22 Apr 2021


May 15, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Davenports — Mandy

A Davenport, (sometimes originally known as a Devonport desk) is a small desk with an inclined lifting desktop attached with hinges to the back of the body. Lifting the desktop accesses a large compartment with storage space for paper and other writing implements, and smaller spaces in the forms of small drawers and pigeonholes. The Davenport has drawers on one of its sides, which are sometimes concealed by a panel. This stack of side drawers holds up the back of the desk and most of its weight. The front of the desk stands on thick legs or pillars which are often highly carved, somewhat exaggerated, thick cabriole legs, but these are not essential. 19th century Davenport desks had a variety of different leg designs.

The desk shape is distinctive; its top part resembles an antique school desk while the bottom is like one half of the supports of a pedestal desk turned sideways. The addition of the two legs in front completes the odd effect.

This desk owes its name to a Captain Davenport who was the first to commission the design, from Gillow’s of Lancaster, near the end of the 18th century. In a sense then it could also be considered a Campaign desk though there are no records indicating if Captain Davenport was in the British Army or the Royal Navy.

This desk form was popular during the 19th century. There have been numerous reproductions during the 20th century, and amateur cabinetmakers sometimes consider a Davenport to be an interesting project.



April 17, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Ottomans — Mandy

An ottoman is a piece of furniture consisting of a padded, upholstered seat or bench, usually having neither a back nor arms, often used as a stool or in some cases as a coffee table.  Ottomans are often sold as coordinating furniture with armchairs.

An ottoman can also be known as a footstool or pouffe.  Some ottomans are hollow and used for storage.

Ottomans can be used in other rooms besides the living room, different designs can be used in the bedroom, gaming room, family room and guest room. Leather and bench ottomans are also used as alternatives to sofas.

The ottoman was brought to Europe from Turkey in the late 18th century. The word ottomane to refer to furniture appeared by at least 1729 in French.  In Turkey, an ottoman was the central piece of family seating, and was piled with cushions. In Europe, the ottoman was first designed as a piece of fitted furniture that wrapped around three walls of a room. The ottoman evolved into a smaller version that fit into the corner of a room.

Ottomans took on a circular or octagonal shape through the 19th century, with seating divided in the center by arms or a central, padded column that might hold a plant or statue. As night clubs became more popular, so did the ottoman which began to have hinged seats underneath to hold magazines.


March 20, 2013 - Filed under: Scottish Country Estates — Mandy

Estate houses in Scotland, also known as Scottish country houses, are large houses usually built on landed estates in Scotland, from the sixteenth century, after defensive Scottish castles began to be replaced by more comfortable residences built for royalty, nobility and local lairds. The origins of Scottish estate houses are in the extensive building and rebuilding of royal residences, beginning with Linlithgow, under the influence of Renaissance architecture. In the 1560s the unique Scottish style of the Scots baronial, which combined features from Medieval castles, tower houses, peel towers with Renaissance plans into houses designed primarily for residence.

After the Restoration the work of architect Sir William Bruce introduced neo-classical architecture to Scotland in the shape of royal palaces and estate houses incorporating elements of the Palladian style. In the eighteenth century Scotland produced some of the most important British architects, including William Adam and his son Robert Adam, who rejected the Palladian style and built a series of estate houses that were based on classical and continental models. The incorporation of elements of Medieval architecture into estate houses by William Adam helped launch a revival of the Scots baronial in the nineteenth century, given popularity by its use at Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House and Queen Victoria’s retreat at Balmoral Castle. In the twentieth century the building of estate houses decline with the influence of the aristocracy and many were taken over by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland.

William Adam, was the foremost architect of his time in Scotland, designing and building numerous country houses and public buildings. Among his best known works are Hopetoun House near Edinburgh, and Duff House in Banff. His individual, exuberant, style was built on the Palladian style, but with Baroque details inspired by Vanbrugh and Continental architecture. After his death, his sons Robert and John took on the family business, which included lucrative work for the Board of Ordnance. Robert emerged as leader of the first phase of the neo-classical revival in England and Scotland from around 1760 until his death. He rejected the Palladian style as “ponderous” and “disgustful”. However, he continued their tradition of drawing inspiration directly from classical antiquity, influenced by his four-year stay in Europe. An interior designer as well as an architect, with his brothers developing the Adam style, he influenced the development of architecture, not just in Britain, but in Western Europe, North America and in Russia, where his patterns were taken by Scottish architect Charles Cameron. Adam’s main rival was William Chambers, another Scot, but born in Sweden. He did most of his work in London, with a small number of houses in Scotland. He was appointed architectural tutor to the Prince of Wales, later George III, and in 1766, with Robert Adam, as Architect to the King. More international in outlook than Adam, he combined Neoclassicism and Palladian conventions and his influence was mediated through his large number

We have recently purchased many items from a large Scottish Country Estate which can be seen on our website


March 15, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Candelabra — Mandy

A candelabrum (plural candelabrums, candelabra, candelabras), sometimes called a candle tree, is a candlestick holder with multiple arms. The word comes from Latin

In modern usage the plural form “candelabra” is frequently used in the singular sense, with the true singular form “candelabrum” becoming rare. Likewise, “candelabra” and “candelabras” are preferred over “candelabrums” as the plural form.

