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The Scotland Connection

Collections, Conservation, Sarah Stroud Clarke
charleston plantation furniture drayton hall

Side chair, England or Scotland, c. 1750. Mahogany with beech seat frame. Drayton Hall Preservation Trust Decorative Arts Collection.Gift of Historic Charleston Foundation.

One of a set of twelve side chairs from an original suite of furniture created for Drayton Hall, the chair frame is marked VII while the seat frame is marked XII and is on display in the new Gates Gallery at Drayton Hall now. The Gates Gallery is mart of the plantation tours at Drayton Hall and should not be missed during a visit to Charleston.

The chair has elaborate carvings on the pierced back splat and crest rail, fully carved seat rails, and cabriole legs terminating with hairy-paw feet. The use of the hairy-paw feet is significant as it is the first example of this type of carving found on a suite of furniture in the American colonies. The cabinet shop that created this suite of furniture is not known nor is the exact location of where the furniture was made. Most experts agree that this suite of furniture was not produced in London, but somewhere outside of the city center or possibly even in Scotland, which may reflect the influence of Margaret Glen Drayton, John Drayton’s third wife, on the furnishings of Drayton Hall. The red wool upholstery fabric on the seats of the side chair and settee replicates the original fabric recently discovered under a first-generation nail head on the seat frame during the conservation process.

There is a strong Drayton family tie to Scotland as John Drayton’s (1715-1779) third wife, Margaret Glen Drayton, was born in Scotland in 1713. Her older brother, James Glen, was appointed Royal Governor of South Carolina in 1738 and arrived in the colony in 1743. It is unclear when Margaret arrived in the colony, but James and her future husband, John Drayton became close business associates. The Glen family was from Linlithgow, Scotland.