Tuesday 8 December 2020

LAPADA Leaders Webinar

 We were recently asked to take part in a live LAPADA Leaders Webinar to discuss campaign furniture.

The title of the talk was Toys For The Boys (and Girls). Tim Bent of Bentleys and Alan Hatchwell of Hatchell Antiques also took part and talked about the luxury luggage makers and aeronautical and industrial design antiques respectively.

If you would like to watch the three of us discussing our passion for the antiques we deal in with Freya Simms of LAPADA, you can do so on the LAPADA You Tube channel by clicking on the image below.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

A walk around our exhibition The Salute

Our exhibition The Salute has just opened online, due to the lockdown but we though you might enjoy a walk around it with commentary.

Grab a drink, sit in your favourite chair and enjoy a 20 minute exhibition of campaign furniture and travel related antiques.

All the items are on our website, with descriptions and professionally taken photographs.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Brighton Buns - Ingenious Folding Candlesticks for Travellers Written by Nicholas Brawer

 Cast Brass Brighton Buns
Cast Brass Travelling Candlestick

From approximately 1735 through 1925, explorers, travellers, military officers, and European Royalty all employed a distinctive type of folding candlestick on their journeys.  Perhaps because of their resemblance when packed for travel to a now-forgotten English pastry, these candlesticks are colloquially and affectionately referred to today as 'Brighton Buns.'

A Brighton Bun consists of two drip-pan bases that screw together in such a way that they form a circular bun.  When unscrewed, the bases divide into two equal halves, revealing two loose candle cups.  When upturned, the drip pans form the bases for two chamber candlesticks into which the candle cups are screwed.  The candle cups are sometimes embellished with ring turnings, flared lips, or ejector slits through which the candle stubs may be removed.  The more elaborate Brighton buns contain conical snuffers.

The bases of these elegant and useful travelling chamber candlesticks range in size from approximately 3 ¼ inches to 6 inches in diameter:  Brighton Buns were made by casting, spinning, or pressing brass, bronze, and copper; rolling and spinning Britannia metal; hammering or pressing silver; or turning wood on a lathe.  Examples have been recorded in a variety of woods, ranging from olivewood, yew, and elm to ebony and Karelian birch.  By the early twentieth century, the traveller could order Brighton buns plated in silver, covered with 'Russia leather', 'American cloth,' or, for the more affluent, 'Crocodile leather.'
Karelian Birch Candlesticks

John Caspall has observed that 'Soon after their introduction, and in their early years, Brighton buns were invariably cast from brass or bronze, were always quite heavy, and carefully lathe-finished... Much lighter 'basin-halves' were formed by pressing from sheet material, and the rims were sufficiently thickened by rolling to permit a fine circumferential thread to be cut.'

Although the majority of Brighton buns currently on the market are of English manufacture, and more often than not made from pressed or cast brass, they were in fact made in a variety of countries, including Germany, Austria, and the United States.
Britannia Metal Mikitary Candlesticks by James Dixon & Sons

During the height of British imperialism, travelling brass candlesticks found their way to some of the farthest corners of the Empire.  They were considered essential travelling kit by such early explorers of the Canadian frontier as David Thompson (1770-1857), a geographer who was based in Rocky Mountain House, a fur-trading post on the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, British Columbia, at the turn of the nineteenth century.  In A History of Rocky Mountain House, Hugh Aylmer Dempsey published lists from early nineteenth century invoices and inventories that show the kinds of goods shipped by the North West Company's Columbia Department for the Indian trade in Montreal. In addition to axes, blankets, belts, garden seeds, ivory combs, playing cards, chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, cloves and camphor requested for the years 1807-1808 there is an entry for 'candlesticks, brass camp.'

