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

Candelabra

Twice each year I think about the candelabra, once at Christmas and once at Easter. Both are times of celebrating and what better way to celebrate anything than to bring out the candelabra.

Candelabra follow the styles of the candlestick, but they are rare before the late 18th century and if found will generally only have two detachable arms. By the end of the 18th century candelabra
are more common and fashion dictated that the number of arms found on their detachable tops increased, initially to three but by the middle of Victoria’s reign five, six and more were common.

The three branch candelabra was a common sight by the end of the 18th century. These were tall and they grew in size until their peak in the Regency period. The decoration, as explained, followed the candlestick and around this time decoration of fluting was enclosed by beaded borders.

It is important to ensure that the decoration of the main body matches that of the detachable branches, therefore ensuring the candelabra is all original and not a marriage of two parts. As in life there are good and bad marriages, but with the candelabra ever a top and bottom living together in complete love and perfect harmony will never be as good as a completely original example.

On the early candelabra the branches could be removed and the central stem used as a candlestick. On later examples this dual usage was impossible because the stems grew too high and the nozzles too wide to hold a candle.

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

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

The Canterbury

In the most basic terms, the Canterbury is a low, opened top piece of furniture with partitions or slats for storing sheet music, often made with additional storage in the bottom in the form of a drawer; in modern terms, a magazine rack. The Canterbury was made with short legs that stood on castors, making it easy to move around.

It is largely acknowledged that the name originated from the Archbishop of Canterbury who first commissioned one in the 1780s. The Archbishop in question, Frederick Cornwallis serving from 1768 to 1783, had aristocratic associations and thus likely connections with prominent cabinet-makers of the time before his appointment to Archbishop adding weight to the theory that the name came from him.

Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806), an English cabinet-maker who is credited as having a significant influence over furniture design of the late 18th century, appears to be the first to use the name Canterbury in his 1803 book ‘The Cabinet Dictionary’. Other key examples of Canterbury designs are included in George Smith’s ‘A collection of designs for household furniture and interior decoration’ from 1808 and John Claudius Loudon’s ‘The Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm, Villa Architecture’ in 1834. The Canterbury began life as a simple, functional piece of furniture but grew more elaborate with time and remained popular throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

cantebury

It is also important to note that during this period, sheet music was made more widely available due to the new printing processes making it more affordable and so the design of such a piece of furniture seems inevitable, to sit by the piano in the more wealthy of homes.

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