A Loo table is a table model from the 18th and 19th centuries, originally designed for the card game loo, which was also known as lanterloo.
The typical loo table has an oval or round top, and a hinged mechanism fitted to a pedestal base, enabling the table to be easily stored when not in use. Sometimes, antique dealers call any table with a folding mechanism a “loo table”, even if the table top is square or rectangular.
Edwards & Roberts were founded in 1845, and had premises at 21 Wardour Street London. By 1892 they occupied more than a dozen buildings in Wardour Street, where they continued to trade until the end of the century.
They became one of the leading London cabinet makers and retailers working in a variety of styles, both modern and revivalist. Their business also involved retailing, adapting and restoring the finest antique furniture and there are many examples of their earlier furniture with later embellishments bearing their stamp.
Edwards & Roberts specialized in Marquetry, inlay and Ormolu.
The Falcini family workshops were established in the early 19th century in the small town of Campi, near Florence, by Gaetano Giuseppe Falcini (d. 1846). In the late 1820s, Luigi, the latter’s eldest son (d. 1861), opened a bottega in the via del Fosso, Florence, and was later joined by his brother Angiolo (d. 1850). The first piece to be exhibited by the Falcini brothers was a prize-winning marquetry table shown at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1836, and subsequently purchased by Grand Duke Leopold II for his private collection. The firm continued to exhibit at the Academy throughout the 1840s and completed important commissions for a number of prominent patrons, among which Prince Anatole Demidoff, the Duchess of Castigliano and Countess Borghese. After the death of Angiolo Falcini in 1850, Luigi was joined by his two sons, Alessandro and Cesare, who continued the business until 1882. The Falcini brothers exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 to great acclaim.
Longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family, Julian Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote Downton Abbey. He often commented he wanted a house which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period.
The success of Downton Abbey took everyone by surprise from the first nervous apprehension whether anyone would like the first episode or stay with it for the second or third… the series has become a phenomenon with appreciative viewers all around the world.
Downton Abbey follows the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them, whose lives were changed forever during the First World War.
The world of Highclere Castle and Downton Abbey were changed irrevocably by the First World War. Post 1918 life in both Highclere Castle and its altar ego Downton Abbey continued, as did the families living within its walls but the characters had developed swiftly through force of circumstance as new opportunities presented themselves.
Inside Highclere Castle
There are 11 bedrooms on the first floor, some of which can be seen by visitors, and 40-50 on the next floors which are no longer used and cannot be viewed by visitors. They have been gradually refurbished by the 8th Countess over the past 5 years, using prints and drawings from the archives recording some of the visitors and history here.
The opulent Stanhope bedroom is decorated in rich red, recalling its decoration for the visit of the Prince of Wales in December 1895. The Dressing Room next door has just been redecorated.
The Arundel bedroom and its dressing room were used as an Operating Theatre and Recovery Room respectively during the First World War, when Almina, the 5th Countess, (with Lord Kitchener’s blessing) turned the Castle into a military hospital, heading the nursing staff herself.
Mercia bedroom is noted for the charming four-poster bed decorated with 18th century silks and matching furniture.
Quite a few of the bedrooms are used for the filming of Downton Abbey.
The stone staircase behind the green baize door leading from the Saloon, winds up three floors and down to what were the old staff dining rooms, the cellars, sitting rooms, utility areas and kitchens.
One hundred years ago perhaps 60 members of staff were living in and around the Castle, so it was a big operation with a House Steward, butlers, footmen, housekeepers, maids, kitchen staff and hall and steward room boys.
The “Downton Abbey” set team have partly recreated the lower flight of these stairs at Ealing, so that the actors can leave the Castle and go down in to the set at Ealing Studios where the staff rooms are filmed. The stairs here at Highclere lead down to the woodshed, a back door and originally into the staff dining room and scullery. They are now the entrance to the Egyptian Exhibition.
Two main staircases were and are used by the family and their guests: the Oak Staircase and the Red Staircase.
Thomas Allom’s great oak staircase fills the tall Italianate tower built by Sir Charles Barry in 1842. Messrs Cox and Son of London took nearly a year to carve and install the staircase between December 1861 and October 1862.
The Red Staircase leads up to the second floor and the former nursery rooms.
