Saturday 29 November 2014

"An Officers Room."

   We are now, amazingly, on our 23rd exhibition of antique campaign furniture and travel requisites.

Our latest  "An Officers Room." comes from the name of the satirical print below:

The vast majority of the items illustrated in the Officer’s Room print on the cover of the exhibition’s catalogue are for the young soldier’s leisure as opposed to aiding them in the art of war. The perception of the officers is that their life is one long round of fun. Of course, we know that this was far from the reality. However, there is some truth that, if their wallet would allow, many officers would kit themselves out very well indeed. We have produced 23 exhibitions and catalogues illustrating the huge variety of items that were available to the military and travellers. This one is no different and has items from as small as a tiny pair of folding binoculars to a 9 foot folding refectory table. A number of known makers are represented as well as Peter McCarthy and Gilham, whom we have not shown before. Other items include a good pair of faux rosewood chairs and a patent iron chair by Ross with its original packing case, 6 different campaign chests, various named dispatch boxes. travel candlesticks and a variety of cooking canteens and spirit heaters. The first 2 are rare 19th century canteens, one belonging to a hero of Inkermann, the other 4 show the progression of portable cooking equipment from the battlefield to the picnic for 2 in a classic car. We are also lucky enough to have a number of mint condition Princess Mary Boxes. They were part of a box of 72 that were never issued and so remained unopened for almost 100 years. This is just a small hint at the 90 items that can be viewed in the catalogue PDF, on these website pages and of course in person at our showrooms in Stow on the Wold.

This link will take you to a pdf of the catalogue and the items are also on the stock pages of our website.

You can also get a feel for the exhibition with this short video.  "An Officers Room."

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 18 October 2014

The " Naval " Campaign Chair.

Circa 1760.

Probably my favourite design of campaign chair is a type we tend to call the " Naval " chair because we have plenty of documentary evidence of them being used on board ship and because their design is so well suited to use on ship where the decks may have to be cleared at speed. They are usually one piece except a few that have a removable seat and can fold flat in seconds. Ideal if you are heading into battle and you need space around the guns.

The earliest examples I have come across would be a set of chairs in the Great hall at Cotehele which for some reason are referred to, from memory, as the Banks chairs. They would date from the 1740s.

Second Chair from Right . Circa 1740.

This next chair is one of a pair which we underbid on this week. ( you can only go so far and sadly I didn't think we could go any further and still make a profit. ). They are the first of this period we have ever seen and can be considered very rare.

Circa 1750.

Date wise a little after this chair would be the one at the top of the page which one could imagine may date from 1800. In fact, examples of single and armchair versions of this model can be seen in Nelsons Cabin on board HMS Victory. ( Some they have are modern copies. )

Nelson's Cabin HMS Victory.

However, in Treve Rosoman's excellent article in the FHS 1997 Journal "Some Aspects of Eighteen-Century Naval Furniture" he mentions a set of this design travelling with an Admiral Boscawen on his final voyage to Canada in 1758 and another set with Admiral Paulet in the 1750's.

Another variation on the design would be this example which we have also sold.

Circa 1760.

In our last catalogue Flying The Flag we illustrated a fine example of a Hepplewhite version of this design.

Hepplewhite. Circa 1780.

The success of this design continued as we have also had examples of early 19th century versions from the Regency period.

Regency. Circa 1825.

If further proof that a great design can be timeless and also travels is the final and lastest version of the chair we have had dates to the 1930s and has a distinct Art Deco feel to it.

Anglo-Indian. Circa 1930.

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Local History. Apparently, it's quite interesting !

Five weeks ago I set up a Facebook page for the town I live in  called Days gone by in Stow on the Wold & the Villages. I had been looking at another similar Facebook group for Cheltenham and wondered if the people of  Stow would find something similar interesting.  Cheltenham has a population of 115,600 and they have 9,456 followers.   People are sharing photos and memories and getting re-united with long lost friends.Would this work in a small town like Stow-on-the-Wold whom many people say lacks any community spirit , not being a small village where everyone knows everyone and being a town made up of long standing families, people who have businesses in the town but live elsewhere and others who have retired and moved into the town.

