Gregory Heirlooms

The Lost Treasures of  Harlaxton Manor

An Archival Research Project undertaken by Art History Students, Spring 2019

• Amy Bertelsman – Louis XV Rosewood Cabinet (Boudoir)
• Lilly Neuenschwander – Silver Epergne (Silver collection)
• Haley Patterson – Marli Horses (Tapestry Gallery – Long Gallery)
• Hailey Woodard – Girandole Mirrors (Great Drawing Room – Gold Room)
• Kaitlyn Woodworth-Mills – Cabinet Piano (Mr Gregory’s Sitting Room)

under the guidance of

Dr. Heidi A. Strobel, Professor of Art History, University of Evansville
Tapestries (Tapestry Gallery – Long Gallery)
Linda Dawes, College Librarian, Harlaxton College
– Tapestries & Doomer Cabinet (Tapestry Gallery – Long Gallery)


Introduction

“Once upon a time … one Gregory Gregory built Harlaxton Manor House … and filled it with treasures. Within the walls of his residence he stored the collection … including marbles and statuary … large pieces of Gobelins tapestry, state bedsteads of various reigns, thirteen feet high pictures, and a variety of other things which were valuable to him and likely to prove incumbrances to his heirs.”
New York Times, Jul 30, 1876.

The state rooms of Harlaxton Manor are empty today, apart from the modern classroom furniture, however during the Spring 2019 semester a small group of Art History students, led by Dr Heidi Strobel and Linda Dawes, College Librarian, attempted to trace the provenance of some of the Gregory Heirlooms.

Where are these treasures now? What did they look like? Where were they located in the Manor?


The Project

The project was designed to engage students in researching and writing about works of decorative art that were originally part of Gregory’s collection at Harlaxton Manor. The students each researched a small number of items from the Inventory of Articles at Harlaxton Manor (1876). They considered the subject matter of the item, the artist/maker if known, the date (When was it made? Is it a copy of something older? Was it made before or after other similar works?) and location of the object within the Manor. They then tried to trace the provenance asking questions such as Where was it made? For whom? Is it typical of the art of a certain geographical area? How was the object acquired? Who acquired the object(s) after Gregory Gregory died? Does the object appear in the 1878 Christie’s Gregory Heirlooms Sale Catalogue, or other later auction catalogues? Where is the item now?

The project has not only added to the students’ direct knowledge of Victorian tastes and consumption of decorative art, but has also enhanced their research, critical thinking and dissemination skills.


Working alongside the Art History students, Dr. Strobel and Linda Dawes have been tracing the provenance of the fine set of five tapestries which once hung in the Long Gallery. This has included outreach to specialists at The Getty (LA), University of Bordeaux, Mobilier National (Paris), Copenhagen Design Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) and the Franses Tapestry Archive in London. They have been in communication with the American Embassy in Paris who are housed in a building to which a set of Royal tapestries was delivered in 1756, which included the same designs as Gregory had in his collection. This project therefore, in addition to contributing to our own knowledge base, also has created goodwill and scholarly interchanges with other international institutions.

Linda Dawes has been awarded an Alumni Research and Scholarly Activity Fellowship by the University of Evansville Faculty Professional Affairs Committee to continue this project in the forthcoming academic year.


References

Christie, Manson & Woods (1878) Catalogue of the Gregory Heirlooms [copy held in Manor Archives]

National Archives, London. Cause: D’Eyncourt v Gregory (i) Inventory of articles (heirlooms, including library and works of art) at Harlaxton New Manor House, [LINCS.] delivered up by defendant John Sherwin Gregory in pursuance of orders 2 July 1864, 9 Aug. 1866 and 7 Dec. 1866; bound in red leather (ii) copy of foregoing. Deposited (i) 11 Dec. 1868 and (ii) by plaintiff [sic] Sir William Earles Welby-Gregory, bart., 28 June 1876. Document Ref. J90/1217 [copy held in Manor Archives]

Inventory of Articles at Harlaxton Manor (1876)
This inventory was created as part of a lawsuit over the Gregory inheritance: Defendant John Sherwin Gregory; Plaintiff Sir William Earle Welby-Gregory. The original document is held by the National Archives, London.
Briefly, Gregory Gregory’s heir was George Gregory, a direct cousin, who died in 1860 and was succeeded by a lawyer and distant relative, John Longden Sherwin (Gregory). Gregory Gregory was not close to John Longden Sherwin (Gregory). Gregory Gregory’s will stipulated that should John Longden Sherwin (Gregory) die with no heir, his distant relative and neighbor, Sir Glynne Earle Welby of Denton, should inherit. Sherwin Gregory contested the will and the relationship between the Denton and Harlaxton estates went downhill. The Welbys inherited the estates at Rempstone and Denton, some investments, and most of the contents of Harlaxton Manor.
In 1878, Sir Glynne’s son William sold many objects that were originally at Harlaxton in order to finance the construction of a large manor house at Denton (this house was destroyed in 1938). In order to do this, a special Act of Parliament, the Gregory Heirlooms Act of 1877, was passed. Welby proceeded with the sale the following year.
The Welbys are still selling off objects from Harlaxton.


LD, 01/05/2019

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