Saturday 7 April 2018

A Rare & Unusual Georgian Campaign Table.

A Rare & Unusual Georgian  Campaign Table.

When you first see this late 18th century table you may not think it is "campaign" or that unusual. Maybe the first clue to it not being what it appears would be that the top is made from two pieces of timber.
 Once seeing this you next thought might be " The top is from a card table. That can't be right." You decide to have a closer look and see what its all about.

     So what do we notice from this photo:
        1. The top is hinged but not folding upwards like a card or table but        downwards. Most odd.
        2. The timber to the top and side rails is a dense Cuban mahogany.
        3. Unusually, the legs with their boxwood stringing are made of a lighter possibly Honduras mahogany.                    Can this table be right ?

Lets have a look underneath and see whats going on.

Interesting. We have 8 iron hinged fixings that are connecting the top to the base section. Lets undo these and see what happens.

Undoing the hinge fittings has allowed the top to be removed and further iron fittings allow the legs to be removed from the frieze rails. So we have a table that completely dis-mantles.

So, what can we deduce from this?
     From the style of the square tapered legs with the boxwood stringing this table would date to around 1790. We know that at this period in the second half of 18th century cabinet makers were experimenting with different designs to make furniture that could be dis-mantled to make it portable.
       At this period the campaign furniture would look like its domestic equivalent and would usually be made by cabinet makers rather than makers who specialised in travel furniture. Some of the known  furniture designers  of the time included some portable furniture in their design books but there were not, that we have discovered, that many designs available for their subscribers. 

 For this reason we occasionally come across furniture which we believe were bespoke made for a client and possibly one off  pieces. I believe that to be the case with this table.
      Two last details that should be mentioned are that all the fitting are iron as opposed to brass which is unusual. Possibly, even blacksmith made that leads me to believe that the table is more likely than not made by a provincial cabinet maker. Secondly, why did the maker not put hinges to the top section the other way around to allow the top to close and protect the polished surface as opposed to this way that means it will not close flat as the iron hinges are in the way?

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 2 September 2017

John Folgham, case and knife case maker.

John Folgham, case and knife case maker.

Whilst, visiting the wonderful National Trust Property Chastleton House ,which is just down the road from the shop, I noticed this fine Georgian Knife box which I hadn't recalled seeing before.

   This box with its serpentine front is much like like many that you will see in many country houses.So what made this box stand out you might ask ?  
     On the wall behind the box is the framed original invoice supplied by the maker John Folgham in 1787.

You can see from this that the box was bought by Arthur Jones Esq. who owned Chastleton at the end of the 18th century. the writing is a little tricky to read but lists the cutlery the box would hold as well as another item which I am trying to decipher. It appears to read " a neat **** Greywood Tea Caddy Varnish" . Interesting , that it seemed to be the fashion to call items "neat" during this period.    Not sure what the addition of 0 16 is for. Delivery ?   
Any ideas ?

Referring to The Dictionary of English Furniture makers,1660-1840 we see this on the maker:

Fascinating stuff. What would this equate to in modern times ? To give and idea of value I believe a housemaid would have been paid about £ 5 per annum in the 1770's.

by Simon Clarke.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Campaign or Military Chests - Beginners Guide Part 2.

Campaign or Military  Chests - Beginners Guide Part 2.

Where was it made ?

This can sometimes be a little tricky to the un-trained eye as a lot of campaign chests can at first glance all look the same. On closer inspection, following a few guidelines you should be able get a reasonable idea where a campaign chest was made.

We have had military chests made in England, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Australia, China, India and some from places in the East and the colonies that we have not as yet been able to pinpoint.

Secretaire Campaign Chest by W. Day & Son.

China Trade Secretaire Chest

So what should you look for to determine the place of origin of a campaign chest ? The following indicators will give you some clues though it should be stressed that these are not hard and fast rules and there will be cases where single indicators will not give a definitive answer and a combination of these will be needed to provide an answer.