Blackwell is one of Britain’s finest houses from the turn of the last century and survives in a truly remarkable state of preservation retaining almost all of its original decorative features, including the rare and fragile hessian wall-hangings in the Dining Room. One of the real joys of Blackwell lies in its wealth of detail, from the leaf-shaped door handles and curious window catches to spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden panelling. Blackwell remains an internationally important icon of Arts and Crafts architecture.
Blackwell’s period rooms have been carefully furnished with the blend of Arts and Crafts furniture and early country-made pieces advocated by its architect, Baillie Scott. The Arts & Crafts Movement, a reaction against the increasing dominance of mechanisation brought about by the Industrial Revolution, was championed by John Ruskin and William Morris, the ‘fathers’ of the movement, who sought to re-establish the importance and worth of designer-craftsmen. Britain’s consumers were urged to achieve beauty, simplicity and practicality in the home.
Blackwell is a large house, but with its half-landings and split-level spaces its architect created somewhere with the atmosphere of an intimate family home. Nature’s flowing lines, which inspired Art Noveau, can be seen throughout the house, from the design of the stained glass plants and flowers to the rhythmic scrolling foliage in the carved wooden panelling in the Hall
Visitors are encouraged to sit and soak up the atmosphere in Blackwell’s fireplace inglenooks, which boast fine examples of tiles by Arts & Crafts designer William de Morgan, and are free to enjoy the house as it was originally intended, without roped-off areas. The inviting window seats offer stunning views of the surrounding Lakeland scenery.
Beautiful scenes from Blackwell
In the decades between Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne and King Edward’s death in the years leading up to the First World War, Britain’s best known furniture makers produced some of the most enduring designs to date. We’ve put together an infographic that aims to set out some of the key features of the furniture produced during two of the most exciting eras of British history.
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Campaign furniture was made to specifically fold or breakdown for ease of travel and was designed to be carried on the march by travelling armies, especially associated with British Army Officers, who often carried high quality portable furniture in the Georgian and Victorian Periods (1714-1901)
The most common item of campaign furniture was the military/campaign chest. These were made from either mahogany or teak and breakdown into two sections and have removable legs with brass strap work and corners for protection. Also having recessed handles that didn’t get broken off during transportation.
Gillows of Lancaster is renowned in the world of fine furniture, with antique cabinets by this Lancashire firm held in the same esteem as those of Sheraton and Chippendale. Gillows was producing antique dining chairs and other fine furniture for over 200 years – the majority of it for the aristocracy and upper classes. Tatton Park, in Cheshire, is a masterpiece of Gillows antiques, with over 200 privately commissioned pieces in their original setting.
The company was established by Robert Gillow (1704-1772). Born in Fylde, Lancashire, he travelled to Lancaster to train as a cabinetmaker, initially working as a ship’s carpenter. Lancaster was a major trading port at this time, and Robert was able to forge important links with the West Indies, importing high quality mahogany from Jamaica, Cuba and the Honduras after setting up his business.
Antique cabinets from Lancashire to Lincoln
In the 1740s, Gillow opened a London warehouse, gaining him national recognition. The use of finely crafted mahogany – a key feature of Robert Gillow’s exquisite antique bookcases and cabinets – enabled this humble Lancashire lad to establish a name for himself with the English nobility and upper-classes. In return for mahogany imports, he also began exporting furniture to the West Indies, quickly establishing himself as a cabinetmaker of international importance.
Robert Gillow was later joined by his sons, Richard and Robert, who helped develop the company’s reputation. Important commissions were secured, furnishing public buildings in Australia, South Africa, Europe, Russia, India and even the US.
Extending antique tables – a Lancashire invention
Richard Gillow was himself a master craftsman. Following his father’s death, he began working on innovative new designs of his own, aided by his brother Robert, who ran the London branch of the company and therefore had his finger on the pulse of the latest trends and fashions. Extending antique tables were a Lancashire invention, developed by Richard Gillow.
Between 1750 and 1811 the firm reached its zenith, producing the finest furniture ever to come out of Lancashire. The antique chests, tables and cabinets of this period were produced by the pick of Lancashire’s craftsmen, as Richard was a popular and much-loved figure able to secure honest, gifted employees easily. He was also a trained architect, building and furnishing several notable public buildings in the Lancashire area.
