Butler's Cross, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 0UZ
Chequers, or Chequers Court, is the country house of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A sixteenth-century manor house in origin, the Grade I listed house has been the country home of the serving Prime Minister since 1921 after the estate was given to the nation by Sir Arthur Lee.
William Hawtrey built the current mansion around 1565, from possibly the reconstruction of an earlier building. In the nineteenth century, the Russells (by now the Greenhill-Russell family) employed Henry Rhodes to make alterations to the house in the Gothic style. The Tudor panelling and windows were ripped out and battlements with pinnacles installed. In 1892–1901, Bertram Astley restored the house to its Elizabethan origins, with advice from Sir Reginald Blomfield.
The interiors and collection at Chequers today owe much to the vision of Ruth and Arthur Lee (later Viscount Lee of Fareham), who, from 1909-21, devoted themselves to restoring the Elizabethan House. With the Edwardian architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, the couple scoured auction rooms and antique shops in search of appropriate furnishings, as well as commissioning reproduction pieces from the likes of Gill & Reigate (decorators to George V) and Nicholls & Janes of High Wycombe. Other furniture in the house was inherited with the purchase of the building. In 1917, the house was the subject of a three-part article by Avray Tipping, published in Country Life.
The collection includes a notable quantity of late seventeenth/early eighteenth-century caned chairs - including a large suite of green lacquered chairs - as well as a number of lacquer pieces, and furniture featuring painted decorative surfaces. Specific highlights will include a table made by George Bullock for Napoleon's Drawing Room at Old Longwood House, Saint Helena, and a substantial leather-bound trunk, decorated with brass studs, which purportedly belonged to James II when Lord High Admiral.
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