     When evaluating a campaign chest consider the following and it should be possible to work out where a campaign chest was made. Maker's name, timber, construction techniques, and hardware.

      If on inspecting your campaign chest you see a maker's name there will be a good chance you will be able to find out where they were based. If their details are on a label or stencil there is also likey to be their address. So look out for paper labels, ivory, ivorine or brass plaques, stencils or stamps. If only a name, a little research should provide more information on where a company were based. You will still need to follow the other indicators as its is possible a maker may have made chests at home and abroad. Be also aware that sometimes maker's marks can be fraudulent and not original to the piece.

Label on Seagrove Chest

Seagrove Chest

Occasionally, you may come across a British made chest that doesn't have a maker's name but on closer examination you may see pencil inscriptions. These are likely to be on the secondary timbers on the carcase or drawer bases or backs and can include cabinet maker's name, date, or merely a number given to a drawer or if it is for the top right or left side.

Pencil inscription on A&N CSL teak chest shown below.
The timber which a chest is made from can be a great indicator as to where a chest was made though it should be remembered that in most British cabinet making a lot of the primary timber used was imported. A lot of British chests will have been made from mahogany, teak and camphorwood . Timbers that were imported. Some campaign chests were made from blonde oak or walnut and that would be a fairly strong indicator to the chest being made in Britain as it would be highly unlikely that these timbers would be used abroad. To get a more accurate pointer to origin rather than looking at the primary timber used it is the secondary timbers used for back boards and drawer linings that give a far stronger provenance. As a general rule these will be native timbers to the place of construction. In British chests the use of oak, ash and deal were commonly used for secondary timbers in drawer construction though on some you will find mahogany also used. A good knowledge of different types of timber is obviously essential here.

Teak A&N CSL Cavalry chest.

Teak Anglo-Indian Chest.

In the knowledge of the different construction techniques used in British cabinet work and those used abroad we find some strong indicators as to where a chest was made. This, like the knowledge of timbers, can take a while to fully understand. 18th and 19th century British cabinet work is second to none in quality so generally easily recognisable.  For the novice a good starting point will be to inspect the dovetail joints on the drawer construction. A finely cut dovetail joint is easily distinguishable from a larger and sometimes far cruder colonial equivalent. Be aware though that by the end of the 19th century some British cabinet makers had embraced modern technology and had started to use machine cut dovetail joints that like the colonial equivalent will be larger and cruder. For the more experienced collector closer inspection of campaign chests construction will show a marked difference in those made in Britain and the colonies.

Fine British Dovetail Joints.

Machine cut Dovetail Joints.

A final great indicator to the whereabouts of where a chest may have been made is the metal hardware used by the maker on their chests. Though there are differences, both in style and manufacture in British made handles, corner pieces and brass strap-work and those made in the colonies this can be a difficult one to use as an indicator of construction origin. Apart from the lower quality sheet brass strap-work and lower grade skeletal handles found on some Anglo-Indian chests, differentiating between the British made and higher quality colonial brass work can be quite tricky. However locks can sometimes be an easier one to examine. A lot of British locks will provide a few clues that show they are British. There may be the maker's name which research can provide a whole host of information. They may have evidence of the reigning monarch with either a GR or VR indicating Georgian or Victorian period. You may also see "patent" or "4 lever" which are good signs they are British.   A note of caution though: it was quite common for British hardware to be exported to the colonies to be used in furniture made in that country.  Also, it is not unusual for locks to get replaced on chests. For this reason using just one of the above indicators should not be relied on to show where a campaign chest was made. However, using a combination of all of the above may help even the novice to get some idea of country of origin.

Original Lock on a Richard Millard Chest.

Main Lock to Secretaire drawer on the same chest.