Not only were Brighton Buns used by senior officers in the British army and intrepid explorers of the Canadian frontier, but also by European royalty.  An exceptional pair of sterling silver Brighton buns engraved with the monogram of Queen Charlotte Sophia, the consort of King George III (r: 1760-1820), and bearing hallmarks for 1808, appeared on the market in 2000.  Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria (r: 1848-1916) was an avid collector of lighting devices that were popular in Austria and the Alpine countries from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.  Among the devices in his collection was a pair of Brighton buns that Franz Joseph's cataloguer called a 'traveller's candleholder, which when opened and put together, provides two candle sockets and two bases.'

Brighton Buns were also popular in America during the Civil War and well into the late 19th century.  Illustrations of 'Camp Candlesticks' appear in the Catalogue of Arms and Military Goods published by the New York military furnishers Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, in 1864.  Similarly, in 1896, the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, illustrated a 'Travelling Candlestick' in their Catalogue of Sterling Silverware.

Though the Army & Navy Co-operative Society, arguably the most popular military and colonial outfitter of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, did not include Brighton Buns in their Price List of 1881, by 1907 they were offering Brighton Buns for sale under the catalogue headings 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment,' where they are referred to as 'Brass Folding Candlesticks.'  They were also offered for sale through the Ironmongery Department, where they are described as 'Military, brass.'   At the same time, under the heading 'Stationery Fancy Goods,' they offered 'Travelling Candlesticks' covered in 'Russia leather,' 'Crocodile Leather,' 'Brass, 3 3/8 in. diameter,' 'Brass 3 7/8 in. diameter,' and 'Silver, 3 5/8 in. diameter.'  Similarly, around 1910, Harrod's Supplementary Export Price List offered 'Brass Candlesticks,' both 'large' and 'small' under the catalogue heading 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment Department.'  Brighton Buns were still being advertised for military use by the Army & Navy Stores as late as 1925, when a pair of 'Brass Folding Candlesticks' is illustrated in the catalogue in the 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment Department.'

In 1787, A. Hepplewhite and Company published its belief that 'to unite elegance and utility and blend the useful with the agreeable has ever been considered a difficult, but an honourable task.' Brighton buns realize this maxim to the letter.

Nicholas Brawer is the author of British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas, 1740-1914, published in 2001 by Harry N. Abrams, and was the curator of Britain's Portable Empire: Campaign Furniture of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian Periods, an exhibition held in 2001 at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. Nick has a shop in New York at 28 East 72nd Street at Madison Avenue.
Silver Brighton Bun Candlesticks dated 1839.

The examples of Brighton Buns illustrated here are ones that we have sold. Further examples of travelling candlesticks can be seen on our website by searching 'Brighton Bun' or clicking on this link.

Williams Tonks & Sons connection to Campaign Furniture.

Williams Tonks & Sons connection to Campaign Furniture.

Our father Christopher Clarke was born in Birmingham to a long line of medical for-bearers however, part of the family tree relates to Henry Tonks. You can follow the link for more in depth information but he was a surgeon whose family owned a brass foundry in the city and was also famous for teaching art at Slade School of Fine Art with Rex Whistler being one of many of his notable pupils.

      The foundry Henry Tonks' family owned were called William Tonks & Sons and though maybe not as well known as Coalbrookedale and Archibald Kenrick were one of the largest and most prolific metalware making companies in Great Britain during the 19th century.  If you are interested in marked metalware do look at Vin Calcutts excellent  The Old Copper Website  and you can read up more on the Tonks Foundry. there as well as identifying other marked metalware.

As you will know, if you are familiar with our website, with Birmingham being the workshop of the world in the 18th and 19th century here and across the country there were a vast amount of metalware manufacturers producing a vast array of goods that could be used for travelling or by makers of campaign furniture.
        Firstly, items in brass and iron such as beds and chairs such as the wonderful folding iron bed  and the iron duoro chair in our last catalogue. As well, as this we have had showers and items such as washstands and shelves which brass components.
        Secondly, there will be the component parts of chests, tables, bookcases etc that have iron or brass fittings. Flush handles, brass strapwork, escutcheons, brass ferules, thumb bolts and threaded fittings to brass hooks and hinges etc.

