Original furniture returns to Stowe House after 155 years - The Sir John Soane Side Table

5 January 2024

We're pleased to announce the return of an original piece of furniture, 155 years after it was sold from Stowe. The Soane table is part of a trio, consisting of a pair of side tables and an octagonal table, all of the same design, in ebonised mahogany and ivory. This table is one of the side tables, it's twin currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The suite was designed by Sir John Soane for the Gothic Library (also designed by Soane) around 1805, but was sold in the Great Stowe Sale of 1848 to a Mr P. Box, for a total of £36 4 shillings (about £5,200 today), when the house and estate lost most of it's prized objects. 


It's thought that the suite stayed together until it was purchased in around the 1960s by Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read as they built up a large Victorian collection – the story goes that the tables were acquired 'off the pavement in Portobello Road, on a wet Saturday afternoon' from an antique shop. When they died in 1971, the whole collection was put up for sale in 1972 and the collection scattered – the other side table went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the octagonal table went to the Brighton and Hove Museum, which is currently on loan to Stowe House. The other side table was purchased by Clive and Jane Wainwright to add to their collection. It's from this collection, sold by Blairman and Sons in 2023, that this table comes home to Stowe.

The table will be displayed in the room it was originally designed for, the Gothic Library. Although this is now Stowe School's Headmaster's study, members of the public will be able to see it, and the octagonal table, on Secrets of Stowe tour. Upcoming dates: 22 & 24 February at 1pm. Book your tickets here

We are grateful to the Hall Bequest Trust for purchasing the table for display at Stowe House. Part of the Hall Bequest's remit is to purchase historic items that help us to further understand Stowe House, and this table allows us to begin to see the Gothic Library of how Sir John Soane envisioned it.