The Knightstone Chest

12th January 2021

A rare late 17th century brass-studded leather chest from a famed Devonian manor has sold at auction in Wiltshire for £7,500.

Made by Charles II’s own cabinet maker, Richard Pigg Junior, the metre-wide chest was illustrated in a 1950 edition of Country Life which detailed the interior of Knightstone Manor near Ottery St Mary. At the time, Knightstone was in the ownership of Colonel Reginald Cooper, whose work in preserving medieval properties is well-documented in regard to Cothay Manor in Somerset, where he lived prior to Knightstone.

Richard Pigg Junior worked for the Royal Court through four different reigns (from Charles II to Queen Anne) and a similar chest that was made for William and Mary is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

More recently the chest had been in the collection of the late Jane Sumner, a well-known furniture dealer whose estate was being sold at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 20th April. The chest (lot 28) carried a pre-sale estimate of £3,000-5,000, which it happily exceeded on the day.

Head of Furniture and Works of Art, Mark Yuan-Richards said pieces of this type seldom appear at auction. "Not much is known about Reginald Cooper, but he was clearly a devotee of English history and used his knowledge not only to sympathetically restore houses such as Knightstone, but also to furnish them with wonderful examples of English handicraft. Richard Pigg, who made chests such as this for multiple English monarchs, was one of the most skilled craftsman of his time and it is easy to imagine this piece filled with fine silks and linens, being transported from one stately home to the next in the company of its wealthy and, no doubt, titled owner. These pieces rarely appear on the open market and so this sale is a fabulous opportunity to acquire what is essentially a museum-quality item."

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