A George III sabicu, rosewood and gilt-brass mounted serpentine commode in the manner of John Cobb.
Inlaid throughout with engraved cartouche shaped bandings, decorated with shading, scrolls and foliage united by bobbin-shaped clasp motifs, the top with book-matched veneers within a broad crossbanding, the three similarly veneered long graduated drawers with foliate-cast handles and keyholes within inlaid cartouche shaped motifs, the projecting canted corners with rococo mounts extending to sabots, the front apron applied with a pierced cartouche mount, the sides with oval veneers framed by conforming engraved bandings, the inside back of the top drawer bearing the ink manuscript label Chest of Drawers/ formerly belonging to King/ George IV. Brighton.; the lower drawer with a similar label beneath Chest of Drawers. Purchased/ by J. Cocum Esq. at the sale/ of effects at the Royal Pavilion/ Brighton
Provenance: Probably George IV at The Royal Pavilion, Brighton and thence acquired by:
John Cocum (1786-1860) Clerk of the Royal Stables, Royal Mews, Windsor and Grand Parade, Brighton thence by descent to his daughter:
Alphina Amelia Keen (1816-1889) later acquired by:
Frederick David Sassoon (1853-1917)and thence by descent to his daughter:
Mrs Paul Wallraf, formerly Muriel Ezra of Foxwarren Park, Cobham, Surrey and thence by descent to her daughter:
Mrs Raymond Sawyer (n�e Ruth Ezra)of Chestnut Lodge, Cobham, Surrey
John Cocum, Clerk of the Royal Stables (1786-1860)
Although biographical details of John Cocum (1786-1860) are relatively scant it is clear that he held various positions within the Royal Stables commencing in 1815 and culminating in his appointment as the Clerk of the Royal Stables. Although based largely at Windsor it appears that Cocum had connections to Brighton and the Royal Pavilion, serving under George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria.
The Privy Purse Establishment Book preserved in the Royal Archives do show Cocum as involved in some form of transaction regarding acquiring furniture in 1844, under Salaries and Allowances in 1844, the entry for John Cocum shows no amount but the words in lieu of a table, perhaps indicating that Cocum received furniture in lieu of a salary or pension. Although this points to him acquiring a table it raises the question of whether he acquired more furniture or if the use of the word could relate to the antiquated term Commode Table which was certainly used by Thomas Chippendale to describe French style commodes in the third edition of his Director (1762). A note in Matthew Boultons diary for 1769 in the Birmingham Assay Office Library also makes use of the term referring to Pierre Langlois ..who sells inld wood cabinets on the same side as Percy Street Tottenham Court you see a sign of commode tables &c. (see Furniture History, 1968, p.106.)
John Cocum may well have been looking to acquire furniture at this point for his re-modelled grace and favour house at Windsor. Works had commenced on a new Royal Stable and Riding House at Windsor around 1842 and it would seem that Cocums house was part of this project. The Bucks Herald of 29 October 1842 reported:
The official residence of John Cocum Esq., the Clerk of the Stabling, resident at Windsor, will shortly undergo very extensive alterations and improvements
There are frequent references to John Cocums role within the Royal household; In reports of the lying in state of George IVs brother, the Duke of York in 1827, Cocum is described as one of the Gentleman of Arms who are in fact the Kings bodyguard who were in attendance in military uniform at the ceremony. It was reported in The Windsor and Eton Express on 9th January 1836 that John Cocum, Clerk of the Royal Stables, was amongst nineteen members of the Royal Household who came up to Windsor from Brighton to vote in a local election. On the census returns for 1841 and 1851 he is recorded living at the Royal Mews in Windsor but it seems likely that his role involved duties at Brighton where he appears on the electoral roles in the late 1830s and early 40s with a house on Grand Parade. The role of Clerk of the Royal Stables was the principle clerical officer of the stables and in 1782 the role was defined as follows:
Superintend and to direct the Servants and the Business of the Stables under him; to execute all Orders relative to the same; and to control and pay the Tradesmens Bills, small Salaries and to keep the Accounts thereof, and Pensions
The clerk was responsible for paying all salaries, bills and creditors at the Cofferers office and the role of clerk was appointed by Royal Warrant.
When Cocum died in 1860, aged seventy four at Castle Hill, Windsor he was still holding the position of Clerk of the Royal Stables, his funeral was reported in the Reading Mercury on March 10, 1860 stating that …the remains of John Cocum Esq., whose death is so much regretted in the Royal Establishment, were buried in the family vault at Kingston, Surrey. Cocum left all of his personal effects in his will of 23 March 1860 to his then unmarried eldest daughter Alphina Cocum (1816-1889)
The Sassoons and Brighton
It is not certain how the commode came into the collection of Frederick David Sassoon (1853) who lived at 17 Knightsbridge, London, but whose family did have very strong connections with Brighton. The Sassoon familys Mausoleum in the town notably reflects the Indo-Sarcenic style of the Pavillion. The Sassoon family were descended from Sheikh Sason ben Saleh (1750-1830) head of the Jewish banking community in Baghdad whose son David Sassoon (1792-1864) was instrumental in developing the families trading businesses. By 1858 the Sassoons had begun to take up opportunities in England under the direction of Sassoon David Sassoon (d.1864). Three of Sassoon David Sassoons brothers Albert, Arthur and Reuben continued the business in England acquiring mansions in London, country houses, shoots in Scotland, studs at Newmarket, and seaside places at Brighton. Their presence in Brighton was noted by the M.P Henry Labouchere was said that Brighton was sea-coast town, three miles long and three yards broad, with a Sassoon at each end and one in the middle.
John Cobb (1715-1778) worked in premises at 72 St Martins Lane, London. Little documentation exists regarding his early life. He completed his apprenticeship in 1736 entering into partnership with William Vile in 1751 and taking over the firm upon Viles retirement in 1764. In 1755 the firm had expanded taking over the neighbouring St Martins Lane premises of William Hallett (d.1781). By this time Cobb himself held very much a managerial role and was primarily concerned with design and quality control. In 1761 Cobb was granted a royal warrant to supply furniture to the crown under the direction of the Great Wardrobe. In 1755 he married Sukey Grendey, the daughter of the prominent cabinet-maker Giles Grendey. He took the firm in a new direction specialising in marquetry and introducing new woods for inlay such as harewood, burr-yew and fruitwoods, often applied to the bomb� form seen here in the French manner of the 1750s which was introduced to London by Pierre Langlois and popularised by Chippendales Director.