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They were donated by Mr Nicholas Spencer, who died in 1783. Spencer was a vestry-man at St. Margaret’s, Westminster and also a Patron of St. Margaret’s, Ifield. He purchased this pair of lions, from St. Margaret’s, Westminster, together with another pair of gilt lions and a pair of gilt crowns, other fittings and pews, when the interiors of the Westminster Church were being remodelled. Spencer’s purchase of the lions and crowns, and his presenting them as a gift to St Margaret’s, Ifield, is recounted in ‘A History of the County of Sussex’ (ed. T P Hudson (London, 1987), p.19). The crowns can be discerned in a print by the engraver Anthony Walker (1726-1765), which depicts ‘the Right Honorable Arthur Onslow Esq., Speaker, in his seat in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the Parochial Church of the Commons of Great Britain, 1760’.
This pair of lions, and another pair of carved gilt lions which Spencer bought from St. Margaret’s, Westminster, are listed in the ‘St. Margarets Church Ilfield, Sussex: Inventory of Church Property in the year 1891’, which was compiled by George A. Trist, Parish Warden, in 1891. It includes: ‘4. Lions. “wood gilded”’ and notes that these four lions, along with two wood gilded crowns and four iron gilded crowns, were: ‘said to have been brought from St Margaret’s Westminster, by Nicholas Spencer, who died 1783’.
There is a substantial history of lions being depicted at the feet of royalty. Two recumbent lions are used as a footrest in the tomb effigy of Eleanor of Castile, who was Queen to Edward I, which is housed in Westminster Abbey. Rodwell notes that, in the 13th Century, ‘contemporary lions are found as footrests in the Abbey itself… and the recumbent lions are far from an unusual feature’. A single lion footrest can be seen in Matthew Paris’s mid-thirteenth Century drawing, ‘Lives of the Offas’, depicting King Offa seated on a throne (Warwick Rodwell, op. cit., p.100-1, figs. 133 and 134).
The Coronation Chair, which was ordered in 1297 by King Edward I and presented to Westminster Abbey in 1300, is supported by four lions. This Chair has been a powerful symbol of monarchy and plays a seminal role at coronations. With only a few exceptions, the English monarchs since the fourteenth Century have been crowned in the Chair, before the high altar at Westminster.
In 1689, a Companion Chair was made for Queen Mary II, when she was co-regnant with King William III, the only occasion when an English Monarch and their spouse have been crowned joint rulers (Warwick Rodwell, op. cit., fig. 164, p.134 and cover image). Queen Mary II’s Chair also has four gilt carved lion supports. Ackermann’s aquatint from 1812 shows the Coronation Chairs side by side in St. Edward’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey with the four lions at the base of each.
Bought by Nicholas Spencer Esq. and gifted to St. Margaret’s of Antioch in Ifield, Crawley, West Sussex, circa 1770.
Referenced in ed. T P Hudson, ‘A History of the County of Sussex’, London, 1987, p.19.
Illustrated in Warwick Rodwell, ‘The Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone: History, Archaeology and Conservation’ (Oxbow Books and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, 2013), p. 147, fig. 189.
|Height||34.50 cm||(13.58 inches)|
|Width||25.50 cm||(10.04 inches)|
|Depth||10.00 cm||(3.94 inches)|
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