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William Fell of Windermere, Carved Oak Wall Shelf, C. 1875-1902

DS1101

Circa 1875 to 1902

William Fell's artisan crafted oak carvings and furniture are extremely rare to the market, even in his native Cumbria where he lived and worked all his life.This dark stained oak wall shelf is a fine example of his natural skills as a woodcarver and his admiration for Elizabethan tudor styling, decoration and artisan craftsmanship. The carved male and female caryatides supporting the shelf can be found in various forms on a number of pieces he is known to have made, as is the use of chip and scrolled carving.

William's work is unmarked but the provenance on this piece is excellent. A personal family piece, it remained within his immediate family until 1920 when, as part of the deceased estate, it passed onto William Fell's great nephew Eric Foster. It remained in his possession at his home in Long Preston until his retirement in 1987 when it was reluctantly auctioned together with the bulk (60 pieces) of William Fell's privately owned works. A copy of the auction catalogue is included below as a pdf file, this shelf clearly illustrated as lot 126. It is now on the market for the first time since then.

The shelf is in lovely original aged condition with no evidence of repairs, just  slight warpage on the shelf top that would be expected on oak of this age. The top fixing braket is original, the lower bracket was added post 1920 by Mr Foster. There is a natural 6" split in the oak visible on the rear, extending out to the left side and visible to the front by the carved male head. There is old evidence of a very small patch of woodworm visible to the rear middle.

Size: 46.5(w) x 16(d) x 23(h) cm

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William Fell was born in Staveley between Windermere and Kendal, into a family of Bobbin makers. In adulthood he took up farming, living and working at Common Farm near Windermere. It was only after experimental work in 1875 carving onto an old family oak chest that he became a prolific woodcarver. In later years his carving and furniture making grew to become his full time job. His most notable commission is the work undertaken over several years in St. Anne's parish church at Ings, near Windermere. His work there includes the oak panelling, pulpit, lecturn and numerous carvings including the 10 commandments, the Lord's prayer, nicene and apostles creeds. A carved oak self portrait hangs on the wall close to the pulpit and is shown below in the image gallery. Post 1902 he appears to have laid down his wood chisels and devoted his talents to brass work until 1909.