Thomas Sheraton

My wife and I have just had new windows fitted. That is windows to the property in which we live, rather than new lenses to our spectacles. Now, we love our new windows and we marvel at the speed and efficiency with which they were fitted, but sadly it has caused my wife to suffer a relapse in a condition I have been managing to keep under control, with careful nurturing, for many months. Namely her “let’s change the room round” affliction.

As with most wives, once her bonnet has entertained a bee there is little anyone can do. However I have to say that on this occasion the moving of an Edwardian inlaid mahogany display cabinet to another location in the room has caused me to fall in love with the piece all over again.

The Edwardian period was the host to many different styles, including the wonderful Arts and Crafts and the inspirational Art Nouveau, but our lately unloved display cabinet is an often forgotten gem from Edward VII’s time in office, namely Revival Sheraton.

Thomas Sheraton was a very gifted designer, born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1751, who designed some wonderful neoclassical style furniture between the 1780s and 1820s. Also during that time he published two ground breaking books, “The Cabinet Dictionary” and “Cabinet Makers and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book”, illustrating his designs.

Our display cabinet typifies the Sheraton style, with delicate neoclassical lines, contrasting wood inlays and a beauty, which thank goodness, we love again. If only everyone else could see the joy of Sheraton what a revival the furniture market would experience.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Persian Rugs

Oriental rug is a term that could be used to describe any rug of Eastern origin, but generally refers to hand made rugs from the rug making countries of Persia (now Iran), Anatolia (now Turkey), Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Baluchistan, Turkestan, Pakistan,China, the Balkans, parts of India, and part of North Africa. For many people though, it is Persian that they think of first, as a great many very fine examples have been produced there.

Impressive old Persian carpets can be found in museums, palaces and stately homes all over the western world, but these are only part of the Persian rug making tradition. Persian rugs were made in workshops but also by many nomadic people.

Homes in Iran are commonly found with rugs covering the floors, but they are not limited to the rich, poorer quality rugs were made in abundance and readily available for the poorer homes as well.

Materials used are wool, cotton and silk. Patterns commonly used come from nature, such as flowers, trees, birds and animals. Designs are sometimes adapted from other sources, usually Chinese and Arabic images. There is something of a debate about the symbolism in the patterns, with some claiming the art loving Iranian people appreciate the pattern just for its artistic worth while others claim the strong use of symbolism.

An example of symbolism is the Chrysanthemum flower, which means happiness and fertility. Another example is the Weeping Willow, which symbolises death and sorrow.

Persian rugs have always sold well in the saleroom, but as with everything in life, the better the quality the higher the price.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Brown Furniture

For years, in fact since it dropped so disastrously and disappointingly out of fashion, I have been championing the case for poor old brown furniture. During my daily round of valuations I can often be heard sympathising with owners over the slump in brown furniture values, but can always, always be heard saying, “give it time and the values will rally”.

Well, it is now official, brown furniture is on its way back into the hearts and minds of the young and upwardly mobile designers and what is more, the glossy magazines have the story. Last weekend a national newspaper, whose political persuasions I will not mention, ran an informative article on the “beauty of buying brown” and it’s reviving popularity.

The quality of workmanship, the beauty of shape and form and the colour of the wonderfully matured and polished woods of the antique has never been in doubt. It’s just not been in fashion for the last ten or twenty years.

On a personal level, it could be said that any revival in the fortunes of antique furniture is irrelevant because, since I was a schoolboy in my father’s saleroom I have loved brown furniture and whatever it is worth I always will. For investors, salerooms, antique dealers and present owners however, this can only be excellent news.

I finish on a cautionary note. Because glossy magazines and upwardly mobile designers advocate the revival, doesn’t mean it will happen overnight. It does mean, though, that it will happen, so watch this space.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Davenports

An entry made in the 1790s in the records of the cabinetmakers Gillow of Lancaster stated ‘Captain Davenport, a desk’. This is thought to be the first recorded example of the small writing cabinets now known by the Captain’s name.

The basic form of a Davenport consisted of a small chest of drawers with a small desk compartment on top. This form changed very little throughout the 19th century when most of the examples we see today were made.

