Pair of fire dogs

Ref: 1819
  • Designer / Maker

    Designed by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-52)
    Manufactured by John Hardman & Co. (1838-1900)

  • Detail

    Cast iron and brass

    63 x 38 x 40 cm

    English (Birmingham), mid-nineteenth century

  • Provenance

    […]; with H. Blairman & Sons, 2006; private collection (2006-24)

  • Notes

    In March 2023, the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired 700 designs, mainly relating to Pugin’s collaboration with the Birmingham-based manufacturer, John Hardman & Co.  One sheet shows designs for a grate supported by fire dogs almost identical to the pair shown here; it is inscribed ‘Bilton Grange’ (see below: image courtesy of Bonhams).

    Over a long period (circa 1841-circa 1851) Pugin had a fractious relationship with his patron at Bilton Grange, Captain Washington Hibbert (1803-75).  In a letter from Pugin to Hardman (December 1847), he comments that ‘Captain Hibbert is very anxious about his dining room grate.’  Hibbert, whose wealth came from Jamaica, constantly demanded changes, often coinciding with fluctuations in his income.  Pugin was frustrated by such indecision, as a later letter (probably February 1848) shows.

    The design of the present fire dogs, each embellished with a Tudor rose but lacking the ring in the lion’s mouth, is closer to the drawing in the V&A than to the ones, embellished with a shield, that remain in the former drawing room at Bilton Grange.  Other grates also survive in the house, which became a school as early as 1873.