AFTER an absence of 65 years a Georgian mirror has returned to a Hampshire mansion.
The giltwood mirror was sold from Avington Park, near Alresford, in 1951 following the death of Sir John Shelley-Rolls.
But now present owners Sarah and Charlie Bullen have bought it back and re-hung it in time for this year’s open season.
Believed to have been commissioned by the Earl of Leicester for his estate at Penshurst in the 18th century, the mirror later entered the Shelley collection and was adapted by Sir Bysshe Shelley to include his arms which are emblazoned on the cartouche, and a baronet badge in c1806.
The mirror was passed on to Sir John Shelley-Rolls of Avington Park and when the Estate was broken up following Sir John’s death, the mirror was shipped to the US having been sold again by London antique dealer Phillips & Harris in the 1970s.
The 7ft by 3ft giltwood mirror originally hung at the bottom of the main staircase, above a similarly dated console table. It bears the label of Thomas Ponsonby (1767-1848), a carver, gilder and glass grinder, with Royal Warrant appointments from both George IV (1823) and William IV (1830).
Ponsonby is almost certainly responsible for ‘updating’ the mirror including the painting of Sir Bysshe Shelley’s arms, re-gilding the frame and providing a new mirror plate. He also added a pierced carving which overlays the top of the mirror where there would have been a ‘rebate’ at the point of overlay between the original upper and lower mirror plates.
The mirror’s journey back to the UK took months to achieve and it is now reinstated in its original position for visitors to admire on their tour of the house when it opens to the public.
Sarah and Charlie Bullen, who worked tirelessly throughout the process to ensure the mirror’s safe return, said: “We spent many months preparing for the mirror’s return to Avington Park as its history in this house dates to at least the mid 19th century as part of the Shelley-Rolls collection. It arrived back in the UK at the beginning of the year and to us just a few weeks ago. Now hung it looks as though it’s been here for almost 170 years.
“Avington Park is well known for its mirror collection, which also includes a Grinling Gibbons mirror in our state rooms. Being able to add the Georgian piece to the collection was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.”