         The study of origin of colonial chests is an area that still requires much research. Chinese Export chests may be easily distinguishable but it should be remembered that Chinese cabinet makers were working not only in China but right the way across to the west of Canton and into India. It can be possible to differentiate chests made by Chinese cabinet makers working in India through their quality, and the construction techniques used but the waters can get somewhat muddied. It is hoped in the future with more information coming to light that this should become easier and we will know which chests made in India were by local cabinet makers, Chinese cabinet makers or those made by English cabinet makers who had set up workshops in the country.

      Hopefully this will give you some help in tackling this somewhat complex issue and should enable you to at least determine if a chest is British made. As mentioned, moving on to the colonies may take a little more time and experience. You may also be able to use the above in considering other types of campaign furniture as most will be equally relevant to chairs, tables etc.

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Campaign or Military Chests - Beginners Guide Part 1.

To those who have not studied campaign furniture understanding military or campaign chests can appear quite confusing. When was it made? Where was it made ? Is it original ? What timber is it ?
     We often come across military chests and other pieces of campaign furniture online that have descriptions that bear no resemblance to the piece in the photograph at all. Even antique dealers with many years experience fall foul of wanting a piece to be something that it is not or believe it to be much older than it actually is.
      I hope that some of the information provided here may help you make a more informed judgement.

To start off with a few common mis-conceptions:

    If a chest or other piece of furniture has carrying handles it must be campaign. It could be but not always. A lot of Georgian library furniture had wonderful substantial carrying handles but would never have been taken travelling. Can you imagine anyone taking a large astragal glazed bureau book case which has carrying handles to both top and bottom section on the Peninsula Wars ? We have certainly seen the top sections being sold as campaign purely because of the carrying handles. And what's this all about? A set of three Victorian mahogany campaign bookcases, mid-19th century

  19th century two part brass bound campaign chests should have carrying handles. ( The maker must have forgotten with this one so we'd better put some on. )

Chest by Gregory Kane with later added on carrying handles. Swiftly removed after its purchase.
Most mid to late 19th century campaign chest will not have side carrying handles as the chest would come with a couple of painted pine packing cases to transport the two sections. There are exceptions to this rule such as smaller Naval chests or Colonial chests. With experience you can tell if later handles have been added.

This chest splits in two so it must be campaign, right ? I recently came across a chest described as campaign that split in two that clearly was not. The explanation is quite simple and logical if you think about it. A lot of small cottages had narrow winding staircases. The solution to getting a large chest upstairs was what I would call the cottage chest. They tend to be Georgian and the main clue as to why they are not campaign is constructional. A true campaign chest whether it be Georgian or Victorian will be cabinet made with both sections having both top and base boards dovetailed into the sides for strength. The construction of a cottage chest will be different. The base of the top section and the top of the base section will be open with the two section fixed together with tenons or dowels fixed to the sides of the base section. These will slot into mortices in the sides of the top section. The chest below demonstrates this and is not the one I saw mis-labelled.

photo credit: Heather Cook Antiques.

All campaign chests should have flush handles, brass corners and strapwork and have turned feet that should be removable. Not quite.The above description would be what most people think of as a military chest which will date to the middle of the 19th century. The campaign chest evolved through the Georgian period and on into the 19th century. In the Georgian period the main premise for the maker was to make a domestic chest or other piece of campaign furniture easier to transport and stronger to survive the rigors this involved. The look would strongly resemble the domestic equivalent which is why it is not immediately obvious they are campaign. There may be a moulding to the top, swan-neck handles, wooden knobs or bracket feet.

Georgian campaign chest.
Note side handles have incorrect swan neck handles
attached to the back plates.

Most people's conception of a military chest.
This one by Seagrove.
Campaign chests were used by officers in the military fighting battles across the Empire. Certainly, a lot were owned officers who were not prepared to compromise their living standards with the furniture and travel accouterments they took with them on their travels. We have had many examples where we have had the owners details noted on the chest that bear testimony to this. However, a lot of chests and other pieces of campaign furniture belonged to the multitude of other travellers who were either supporting the Empire or travelling to the colonies. It should be remembered that certainly pre-1900 and the Golden Age of the ocean liner, cabins on board ships were unfitted. The solution to this was the cabin fitter who could, at the shortest notice, provide all that a traveller may require on their long voyage ahead.

