07712 884752 for details.
Story Type: Advertorial