Although the electrification of indoor lighting has relegated candleholders to the status of backup light sources in most homes and other buildings, interior designers continue to model light fixtures and lighting accessories after candelabra and candlesticks. Accordingly, the term “candelabra” has entered common use as a collective term for small-based incandescent light bulbs used in chandeliers and other lighting fixtures made for decoration as well as lighting.


March 5, 2013 - Filed under: Taxidermy — Mandy

Did you know there were more than a dozen taxidermists showing at the Great Exhibition in 1851, the year when 75,000 visitors paid to see John Gould’s exhibition of stuffed hummingbirds at Regent’s Park Zoo?

By the late Victorian era virtually every large village in the UK had a resident ‘professional’ taxidermist and almost every home a stuffed bird or mammal of some description. And interest in the natural world, the advent of foreign travel and the lure of big game hunting before the era of animal conservation ensured the industry thrived into the 1930s.

By the 1970s of course, taxidermy had entered its fashionable nadir, and most of the commercial companies had ceased trading completely, but it was not forever. In the past two decades, there has been an undoubted resurgence of interest in mounted specimens from the animal kingdom as serious antiques

Collectors of antique specimens prefer named cases by the best makers. It is not an exhaustive list but the best examples of antique taxidermy often carry the labels of Henry and Rowland Ward of Piccadilly, James Hutchings of Aberystwyth, James Gardner of London, Thomas Gunn of Norwich, A.S Hutchinson of Derby, Jefferies & Sons of Carmarthen, Murray of Carnforth, H.T. Shopland of Torquay and Peter Spicer of Leamington Spa.

There are equally respected European firms, while Van Ingen & Van Ingen of Mysore were renowned for their big game mounts (particularly tiger skins). Most taxidermists have a distinct style in case production: those by James Gardner for example are distinctive for their brightly coloured gouache or watercolour backgrounds, Peter Spicer for exceptional cabinetmaking.

Most collectors prefer cased birds and mammals that show the subject matter as close to how it existed in the wild.


- Filed under: Thomas Chippendale — Mandy

Thomas Chippendale (probably born at Farnley near Otley, baptised at Otley 16 June 1718 – November 1779) was a London cabinet-maker and furniture designer in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. In 1754 he published a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director. The designs are regarded as reflecting the current London fashion for furniture for that period and were used by other cabinet makers outside London.

Chippendale was the only child of John Chippendale (1690–1768), joiner, and his first wife Mary (née Drake) (1693–1729). He received an elementary education at Prince Henry’s Grammar School. The Chippendale family had long been the wood working trades and so he probably received his basic training from his father, though it is believed that he also was trained by Richard Wood in York, before he moved to London. Wood later ordered eight copies of the Director. On 19 May 1748 he married Catherine Redshaw at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair and they had five boys and a girl


After working as a journeyman cabinet maker in London, in 1754, he became the first cabinet-maker to publish a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director. Three editions were published, the first in 1754, followed by a virtual reprint in 1755, and finally a revised and enlarged edition in 1762, by which time Chippendale’s illustrated designs began to show signs of Neoclassicism.

Chippendale was much more than just a cabinet maker, he was an interior designer who advised on soft furnishings and even the colour a room should be painted. Chippendale often took on large-scale commissions from aristocratic clients. Twenty-six of these commissions have been identified. Here furniture by Chippendale can still be identified, The locations include:

  • Harewood House, Yorkshire, for Edwin Lascelles (1767–78);
  • Wilton House, for Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke (c 1759-1773);
  • Petworth House, Sussex and other houses for George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1777–79).



February 21, 2013 - Filed under: Arts and Crafts — Mandy

Birmingham Guild of Handicraft was an Arts and Crafts organisation operating in Birmingham, England. Its motto was ‘By Hammer and Hand’.

It began as a loose part of the Birmingham Kyrle Society, then became a more fully formed group within the Kyrle Society in 1890, under the leadership of the silversmith and architect Arthur Stansfield Dixon (1856–1929) and with the lawyer Montague Fordham as first director, in Vittoria Street School for jewellers and silversmiths. In 1895 the Guild set up as an independent workshop and limited company with the guidance of Edward R. Taylor who was an important figure in the history of Birmingham School of Art. William Kenrick local MP and Arts and Crafts enthusiast became a director. The Guild’s first address was at Kyrle Hall, Sheep Street, the same studios later being taken over by John Paul Cooper. In 1898 the Guild moved to 44-5 Great Charles Street. The Guild produced furniture and metalware, taking special advantage of the switch to electric lighting and the consequent need for new light fittings. Arthur Dixon was the chief designer and head of metalwork workshop. Other members were A E Jones and Thomas Birkett. Bernard Sleigh was a teacher at the Guild.