The Stow & the Villages group has now been open for 5 weeks and with a population of  2,794 now has 698 members. A very health comparison. It is important to remember that the whole idea of this was as much about an interest in local history as hoping to promote a feeling of community and desire to share memories of lives shared in the same town.

In the high velocity digital age we live in this is just the time to be doing this. We all took photographs in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and then either filed them under the bed or in the loft and forgot about them.  Our older relatives in the 10's,20',s 30's ,40's & 50's  did the same.  Most of those people in those photographs never actually got to see them. Nowadays,  the technology is in place that without too much much effort these photos can easily be uploaded and shared to anyone who might be remotely connected with them. They may have family who came from Stow-on-the-Wold but left the town 100 years ago but now have the option to discover whole areas of family history they would never thought possible but a few years ago.Where we are lucky now with the timing of doing this is that there are still people alive now who can either remember or have the memories to still be able to put names to those faces in the photographs.  Unfortunately,with the majority of photos ever printed no-one ever wrote the name of the people on them meaning that with time this information can so easily be lost.

This now, to me, validates how Facebook can work in not only providing a medium for people to communicate about their present lives but also to help share the past and record it before it is lost for ever.

A timely window.  In the last 5 weeks more memories, and information about Stow has been shared than ever in it history .   I think that's worthwhile.
Have a look Days gone by in Stow on the Wold & the Villages and see what you think.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Princess Mary Boxes

At a meeting held in the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, London, on 14 October 1914, H.R.H. Princess Mary inaugurated a special fund to pay for the manufacture and distribution of her now
 well-known Christmas 1914 Gift Tin.

‘For many weeks we have all been greatly concerned for the welfare of the Sailors and Soldiers who are gallantly fighting our battles by sea and land. Our first consideration has been to meet their more pressing needs, and I have delayed making known a wish that has long been in my heart for fear of encroaching on other funds, the claims of which have been more urgent.

I want you all now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front. On Christmas-eve when, like the shepherds of old, they keep their watch, doubtless their thoughts will turn to home and to the loved ones left behind, and perhaps, too, they will recall the days when as children themselves they were wont to hang out their stockings wondering what the morrow had in store.

I am sure that we should all be the happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, and the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas day?

Please, will you help me?’

The appeal letter from H.R.H. Princess Mary to the British Public, dated 15 October 1914, which led to the manufacture and distribution of her Christmas 1914 Gift Tin.

The General Committee established that day included the Prime Minister, Churchill, and Kitchener, together with a host of representatives from Parliament and the Commonwealth, a powerful body that ensured popular support, though famously many of the tins did not reach their intended recipients in time - indeed some of them were still being distributed as late as 1919, a delay compounded by the fact the issuance numbers were extended to all men and women in uniform on 25 December 1914, not just those at sea or at the front.

The brass embossed tin, designed by Messrs. Adshead & Ramsey, bore a bust of Princess Mary within a laurel wreath, with the legend ‘Imperium Britannicum’ flanked by a sword and scabbard above, ‘Christmas 1914’ below, and the monogram ‘M’ to the left and right. Around the edges of the lid were embossed the names of the Allied powers.

The contents differed according to the intended recipient - thus, instead of the usual pipe, tobacco and cigarettes, non-smokers received acid tablets, Indian troops spices or candy, and nurses chocolates. All contained a royal greetings card, and the majority the bullet pencil. 

The statistics arising from Princess Mary’s initiative make fascinating reading - with a closing account of nearly £200,000, the Fund was able to cover the costs of some 2,600,000 gift tins, the whole distributed by War Office, Admiralty, India Office, Colonial Office and the High Commissions of the Colonies. And in terms of contents, some 710,000 pipes were purchased, together with 44,000lbs. of tobacco and over 13 million cigarettes. But the number of tinder lighters that were purchased fell below par owing to the fact ceric stones from Austria were required in the manufacturing process - and the Austrians did not feel inclined to replenish the supplies when they ran out!

The quality of the latter boxes is markedly different in to the better quality earlier boxes.

Interestingly, next week on June 28th 2014 at Chalke Valley History Festival an un-opened and sealed box containing 81 of these boxes will be opened  by Lady Emma Kitchener, great-grandniece of military great Lord Kitchener. See this article in The Mail Online.