      So how do William Tonks & Sons fit into picture of what was being produced that could be useful to the campaign furniture cabinet maker or traveller?  Unlike specialist makers such as Winfield or Hoskings who made specific finished items ready to be retailed Tonks made a huge amount of different items that other manufacturers could use in their designs as well as items for use in a more architectural context such as door knockers, window latches  and door plates.
      We have seen W T & S items such as table clips, handles and hinges so it would be reasonable to assume that they also made campaign handles and brass strapwork for campaign chests. Strapwork would not be marked and most campaign or military handles (if they are marked) are marked on the back so you would not know unless you removed them. Interestingly, our father on a visit to the USA over 40 years ago spotted Tonks hinges on an American late 18th bureau bookcase. Tonks exported world wide so pieces of their metalwork will appear on colonial furniture possibly misleading the uninitiated  into thinking the piece is English.
       The box below was certainly English and had hinges by William Tonks.

    We have handled a few other pieces which could be classified as campaign or travel. One of the most iconic pieces of campaign equipage would be the Brighton BunTonks made a nice example of these which we know because they marked the outside of the dishes. Generally, when we see them of this size they tend to have pressed dishes and light weight sconces. The Tonks examples which would predate these have case dishes and sconces and though small feel more substantial.

           Another piece of brass ware we usually have in stock would be the Walkers Patent hooks. First patented in 1864 they continued to be made into the 20th century and can still be found in William Tonks catalogues of this date. On the earlier examples which come in several sizes they will be stamped Walkers patent 1864 to the front and those made by Tonks will have the WT & S mark to the back alongside the sun motif they used during the period.

At present we have a stylish pair of candelabra marked WT & S which are designed to be screwed on to a wooden base. It is possible that they could have been for use on board ship where falling candlesticks could be particularly dangerous.

William Tonks Candelabra

William Tonks & Sons were an important company who produced an extensive collection of items cast in brass and also in cast iron many of which turn up for sale on a regular basis. They have been somewhat overlooked as a company worthy of research and we can only hope that this small article may be the beginnings of rectifying that situation. As mentioned the company continue into the 20th century when in 1970 they merged with Newman Brothers which was also later bought up by Ingersoll-Rand.  Interestingly, the Newman Brothers and Tonks legacy survives in the form of the Coffin Works  museum which featured in the first BBC series Restoration in 2003. 

As more items come to light this page will be updated with further information.

Simon Clarke

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Thomas Butler - The Grandfather of Campaign Furniture Makers?

Thomas Butler can perhaps be considered the ‘Grandfather’ of campaign furniture makers. Certainly all of the other cabinet makers who worked in or around Catherine Street in the early 19th century had, at some stage, been linked to him and went on to make very similar pieces to those of Butler.

Butler is recorded as first starting in partnership with Edward Johnson at 146 Strand, which is opposite Catherine Street, sometime before 1787. Johnson had previously taken out insurance at 14 Catherine Street in 1784 and it may be that Butler was in his employment before they became partners with the plan that he would eventually take over the business. This would tie in with Johnson and Butler dissolving their partnership in March 1787, the stock auctioned by Christies and it seems Johnson stopping work as cabinet maker. The move to 146 Strand for a brief period may be explained by a line in the notice of the partnership’s dissolution, which also states the business was formerly of Catherine Street. The notice says all demands on the business can be made to Butler at the Strand until the Catherine Street address is rebuilt. It’s possible that 14 Catherine Street had been damaged by fire or simply that the property was being altered.

After running his own business for a short time, up to 1791, Butler joined in partnership with John Heppel at 14 Catherine Street. When the partnership was dissolved, Heppel moved out and set up in business as a cabinet maker at 55 Oxford Street.