The Guild also produced fine books under the ‘Press of the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, Limited’ and a periodical titled The Quest. The Quest began in November 1895 and aimed to appear three times a year, but was short-lived. William Morris was a contributor. Those involved with the Press were Ernest Treglown, A.J. Gaskin, and C.M. Gere. Charles Carr and Mary Newill were book illustrators for the Guild. The Press was still active in 1919, when it published Memorials: The Work of the Architect and Craftsman in the Design and Execution of War Memorials.

The Guild ran a London showroom, headed by Martin Muir, at 7 Newman Street, Oxford Square.

The Guild was modelled on Charles Robert Ashbee’s 1888 Guild and School of Handicraft, and it found itself in similar financial difficulties due to high running-costs and lack of money-making ventures. Due to commercial pressures there was a merger with E & R Gittins in 1905 which brought Llewelyn Roberts in to the organisation. In 1919 there was a further merger with Hart, Son & Pearl. The name was still shown until 1950 in directories as “The Birmingham Guild Ltd., Architectural & Decorative Metalworkers”, the addresses being Grosvenor Road West and Sherbourne St. B16.

February 20, 2013 - Filed under: C.R. ASHBEE — Mandy

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942) was an architect, writer and designer of Arts & Crafts Furniture.

A philanthropist and social reformer, he founded the Guild of Handicraft School, an Arts and Crafts commune in line with the co-operative socialism of William Morris. As well as a skilled metalworker, Ashbee was also an accomplished cabinetmaker, working with Baillie Scott among others.

Jewellery, communes and Arts & Crafts Furniture

Ashbee was born into a progressive household. While at King’s College, Cambridge, he became strongly influenced by William Morris and John Ruskin. Following a tenure with the architect George Frederick Bodley, he decided to found a co-operative combining art with education and, in 1888, the Guild and School of Handicraft was opened. The concept was simple: To set high standards of craftsmanship, combining the independence of the traditional craftsman with the ethics of the trade shop.

Initially sited in the East End of London, the Guild expanded rapidly. It specialised in jewellery, enamel, furniture design and metalwork – which often features in Ashbee’s antique cabinets and writing desks.

antique chests with Grand designs

Producing such designs as miniature antique chests with solid silver handles, the Guild gained a following of wealthy patrons, eventually opening a retail outlet in Mayfair. One of Ashbee’s most important commissions was a suite of furniture made for the Grand Duke of Hessen, Darmstadt, to designs by M.H. Baillie Scott.

By 1902, the School was suffering heavy competition in London, and Ashbee decided to move to Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. But the Arts & Crafts furniture market was by this time saturated, and the Guild folded in 1907. Ashbee turned to architectural design, building and furnishing properties in the UK and abroad. He eventually settled in Jerusalem, where he stayed until his death.

Those in Lancashire wanting to see antique marquetry furniture by C.R Ashbee can visit the Cheltenham museum, where one of his antique desks is on display. Its Arts & Crafts tulip motifs are considered to be works of art. The V & A also has a large collection of works by C.R. Ashbee and the Guild.

February 18, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Cheval Mirrors — Mandy

A cheval mirror is a full-length mirror encased in a decorative frame that is attached to a large supporting base by a set of swivel screws. The supporting base consists of two vertical bars held up by a pair of feet. This base is also called a horse, or “cheval” in French, and it allows the mirror to stand freely, while the swivel screws allow the angle of the mirror to be adjusted. A cheval mirror is typically made of woods like oak, mahogany or walnut.

The cheval mirror, also called cheval glass, was first made in the 1700s. Originally known as a dressing mirror, it was created for use in bedrooms and dressing rooms, as the adjustable angle allowed one to see one’s dress from head to toe. By the end of the eighteenth century, the cheval mirror was very popular, and all of the era’s leading furniture designers had developed their own cheval mirror design, featuring different decorative frames and carved wood embellishments. But, as furniture design evolved, mirrors were mounted on armoires and wardrobes in an effort to save space, and the cheval mirror lost some of its popularity.


- Filed under: Antique Chests — Mandy

A bachelor’s chest is a small, shallow and relatively low chest, English in origin, containing three to four drawers, usually graduated; in the first models, which date from the late 17th century, the top was hinged, and could fold out to become a writing surface, supported by runners or lopers, later varieties, in the 18th century, had a brushing slide just underneath the top , a pull-out surface for writing or laying out of clothing; usually made of walnut, oak or mahogany; bun feet were most common on the early chests  but were replaced by the more fashionable bracket feet as the century progressed.  Although the term came to mean any small chest of drawers, originally the bachelor’s chest was a multi-purpose piece of furniture, perfect for a single gentleman occupying a small bachelor’s pad.



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