Saturday 17 August 2013

The Douro Chair

The Douro Chair was made by the majority of London campaign furniture makers during the 19th century, with W. Day & Son, J.W. Allen, Hill & Millard and The Army & Navy Store all illustrating it in their adverts. Also W. Smee & Sons of London illustrated a Douro Chair with a foot rest in 1850. The chair was named after the Douro River in Spain and Portugal, a place well known to the British troops fighting during the Peninsular War of 1808 to 1814. Who first designed and produced the Douro first and exactly when we are yet to find out.

My Barrack Room, Landguard Fort
This pencil drawing with watercolour was drawn by Lieutenant Edward Hovell Thurlow of the Royal Artillery and he titles it to the bottom centre of the picture. He has also noted in the left corner ‘Done in Bed, Nov. 27th 1856’ and initialed it. To the left is a Douro Chair with a sword leaning against it.

The 'Douro' was obviously a popular chair with these different makers producing them over such a long period of time. As with so may pieces of campaign furniture they were made with their own packing cases and as we have seen with other pieces the makers decided to make these cases have a secondary use as a piece of furniture by providing legs which when screwed in turned the case into a table or desk.

The painting below shows another barrack room with a square backed Douro. It is attributed to Lieutenant Edward Hungerford Delavel Elers Napier, circa 1835 and is entitled "My barrack room at Belfast" signed with initials, dated and inscribed, 'E.N./Belfast.del 1835' . This is the earliest depiction of the Douro we have which makes it interesting as it gives us a date that we know they were being made from.

My barrack room at Belfast 

The makers Hill & Millard made a model of Douro chair which conforms to the standard model of chair put with a brass rod to the top upright which would allow the top cushion to be attached stopping it from sliding down. The model below having the makers name stenciled to the canvas seat below the cushion.  

In stock at the moment we have a good example by J.W. Allen. ( below) the name being stenciled on the inside of the door of the packing case. As you can see J.W. Allen favoured the shaped back. As with most of the others we have seen the chair is made of Satin-birch  ( we did once have a model made of oak unfortunately with out a makers name.) and has the typical leather straps that allow the back to be reclined. We have had a model which had wooden arms with leather at the ends to allow for reclining. Sadly, this one also was missing a makers name.

J.W. Allen Douro Chair
As far as campaign furniture goes the Douro is a design classic which would complete any antique campaign furniture collection.

By Simon Clarke

Monday 12 August 2013

A brief insight into Naval Campaign Furniture

In the eighteenth century a naval officer was expected to provide his own furniture and ideally it needed to suit the difficult conditions it was used in. That is to say it should be easy to move quickly when the call to clear the decks was given; it should be made to withstand the rigours of life on board ship and it should fit the limited space available whilst still being practical for use.  Lieutenant James Trevenen of the 24 gun frigate ‘Crocodile’ wrote a good description of a typical cabin of a junior officer and his furniture, in his letter of the 17th August 1781 to his brother :

        My habitation, then is six feet square, which six feet is now completely filled up as an egg. My cot in which I sleep is two feet broad and five and a half long, allowing half a foot on each side for swinging (and this is too little when it blows hard). I wish I had not mentioned the cot, for it blows hard now and brings to memory that I shall have a bad night’s sleep. Allowing half a foot then for swinging, my cot will take up just half my cabin and there will be left six feet by three feet. A very small bureau will take up three feet square, and my chair and myself will pretty well complete the rest of the space.   1.

The  two part mahogany secretaire chest illustrated is a little over the size of Trevenen’s bureau and would have been useful to a naval officer in carrying out his administrative duties. With the entering of daily logs, the recording of signals and Admiralty returns this work was substantial and a writing area with drawers and pigeon holes for filing was essential. This chest has a fixed fiddle gallery to the top and handles to the sides. Although you could be forgiven for assuming that these handles were simply for carrying, their greater importance was for tying down in bad weather.

As the chest breaks into two parts it could easily be carried to the hold or put into a boat to be towed behind, when the ship prepared for battle. If it couldn’t be moved quickly or there was no time, it was not uncommon for furniture to be thrown overboard. Indeed at Trafalgar, 10 officers of the Ajax had their cots given to the sea in the haste to be ready for battle. Apart from storage, the furniture was sometimes put to more practical use during battle. It was not unknown for the surgeon to use the midshipman’s chests, lashed together with tarpaulin on which to lay out the wounded sailors, in the absence of a table.  2.

The following illustrations are of a mahogany elbow chair and it can be seen that it is designed to concertina flat quickly. Once the seat is lifted to rest against the back and the two piece arms are released on their brass catches, the hinges on the side rails allow the chair legs to fold so that chair takes up a relatively small amount of space. This chair is typical of a type associated with naval use. Indeed a set of the same design are on board HMS Victory and Treve Rosoman notes that Admiral Edward Boscawen (1711-1761) had a similar set of four plain chairs and one armchair.  3.

Although these two items are good examples of purpose made furniture for use on board ship it is not to say that common domestic furniture was not also used and certainly it would been more affordable to the officer still waiting to make his fortune. The ward-room furniture of the 80 gun Tonnant included a number of Windsor chairs and at Trafalgar they “were suspended by a rope passed from the main to the mizzen mast.”  4.  Forbes Chevers, the ship’s surgeon, retrieved his chair after the battle as a memento, even though it “had part of its legs shot away and another bullet had passed completely through its thick oaken seat.”  4.