  I hope that gives you a small insight into what you should be looking at when considering a campaign chest. As with any other type of antique if thinking about buying you are better off dealing with an expert. They know their specialty and you will get a piece that has been researched and correctly dated and described. You will also be paying what something is worth rather than buying something with a dubious description at a price that may not bear any relation to its true value. Just because a dealer is a specialist it doesn't equate that they are the most expensive merely that they know what the price should be as opposed someone guessing a number out of thin air. Prices of antiques will always be subjective with different dealers being able to charge more than others. Look online and see how the prices compare then decide who you feel more comfortable buying from.

By Simon Clarke.

Saturday 18 February 2017

The Cavalry Chest.

Why the Cavalry chest ? Though very likely this term was used prior to this we first came across the name in the Army & Navy Stores Catalogue of 1907.  It's name giving connotations of a superior model.
This teak example below matches the one pictured above in all aspects apart from size being a standard campaign chest size of 39 inches and has the A&N ivorine plaque to the top right drawer.

The listing notes a model that was available with a superstructure with mirror but this is not pictured on the page. We have had examples of this model and below is one that matched the description even down to the size of 3 ft. 9 inches.

One fact that isn't included in the description above and is worth noting is that timber that borders the leather adjustable writing area tends to be a veneer of an exotic timber. We have come across coramandel, rosewood and maple. This may have been an additional extra.

As with most pieces of standard campaign furniture from the mid 19th century onwards different makers made similar models to each other. Whether they called them Cavalry chests we cannot be sure until their trade catalogues come to light.

The following chest which sadly doesn't have a makers name on it is an interesting example that shows some unusual characteristics.

This chest has a number of small differences that set it aside from the A&N CSL model. It has inset brass carrying handles to the sides; the secretaire drawer is the first long drawer as opposed to the second; the writing section has a small campaign handle to lift it and is adjustable on a lectern foot instead of resting on the hinged stationery section and there isn't a secret compartment to the right of the secretaire but 3 inkwell sized divisions. However, perhaps the most important difference is that the fronts of the drawers are veneered in figured walnut, which is something we have not previously seen on this model of campaign chest.

By Simon Clarke.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Maynard & Co. A lesser known Campaign Furniture Maker.


Maynard & Co.

Military and General Outfitters and Agents.
27 , Poultry, Next to Mansion House.

Maynard & Co. are not one of the first names you would think of when considering makers of campaign furniture.  Though in business for almost 80 years , from 1814 to 1893, not many pieces by them have have surfaced. However, they were one of a number of companies who developed a business that could offer every assistance to the traveller to the East from booking their passage and selecting their cabin to supplying their portable furniture

We have come across a couple of chests by the maker both quite different which may back up the theory that they have bought in some of their stock and with the one below having features that are not seen in the other fairly standard types of construction found on chests made by other makers.

Mahogany campaign chest circa 1831.

The above chest has quite distinct handles and has an unusual bolt mechanism for holding the top and bottom in place. 

As time progresses I am sure more will come to light on this interesting company and will be recorded online on our makers file for Maynard & Co.

Simon Clarke.

Saturday 23 January 2016

The Victorian Army’s Cabinet Maker of Choice.

Ross and Co. of Dublin were one of the most important makers of campaign furniture in the Victorian era and justifiably, their name still stands out as a leader in their field, today.