Most Davenports have four drawers opening to the side, with simulated drawer fronts on the opposite side. Some examples do differ slightly with cupboards concealing the drawers and these were also symmetrical with opposing dummy cupboards. Most Davenports were fitted with castors for easier mobility and because of the stand alone quality of them all four sides were equally well veneered and finished.

The top section generally comprises of a sloping lid, inset with a tooled leather writing surface. The first Davenports had a top section that would slide forward to accommodate the writer’s legs, but by the mid 19th century they were beginning to be built with the desk section fixed in the writing position, often supported by elaborately scrolled and turned brackets.

The popularity of the Davenport lasted right up until the end of the 19th century, but they became very over ornamented and of clumsy proportions and it is generally accepted that these later styles did not match either the quality or the craftsmanship of those made in the 1860s.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Secretaires

Christmas is over, a joyous one for all I hope and now a new year beckons. As many ask themselves what does the future hold for Brexit, English cricket and diesel motor cars, I myself focus on the secretaire and wonder if it will ever reach those dizzy heights of popularity it once attained.

Everyone knows and loves the bureau and the essential difference between it and the secretaire is that the bureau has a sloping or curved lid to it’s writing section, whereas the secretaire is usually flat fronted and vertical.

During the 18th century the most fashionable item of writing furniture was the bureau, but the chest with a straight fronted writing drawer continued to be an alternative. Two buttons at each side of the drawer dropped the front to reveal a writing interior every bit as exciting as that of the bureau. The secretaire drawer gradually increased in depth and the chest was often surmounted by a bookcase.

The usefulness of the secretaire bookcase or secretaire cabinet ensured that it continued to be made throughout the 19th century, with infinite variations of detail in the style of pediments, glazing patterns and surface decoration.

The French developed the secretaire à battant in the late 18th century and it is generally considered more sophisticated than the British version. It was a full, flat, fall front cabinet, resting on a chest of drawers or cupboard, often constructed as one piece rather than two separate. As with everything though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Pembroke Tables

Once upon a time many years ago, in the reign of King George II, there lived a very beautiful and wealthy lady who was the Countess of Pembroke. Now the Countess loved eating breakfast, in fact she loved eating breakfast so much that she decided it would be just perfect if somebody could make her a table just to eat her breakfast on. To cut an exciting and rather long story down to an acceptable length, that is how the Pembroke table was born.

The use of a proper name in the description of a piece of furniture usually derives from an original commission and in this case the Countess of Pembroke required a “type of breakfast table with small drop leaves” and that is what she ordered. Eating breakfast from her table must have done her a power of good, because born in 1737, she continued to eat breakfast until her death, in her nineties, in 1831.

The Pembroke table is exactly as the Countess described. The drop leaves are usually about half the size of the top and four legs support the top, which usually boasts a drawer and a dummy drawer. Later, in George III reign, some Pembroke tables had a centre pedestal instead of four legs.

The Pembroke table is a very useful and an often underrated item. It can be used as a decorative side table, displaying ornaments and photographs, or as a small dining table seating four in comfort. This table was made from the mid 18th century and continued through the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Marriages

It is many, many years since I stood up at my wedding reception and first uttered those now so familiar words “my wife and I”. In fact it is so long that our children are now worried about how old they are and we have gathered around us a number of grandchildren.

The reason I mention this is obviously to say how wonderful married life is, but also to say some pieces of furniture are also married and it is something to watch out for. A “marriage” is the term used to describe two or even three part case furniture that has been “made up” from different pieces, often of a similar date.

Most frequently seen on bureau cabinets and bureau bookcases, but also on larger bookcases, marriages are usually betrayed by differences in colour, grain and quality of the timber, particularly on the sides. As a rule the backboards on genuine pieces should closely resemble one another, both in timber used and in construction techniques.

Married pieces are often out of proportion, showing a visual imbalance between joined parts. In addition, they can often be identified by an examination of the junction of the top and base sections, which may not fit tightly.