Although he had previously made a variety of furniture with both Johnson and Heppel, Butler now concentrated his business on the manufacture of sofa and chair beds and described his premises, in adverts, as an Upholstery & Bedding Warehouse.
Chair Bed by Thomas Butler
There was a
great interest in metamorphic furniture at the end of the 18th century and a sofa or chair that could be quickly converted to a bed no doubt proved popular. Four poster beds that could be easily set up and taken down were soon added to Butler’s range. By the turn of 1800 he had gone back to also manufacturing other cabinet work and supplied the Prince of Wales with two elegant mahogany Writing Tables in 1802. 
Extended as a bed

It is easy to see how making metamorphic furniture progressed to campaign furniture and the Napoleonic Wars would have further increased the demand. A broadsheet advert of 1806 shows that Butler was producing Portable Chairs, Imperial Dining Tables, Escretoires and both Chair and Sofa Beds. These items were aimed at both the military and the domestic markets with designs also available in the Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Chinese manner. It was also possible for customers to provide their own timber.

Butler made the most of suggesting that he was the originator of a number of the designs of his furniture although this is a very grey area. It was not uncommon at the time for cabinet makers to use the word patent to describe their furniture even if they hadn’t actually taken a patent out. It was a means of elevating the design and suggesting it was protected. Butler is not listed as having taken out any patents of his own and it is known that he used his Catherine Street neighbour Thomas Waldron’s 1785 patent for a bed that could be assembled without the use of screws or nuts and bolts. Morgan & Sanders, who started as Butlers foreman and clerk before they set up in rivalry, also later claimed that they were the originators of some of his designs whilst working for him. It will probably never be known how many of Butler’s designs were original to him, conceived by others in his workshops or taken from other cabinet makers.  

Four Poster Bed dissassembled

Thomas Butler was also a non-conformist minister at Charlton, near Hitchin and perhaps it was this secondary occupation that led him to retire and then return Catherine Street twice. In late 1800, he sold his business to Thomas Oxenham much to the chagrin of Morgan & Sanders, who believed it had been promised to them. They quickly set up as neighbours and competitors to Oxenham at Nos. 16 & 17 Catherine Street. The intense competition between Butler and Morgan & Sanders, led by the latter, was played out in the press over the next 10 years with each issuing adverts attacking the other.

Oxenham, originally a mangle maker in Oxford Street, didn’t last long. In 1802 Butler had taken the business back and continued for another 8 years. In 1804 he took out insurance on properties behind Catherine Street at 4 to 7 Helmet Court and Pegasus Yard, Savoy. This suggests that business was good, and he expanded. In 1810 he retired once more, this time selling the business to Edward Argles. Argles was a Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer from Maidstone, Kent and probably saw the move to London as a good opportunity to grow his business. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him and he was declared bankrupt in June 1813.

Once more Butler returned and set up again at 13 and 14 Catherine Street. He only lasted a year, perhaps because he had lost too many key employees. His son in law, John Steains, who had been with him since 1793, took the opportunity when Argles moved in, to set up in business with George Pryor and John Mackenzie who had also been employed by Butler. They established themselves at Brydges Street, which ran on north from Catherine Street. In July 1814, Butler retired for the final time and his stock was auctioned over 3 days. Morgan & Sanders later advertised that they had taken over a considerable part of Butler’s premises, as one final jab at their former employer.
A small Imperial Table.

Although Johnson and Waldron were fore runners to Butler in Catherine Street and Morgan & Sanders are perhaps the most recognised name of the two today, Butler’s influence on campaign furniture should not be under estimated. He capitalised on the interest in metamorphic furniture and the demand for campaign furniture. In doing so, he also paved the way for the other businesses to profit from the same markets. We group Butler, Morgan & Sanders, Oxenham, Argles, Steains, Pryor & Mackenzie and John Durham as the Catherine Street makers not just because of their location. They all produced very similar pieces, working to a number of the same designs which were first popularised by Butler. So much so that it can be difficult to determine which of them made one of the recognised designs without a maker’s label.

Recognition is due to Nicholas Brawer and Elizabeth Heyer for their seperate research on Thomas Butler and Morgan & Sanders.

More can be read about the some of the other Catherine Street makers on our website at the below links:

                                                                                                                           By Sean Clarke

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.