With the rapid growth of the British Empire in the 19th century, came the increased movement of administrators, colonists and of course the Army and Navy. It was not uncommon for an officer to have what would now be considered a ridiculous amount of luggage. This is perhaps best explained by a diary entry dated 1813 by Lieutenant – Colonel William Tomkinson who noted why he equipped himself with 600 lbs of personal baggage while on duty in Spain during the Peninsular war: ‘[My equipment] may appear a large fit-out for a person going on service, but experience taught us that campaign after campaign was not to be got through without the things I have stated; and the more an officer makes himself comfortable, the better will he do his duty, as well as secure his own health, and the comfort of those belonging to him. It does not follow, that because we attempt the best in every situation that we cannot face the worst. The poorer the country the greater must be your baggage, from the length of time you are obliged to march without obtaining a fresh supply.’

James Ross Murphy and Patrick Murphy capitalized on the demand for portable furniture that accompanied this increased movement of people with the formation of their company E. Ross on Ellis Quay. Although examples of domestic furniture by Ross are known the vast majority of their output was designed to quickly fold or pack down for ease of travel.

The company’s exact start date is unknown but the first record of Ross is 1821 when they are listed in the directories as being located at 6 Ellis Quay. They remained on the quay throughout their history although their address is listed in the Dublin Directories at various combinations of the numbers between 5 to 11 and they are known to have also later had a factory at 35 Tighe Street (now named Benburb Street). These two locations were of course ideally located for the many officers stationed at Collins Barracks and this no doubt was a benefit to the business; a fact also picked up on by John Ireland, their neighbour and an Army Clothier, who was located at 11 Ellis Quay in 1850.

Ross stand out from the many other campaign furniture makers of the period for a number of reasons but perhaps the most important is their originality in design. As can be seen from the adverts of the London makers of the day, such as Hill & Millard, J W Allen and Day & Son they were all making fairly similar campaign pieces. Their adverts would typically show a two part chest of drawers, a washstand, folding bed and a Douro pattern chair. There would be the odd item that was specific to a particular maker but generally by the mid 19th century there were standard pieces that most officers would require and which they could easily find from a number of makers. Apart from their most basic chest of drawers, which followed the traditional design, most items manufactured by Ross differed greatly to that by other makers. A number of their chests would have a clever, folding superstructure or an unusual combination of drawers, their washstands wouldn’t have the normal brass standards adopted by the other makers but have turned columns and their Easy Chairs would put comfort at a premium.

Much of Ross’s work can be considered typical of the William IV and Victorian periods in its use of the fashionable design features of the day. This would of course have given their cabinet making greater appeal than that which was purely utilitarian; an important factor to their customers who would mostly have been well heeled gentleman officers with an eye for the stylish. It also means that much of it is not obviously made for campaign until close inspection. A good example of this is the Desk Chair below, that breaks down into eight pieces for travel.

The majority of campaign furniture was commissioned or retailed as individual pieces but Ross very cleverly gave the option of buying a suite of furniture. Such a suite would have a combination of a short set of Dining Chairs, an Easy Chair, a Couch, a Center Table and a Chiffonier or Sideboard which broke down to become the packing case. On the inside door of the cabinet furniture would be a label, giving packing instructions. The packing case cabinets were often adorned with carved decoration and moulding, which again was unusual for campaign furniture that mostly considered flat surfaces and square edges to be a pre-requisite. However, when it came to packing the cabinet, the moulding would be removed and the carved show wood protected with a bolt on panel so no sacrifice was made for the added decoration.

Perhaps the most famous such suite is that made for Captain Simner of the 76th Regiment and his wife, Francis Mary Bolton, as a wedding present on March the 27th, 1863. It was made from walnut taken from the family estate at Bective, in Ireland and travelled with the Captain and his wife to Madras, Burma and Secunderabad over a 12 year period. They may well have considered it their best wedding present, as it must have given great comfort in the very different climate of the Far East. Ross’s concessions to embellishment with the carving probably also gave a reminder of the Europe that they had left behind and so a feeling of a little luxury in a harder environment.

