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

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

Stanhopes

The iPlayer and Netflix have revolutionised the viewing habits of the ‘Dowse house’. The only thing we seem to watch live now is the evening news. Compare this modern choice with that of the Victorians who had nothing to view except possibly the images on their Stanhopes.

Stanhopes are small, novelty mementos that contain a miniature peephole revealing a mystery photograph. The Stanhope is a lens just millimetres wide to which one or more minute photographs, which look like black pinheads, are attached. When held up to the light the lens magnifies the micro-photograph as if it was projected onto a screen.

The name Stanhope came from Charles Stanhope, the third Earl Stanhope, who invented a uniquely powerful magnifying lens. However, it wasn’t until well after Stanhope’s death that his invention was adapted for these souvenirs.

It was a Frenchman, Rene Dragon, who combined Stanhope’s lens with Englishman John Benjamin Dancer’s micro-photography in 1860 to produce a tiny viewer with an image attached to a lens. He quickly realised the potential and began fitting these viewers into everyday objects.

Victorians bought into the Stanhope with untold ferocity and their popularity continued until the early twentieth century. By the mid twentieth century they had almost died out except for special occasions such as the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Stanhopes are a great theme for the novice collector as they are relatively inexpensive and yet extremely interesting.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Victorian Jugs

It is extraordinarily rare for me to make a prediction and I have to say in doing so I am often wrong, but I predict the interest in Victorian moulded jugs is about to soar. It is an absolutely wonderful field of collecting.

A few years before Victoria came to the throne moulded jugs had developed into an art form. Almost every potter of the time began producing them and on the whole all followed each other as the moulded jug developed and changed throughout the century.

The jugs of the 1830s were moulded in a crisp and deep relief. Apart from a few angular exceptions the body was generally round. In terms of decoration, this was a period when designs and inspirations seemed limitless. Hunting scenes were popular, as were religious, mythological, historical and even drinking themes. But inspiration was also found in books, poems and art. In fact almost every aspect of Victorian life.

By the latter part of the 1840s the earlier distinctive pedestal foot had become a foot rim and the lip was a little less flared. The body was still essentially round and the relief had become more shallow. The new trend in design was naturalistic plant life, with some jugs being completely covered, examples being the Cob of Corn jug and the Pine Cone jug.

By the 1860s the relief was very shallow and the naturalistic designs were replaced with stylised flowers and foliage. By the time, towards the end of the century, that the Art Nouveau style had arrived the moulded jug had largely had its day.

Made usually in earthenware, stoneware or Parian the moulded jug makes a lovely addition to any home.

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

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

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