Richard Beresford Wright (1870-1950) a Warwickshire banker and industrialist, bought the 13th century Michelham Priory and farmlands near Eastbourne in 1925 for £12,250. It was in much need of restoration, as records state it as being a ruin. With the help of the architect Walter Godfrey, Wright sensitively restored all the old buildings, and in 1925-28 also commissioned furniture from Gordon Russell and Arthur Romney Green.
A Gordon Russell Workshops English walnut circular occasional table. Estimate £400-£600
Sir Sydney Gordon Russell (1892-1980), his father being the proprietor of the Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway, learnt his trade from an early age in the family’s antique restoration workshops in nearby Chipping Campden that served the needs of the hotel and the wider public in the repair and restoration of furniture. After serving with distinction (MC) in the First World War Gordon returned to set up Russell & Sons in 1922. He was hugely inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, and the values of the Guild of Handicraft workshops, this section of the Cotswold had become a community of artists and craftsmen and women.
The word Lygon can be seen on the paper labels of some of his workshop’s early commissions as is the case with some this collection relates to his fathers hotel and presumably his (Gordon’s) early base of operation/ home.
The Michelham Priory furniture commission was an exciting early project for Gordon Russell. The collection, including tables, stools, bedroom furniture and desks, using native woods reflects his simplistic early design and his understanding and experience of using native timbers. With a mix of hand and machine production this enabled his furniture to be accessible and affordable to a wider audience, his utilization of “modern technology” in an effort to relieve the arduous steps of the process, allowing his craftsmen to concentrate on traditional construction and the artistic aspects of the decoration. This also reduced the cost significantly and would of course mean that his furniture would be accessible to people of more modest means.
Gordon Russell is noted for his recognisable wartime Utility Furniture in the 1930s and 40s, however, this is an opportunity to acquire a very early example of Russell furniture, completely fresh to the market and with important provenance.
Dawsons auctioneers will be including this fascinating collection of Gordon Russell and Romney Green furniture in our Decorative Arts & Design sale on 28th June.