We are fortunate that Ross labeled most of their work with either a painted stencil, or small ivory or brass plaque, giving their current address at Ellis Quay. That which is not labeled was probably from a suite, where other items would have the Ross mark. However it is usually relatively easy to recognize Ross campaign furniture from its other traits. The use of walnut was common for Ross, perhaps because they recognized its revival in popularity under the Victorians, which again, would give an added selling point. Yet it was untypical of most campaign furniture makers who generally preferred mahogany or teak.

Ross’s numbering, for ease of assembly, of the individual parts that make up a piece of their furniture is also unique. Most campaign furniture makers used a simple system, often using Roman numerals but always starting, naturally, with the number one. Furniture by Ross is often given a two digit number or sometimes a letter and number depending on the item and Roman numerals are not noted as having been used. An example of such numbering is the set of four Balloon Back Chairs, illustrated, where the numbers range from 62 and 63 on the first chair to 70 and 71 on the second, 74 and 75 on the third and 92 and 93 on the fourth. Although at first this seemingly random system of numbering doesn’t seem to make sense it was probably logical for a factory that may have been making several pieces of the same item of furniture at the same time. Added to this Ross were probably selling their wares to members of the same regiments and their numbering system may well have saved future confusion amongst brother officers.

Ross prospered through out the 19th century and by 1864 their reputation was sealed by the approval of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. By 1882 even the Army were recommending them, something only done on occasion. The Report of the Kabul Committee on Equipment (Calcutta) stated ‘…. the committee now consider it to be necessary for the comfort of an officer, that he should have a bed, and they find that the pattern…made by Ross of Dublin is the most suitable. It weighs under 20lbs.

The success Ross and Co. of Dublin enjoyed throughout the 19th century can be put down to a number of factors, the most obvious being that they were very good cabinet makers. This quality of work coupled with their ingenuity of design, which was quite distinctive from their contemporaries, and attention to the popular styles of the day proved a winning combination. However, Ross also had other factors working in their favour to create a strong customer base. Not only were a large percentage of the British Army’s officers Irish but Ross were clever enough to position themselves close to one of the biggest barracks in Europe. The barracks were garrisoned by an Army that had spread itself across the world and whose mostly landed officers could afford the best, wished to travel in style and to have all the comforts of home when they arrived at their destination.

By 1909 there is no listing for Ross in the directories and their last address of 8,9 & 10 Ellis Quay is listed as vacant, surrounded by tenements. Their demise is due to the same factors that affected other campaign makers, which put simply is that they were right for their time and their time was over. The world and how war was conducted had changed significantly by the beginning of the 20th century. The Boers, with their speed of movement and good use of the ambush had taught the British Army a sharp lesson. Arnold-Forster, the Secretary of State for War perhaps recognized that things had to change when in 1903 he said ‘The British Army is a social institution prepared for every emergency except that of war.’  Domestic use had also tailed off, there weren’t as many colonists as in past generations and those that were heading off to make a new life knew that their destination was now far better set up to furnish them than in their ancestor’s days. The emergence of the motorcar also meant people could travel far quicker and so did not need to take as much with them for the comfort of a long journey. Although there was still a demand for both military and civilian travel furniture the cake had become much smaller. Added to this Ross probably suffered from the same effect that many independent retailers also do today, the popularity of the supermarket. The end of the 19th century saw the spectacular rise of The Army and Navy Store, a shop where everything could be bought from a travelling shaving brush to a tent. Whether you were looking to buy your groceries or a billiard table The Army and Navy Store could ship it to you in most parts of the world.

There is still much to be learnt about Ross of Dublin and it is a regret that there are inconsistencies in their directory listings and so few records of the company other than their furniture that survive. The discovery of a trade catalogue would shed more light on their full range of goods and offer other invaluable information. However, they have left a passion amongst collectors for their camp equipage, much of which travelled the globe when it was first made and is still doing so as it is eagerly sort.

by Sean Clarke and Nicholas Brawer

This article was first published in ‘Ireland’s Antiques & Period Properties’ magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3,
Summer / Autumn 2004.