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Lenygon & Morant (1915-1951)

Lenygon & Morant

London and New York; decorators, furniture makers, upholsterers (fl.1915-1951)

Francis Henry Lenygon (b.1877-d.1943) was ‘apprenticed’ to an antique dealer and cabinetmaker in his birth city of Lincoln before completing his education in London at the City and Guilds Institute and the Regent Street Polytechnic. He then worked for Art Workshops Ltd and C. J. Charles (the antique business of Charles Duveen) before founding his own firm with his brother in Hampstead. The brothers soon acquired a number of investors including former coachbuilder and ordnance manufacturer, Herbert Hall Mulliner, salesman and decorator, Ralph Freeman-Smith, and financier, Courtauld Thomson. Mulliner was the business brain of the firm, with Lenygon and Freeman-Smith the creative partners.

In 1908 Lenygon opened showrooms at 31 Old Burlington Street, with displays of period furniture and reproductions and about 1912 purchased the upholstery firm, Morant & Co, which continued to operate independently until 1915 when the two firms were formally amalgamated as Lenygon & Morant. For the next 40 years the firm catered to members of the British royal family, aristocracy and wealthy businessmen and industrialists; indeed the firm was awarded royal warrants to Kings Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI.  In Old Burlington Street there were also a workshop and drafting room and from about 1910 additional workshops were acquired on Newman Street, just off Oxford Street. By 1914 the firm employed 22 interior designers and decorators, painters, carpenters and upholsterers. Furniture made in the London workshops was rarely marked; one exception being a George II-style chair-back settee, sold by Sotheby’s in 2001, based upon an armchair in Lenygon’s 1909 publication (illus. FHS Newsletter (November 2015), p. 3). It was commissioned by William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme in 1910 and stamped ‘Made by Lenygon & Company Ltd.  Reproduction’. Two mahogany and parcel-gilt tables in the style of William Kent, probably made c.1908-11, were originally displayed in the Club room at the Royal Automobile Club in London and then were sold at Christies in 2008. A number of other pieces made by the firm are believed to be in the possession of the National Trust and private collections. 

In 1910 Lenygon first visited the USA to fulfil a decorating commission and in 1912 Lenygon and Morant was incorporated in New York State. The New York business, based at 16 East 60th Street and from 1919 at 1082 Madison Avenue, was supplied with furniture from London and the Lenygon Collection of Architectural Fragments, now at Colonial Williamsburg, holds remnants of historic interiors which were sent to the States from London either for sale or as samples which could be copied in the London workshops. As a result of the 1st World War Lenygon & Morant Ltd were in debit to the New York branch for approximately $112,000 by 1920 and a set of cartoons after Raphael by Sir James Thornhill (1675/6-1734) and seven framed canvases were sent to New York in lieu of the debt. After a dispute in 1924 with the London branch, Lenygon & Morant Inc. purchased a large amount of its stock from the Bath-based dealer, Charles Angell Ltd, for a number of years. The relationship was restored in the 1930s under the directorship of Ralph Freeman-Smith and a large amount of panelling, furniture, textiles and plasterwork was provided to New York. Throughout the 1930s Lenygon & Morant Inc. worked for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on the furnishing of historic and newly erected buildings; much of the furnishings being made in the London workshops and coordinated by Francis Lenygon. Over several years approximately 40 pieces of seat furniture were supplied to Williamsburg including the Governor’s chair made c.1933-34 (illus. FHS Newsletter (November 2015), p. 6). This was a turned high-back chair with elaborately carved crest and foot rails, based on the Bishop’s armchair in St Paul’s Cathedral; the Bishop’s arms and mitre being replaced for the crown of William and Mary. In 1935 the firm took over Howard & Sons and later moved to South Audley Street, where from 1954 they advertised as ‘Makers of Howard Chairs and Sofas’. In 1967 the owners of Lenygon & Morant opened Howard Chairs Ltd, operating from Lyme Street, and the latter company was still recorded as a privately owned, non-trading company in 2018.  Lenygon & Morant Inc. was officially dissolved on 3 December 1951. 

Under the name Francis Lenygon, Margaret Jourdain (1876-1951) published Furniture in England from 1660-1760 (1914) and Decoration in England from 1660 to 1700 (1914).

Source: Dew, ‘Lenygon & Morant:  The American Connection’, FHS Newsletter (November 2015).