Hand-crafted Victorian dining chairs
By the time Richard’s son (also called Richard), succeeded him in the firm, Gillows had entered the age of Victorian mass-production. However, the company continued to expand, offering value for money while maintaining traditional cabinetmaking methods. The company worked with Pugin on the interiors of the Palace of Westminster, around 1840, later diversifying into fitting out passenger liners and luxury yachts.
This effectively takes the story of this famous Lancashire company full circle. The last antique dining chairs and antique cabinets by Gillows of Lancaster were crafted no later than 1903, when the firm merged with S.J Waring to form Waring and Gillow.
The patterns for Gillows commissions, such as inlaid antique bookcases and gilded Victorian dining chairs, were kept in Lancashire under lock-and-key. Today, these unique books provide Lancashire antique dealers with a detailed record of everyantique desk and cabinet Gillows ever made, making authentication and valuation an easy process.
Stanley Webb Davies (1894–1978) was one of the leading designers in the Cotswold School style, which helped to take the traditional handmade elements of Arts & Crafts furniture into the twentieth century. Like his associate, Robert “Mouse Man” Thompson, Davies had a trademark signature: a rectangular monogram containing his initials, the date of manufacture and initials of the craftsman who made the piece.
Stanley Davies was born in Darwen, Lancashire, to a Quaker mill-owning family. Having graduated from Oxford, he initially went into the family mill business, but decided to further his talent for woodworking with an apprenticeship under the acclaimed Cotswold School designer Romney Green.
In 1923, Davies started his own Arts & Crafts furniture company in Cumbria, building a house and workshop near Windermere, which he called “Gatesbield”, meaning a shelter for small animals. He married Emily Thomas, herself a skilled woodcarver, in the same year. Emily was a nature lover, and their house was, and still is, full of charming carvings of wildlife, country scenes and mottos crafted by her and her husband. Upon Davies’ death, the house was bequeathed to a Quaker housing association, and today offers sheltered accommodation for the elderly, the beautiful woodwork carefully preserved.
The majority of Davies’ antique chests, bookcases and other furniture was made at his Gatesbield workshop. Like William Morris and other Arts and Crafts artisans, he abhorred mechanisation, instead making each piece of furniture by hand. His aim was to produce simple, elegant functional furniture which reflected the beauty of the wood and the skill of the craftsman. In common with others of the Cotswold School, his antique chests and cabinets show a range of chamfering and jointing techniques, with exposed dovetails, dowels, wedged or double-wedged tenons and inset ebony details.
Trademarks of Davies antique dining tables and sideboards include alternating thumb nail chisels and rounded tops. An oakantique dining table , dated 1929, is a stunning example of his work. Made with extending leaves, it features a rectangular top with inset panels, further panelling on the leaves, an X-framed cross stretcher and detailed chamfered legs. The antique dining chairs which match it feature elegant tapering legs with H-stretchers and revealed tenons, interlaced leather seats, shaped upright backs with chamfered top rails and simple chip carving details. The ensemble was originally in a house not far from Davies’ Windermere workshop, and many of his antique dining chairs and tables are still doing service in private households in that area today.
Stanley Davies’ antique chests, cabinets and dining suites were made between 1923 and the 1960s, but adhered to the same principles of handmade craftsmanship and honesty of design as those of William Morris and the other Arts and Crafts pioneers. He employed a number of assistants who later opened shops of their own, the honesty and natural simplicity of the Cotswold School paving the way for the Modernist movement that was to follow.
The ideals of high craftsmanship and beauty with functionality were largely lost when the Cotswold period of Arts and Crafts furniture design came to an end. However, a number of Davies’ antique cabinets, chairs, chests and other pieces can be seen at the Abbott Hall Gallery and Blackwell House Arts and Crafts museum, both in Cumbria.
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We are now up and running in our fabulous and modern two storey showroom. We are open weekdays 9am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm and Sundays by appointment. After almost eight weeks of renovation, our showroom has now opened, and is looking fabulous. We look forward to welcoming new and existing clients. Units C3 & C4, Hulme Court, Commercial Road, Blackburn Interchange Trade Park, Darwen, Lancashire. BB3 0FE. Tel 01254 873187