And also here:

I have come across references to some boxes being made in silver and have had this confirmed by a dealer friend who narrowly missed out on buying one. Presumably these were presentation pieces or for high ranking officers. I will have to investigate.

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 29 March 2014

The Ballantyne Coat of Arms

The Ballantyne Coat of Arms , Teak, Early 19th century.

There are lots of great stories relating to English titled families sending instructions to China  to have dinner services made for them and the amusing results when things are lost in translation. I guess this is where the the phrase "Chinese whispers" comes from. One I particularly like, is the one with arrows pointing to the armorial indicating what the colours should be. You can guess what happened. These little notes ended up being incorporated int the design.

This is the first time I have seen this happen on a piece of carving.

This fine piece would have been commissioned by a traveller to the East and at a glance all seems good. When you look closer you realise that the Gryphen should be facing the other way and one of the mullets ( armorial speak for stars) is missing. Also the first 2 letters of Tarde are missing. It being such an exact science this would have an armorialist spitting feathers.

What particularly tickled me though were the angels. Not only do they have the most wonderful Chinese faces and are adopting a pose no self respecting angel would dream of assuming on something as formal as an armorial but these two amply chested angels are definitely of the female persuasion rather than the more androgynous angels found in European art.

Simon Clarke.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Proof that Campaign Furniture still travels

Another happy customer unpacking his purchase.

Follow the link below to see Christopher Schwarz :

 Unpacking the Douro Chair

Proof that campaign furniture still travels well.

 Christopher Schwarz has also now produced and excellent book introducing campaign furniture to those wishing to produce there own travelling furniture and with the first English-language translation of A.J.-Roubo’s 18th-century text on campaign pieces, plus original drawings of dozens of pieces of British campaign furniture culled from original copies of the Army & Navy stores catalogues.

Campaign furniture book

Saturday 4 January 2014

Writing Table from Cunard's S.S Ascania.

The Art Deco design of this mahogany ship’s writing table epitomises the Golden Age of the great ocean  liners in the early 20th century. It has an ivorine plaque to the underside of the front rail that notes 'SS "Ascania" 1st Class Lounge Wm. Masons & Son Ltd., Leeds'. Research is on going and will be updated here as it progresses.

The quality of construction is as you would expect from a piece of furniture on board one of Cunard's ocean liners. Curly mahogany veneers on top of straight grain mahogany secondary timber, brass inkwells and stationery rack, and unusually a type of hard rubber composite to the stretchers that could easily be mistaken for solid ebony. Also note the nickel plated hooks to the back. The table is finished to the back and would have sat in the middle of the lounge but would be moved and hooked to the wall in heavy seas.

The main questions remaining are:
Who where the makers ? and who was the designer of this very stylish piece of furniture?
Both of which are proving difficult to find out information on.
The ship was initially fitted in 1925 and then re-fitted in 1927 to allow for an increase in passenger classes to three.

So far we have found little on the maker. William Mason's son Frederick  was apprenticed to his father and brother in 1888 and spent over a year making the precise woodwork needed by their neighbour Louis Le Prince for his pioneering work in cinematography. Many credit Le Prince with making the first motion picture. Mason’s premises at this time were at 150 Woodhouse Lane. They must have been a company of a reasonable size to have been commissioned by Cunard. Surprising little other information is out there.

Cunard must have used different manufacturers and one lead found was that Ragstraw of Worcester also made furniture for Cunard and their records illustrate an almost identical table made by the company in 1939 for use on board the Queen Elizabeth which was launched the previous year.This companies archive when through auction last year in Stroud and one can only hope that though sold in separate lots it was bought by one buyer. 

The table above from this archive is clearly a later version of our table showing that the raised section to the back has been removed and what appears to be a perpetual calender below where this would have been. Our table had holes here and would have had the same.
Unfortunately, the archive doesn't note the designer.

 Hopefully, with time further information will emerge.
 From the Titanic Research & Modelling Association Ralph Currell mentions : "The 'Shipping World' of 6 May 1925 says, "On the boat deck there is a lounge, fitted with comfortable furniture and writing tables, and occupying a position which affords an excellent view of the sea."
Also  from Norway-Heritage Hands across the Sea Jan Peter Wiborg posted a couple of other photos though sadly not showing the table.