On veneered furniture, a marriage may be apparent when the top section is removed. The veneer should not extend far beyond the point where the base meets the top. Finally, a genuine piece will display a stylistic union and decorative embellishments should be identical in both design and execution.

In this instance furniture mirrors life and there are good and bad marriages, but a good marriage doesn’t shout at you, it just is a good marriage.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Jennens and Bettridge

Papier-mâché furniture became popular in the Victorian period of the 19th century. The decoration is japanned or varnished onto a mostly black background.

Papier-mâché furniture was produced by a number of makers but they largely remained anonymous. However, Jennens and Bettridge is one company whose name is synonymous with papier-mâché. In 1816 they took over the firm of Clays in Birmingham and from then on began the great age of japanned papier-mâché for which they are now famous.

Their earlier pieces tended to be smaller items such as bottle coasters, writing slopes, trays, glove boxes and fans. Once the market had accepted these smaller items they began to experiment with larger pieces which included furniture like dressing tables and cabinets.

Pieces by Jennens and Bettridge do carry the company mark, usually impressed on the reverse beneath a crown. No other papier-mâché companies are known to have signed their wares.

Decoration is usually hand painted and elaborate, showing flowers, birds or on occasion even full landscapes. Giltwork was commonly incorporated into the design and used on borders and rims of furniture. Mother of pearl inlay was another typical feature and this was introduced by George Souter at Jennens and Bettridge in 1825.

The condition of japanned papier-mâché items is a crucial factor in estimating their value. Papiermâché needs to breath and is liable to crack and warp if not given sympathetic conditions. The effects of central heating can be truly devastating on a piece. Beware, because restoration is very difficult and often unsuccessful.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Coffers

The medieval bedroom was a very different room to the modern 21st century bedroom. There were no beds with slide out drawers and there were no fitted wardrobes. Where did medieval woman store all her medieval possessions?

The earliest form of moveable storage furniture was the hollowed out log and these primitive beginnings are still evoked by the name “trunk” for a travelling container. During the medieval
period simple chests and coffers were used as containers for a wide variety of objects and items.

However these chests were not exactly convenient forms of storage and during the 17th century more sophisticated methods of storage designed for storing specific items such as books, clothing and linen were developed.

The medieval period though saw the chest as the main storage method and it was made in huge numbers. Generally they were containers with flat, hinged lids usually with feet to keep the carcass away from the damp floor and usually with handles. Coffers were travelling trunks without feet but with handles. Chests were made by joiners and coffers were made by cofferers.

A simple chest consisted of six planks nailed or dovetailed together, with the vertical slab ends shaped at the bottom to form feet. Later, in the 15th century, the chest developed a framed and panelled construction and this style was immediately more popular with the everyday chest buyer. The chest in a similar form has remained popular right up to the present day and throughout the centuries the framed and panelled construction developed in the 15th century has essentially stayed the same.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Longcase Clocks

Since we stopped using the sundial to tell us when it was lunchtime the world began to produce timepieces and among them the clock. My favourite clock of all is without doubt is the Longcase
clock.

The longcase clock is the classic English clock and generally considered the finest achievement of English clock making. Longcases are a favourite amongst collectors due to the quality of both their
cases and their movements. They were produced in large quantities possibly the most widely produced English clock.

Originally longcase clocks were produced in London but by the early 1700’s the provinces gradually joined in this production and eventually even some small villages had their own clockmaker.

The long wooden case was a practical way to keep the pendulum and weights in a dust free and stable environment. Early examples were often veneered with ebony, while later examples featured
mahogany and walnut.

A Late XVII Century Walnut Longcase Clock by Jonathan Andrews London, Sold for £2,600 at Sheffield Auction Gallery
A Late XVII Century Walnut Longcase Clock by Jonathan Andrews London, Sold for £2,600 at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Movements allowed the clocks to run for eight days or a cheeper version just thirty hours. Dials were originally square but from the 1700’s arched examples were also popular and later still the
circular dial was introduced.

The most collected longcases today are the London made high quality mahogany examples, although many will argue that the early ebony cases are far more important. But then again what
about a lovely little thirty hour village made clock in a beautiful plain oak case.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website