Further pieces may be seen on our website

1. A Memoir of James Trevenen, ed. by Christopher Lloyd & R.C. Anderson, Navy Records Society, 101 (1959) and quoted by Treve Rosoman in ‘Some Aspects of 18th century naval furniture’- Furniture History Society Journal Vol. XXXIII 1997.
2. Roy Adkin - ‘Trafalgar – The biography of a battle’. Published by Little, Brown
3.‘Some Aspects of 18th century naval furniture’ by Treve Rosoman - Furniture History Society Journal Vol. XXXIII 1997.
4. Quoted in Roy Adkins, ‘Trafalgar - the biography of a battle’. Published by Little, Brown

Sean Clarke

Saturday 10 August 2013

The Year so Far.

   I thought it might be an idea , as we have started blogging, to set the scene with where we are at. This year seems to be flying past so starting our blog with what has already gone on this year would appear to be a good way of letting you all know ( if you don't already) what has been going on at our shop in the Cotswolds.
Interestingly, business started well in the New Year with sales to both new and existing customers which was a pleasant surprise as it can sometimes take a few weeks after the Christmas and New Year Festivities for things to get going.
  We had also just set up an online presence with 1stdibs at the end of December 2012 as way of further tapping into the huge global market for Fine Art and Antiques. We had decided that with the current economic situation not improving greatly we would again give Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair a miss this year. We both thoroughly enjoy the two weeks there buying ,selling and spending time with other dealers but felt that with the costs involved and the amount of stock we have to sell to cover these costs at present it was not a gamble we wanted to take. Better to invest the money elsewhere in stock , exhibitions and things like 1stDibs .
     February brought a day out at The House of Lords for The LAPADA Conference 2013. Starting with a tour followed by lectures on Social Media , The Art Market's Digital Future and Online Dealing. It also gave Sean the opportunity of introducing to the delegates the  LAPADA Quiz App . An inspired idea he had been working on with LAPADA as both a fun and educational  Antiques quiz aswell as being a way of helping to market the wonderful stock of its members. This is now live and available to download at itunes and has the facility for members to include questions on their stock as they upload them on to the LAPADA website. It is still in its infancy and will benefit greatly with the addition of more questions but even now is great fun and quite addictive.

     Around this time we also entered an exciting find into the Lapada Object of the Year  We had found and researched with a dear friend and retired book dealer a fascinating collection of 93 watercolours depicting various Scottish Artisans, Street Traders and Characters including J. Pettit the Rat Catcher, a China Mender, a Newhaven Fisherman, a Highland Reaper, Strawberry Sellers, a Carrier of Children’s Coffins at Funerals, a Chambermaid and a Doorbell Installer. A really great find deserving of being in a museum collection.

Come the results day at the June Olympia Antiques Fair we were very pleased to find that we came 2nd in both the Judges and Peoples Vote which bearing in mind the quality and rarity of the other entrants was a momentous achievement.

March saw another lovely day out at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair with our good friends Manfred and Gabi Schotten . Some good purchases were made including a Coat of Arms for the Ballantyne family probably made in Canton judging by the Angel supporters with oriental faces. More on that later. The trip there and back also gave us the chance to talk about our next joint exhibition together.
Every couple of years we have jointed up to hold a selling Exhibition at which we have given 5% of our takings to a local charity we have been keen to support over the years Kate's Home Nursing At the first one 6 years ago we organised a navigational car rally under the name Kate's Great Escape which alongside the exhibitions have raised thousands of pounds for this very worthy charity. The name for this years exhibition would be Rule Britannia and was held in mid July. The Exhibition celebrated Britain's reputation for invention and high standards both traits exemplified in furniture design and the creation and development of sports and games. The car rally proved to be another outstanding success with many saying it was the best yet and again raising much needed money for the charity. Checkout some of the photos on Manfred'sBlog .

Whilst the exhibition was on I was fortunate enough to still be able to go on the Regional Furniture Society annual Conference and AGM in Edinburgh. This was a fantastic few days for so many reasons. Deciding to drive up  with my mother we stopped off to collect the Gillows scholar Susan Stuart in Lancaster combining a break with a visit to Judges Lodgings Museum a must for anyone interested in Gillows furniture. Over the next few days we visited too many houses to mention but including Gosford house where we were given a wonderful private tour by the lovely Dowager Countess of Wemyss and March. Other successes of this trip were discovering the name of the artist of our Lapada Object of the Year entry and meeting members of the Ballantyne family whose Armourial was mentioned above. I think a blog for the future will have to be dedicated to this weekend.

The brings us just about up to date and a good place to finish. I am looking forward to writing up future blogs on how the rest of the year goes aswell as looking back at some interesting stories from the past.



Friday 9 August 2013

Welcome to the Christopher Clarke Antiques Blog.

      So after a couple of years thinking that we really should have a blog to compliment our website and social media activities we are finally there.
  Why now ? Well, simply the time feels right and for anything like this to really work you need to want to do it. Right now I really want to blog. We have so many interesting things going on in the shop and so many stories to tell.  Facebook and Twitter work well but have their limitations. Writing a blog will fill a gap that I feel is missing in how we communicate  with our many friends and customers. 
  So how's this thing going to work ? I am not really sure but I think I have some good ideas. The plan is help keep everyone better informed on what is going on at Christopher Clarke Antiques and maybe give you all a better insight on how we run our business. There will events information along with research and restoration projects, side by side with ramblings on the day to day running of an antiques shop in the Cotswolds.
      Above all it is going to be fun, informative, easy to read and hopefully useful.

 You may see various changes going on in the look of our blog initially as we steer our way through the set up teething stages. Bear with us and above all enjoy and feel free to comment. We would love to hear from you. 
 Simon & Sean Clarke