Origin: English Period: William IV Provenance: Unknown Date: c.1830-35 Depth: 36 inches Width: 55 inches Height: 29.5 inches
The very unusual partners desk of mahogany veneers having a rounded rectangular top with black leather insert set with two brass outlined slots for Bills and Letters, the right hand pedestal on rollers fitted with three short drawers, the reverse with drawers and the side with dummy drawers, the left hand side with a short frieze drawer, on an unusual wrought iron support, the whole on plinth bases, survives from the Regency to William IV period.
The condition is mainly good, and thoroughly loved, with the leather-writing surface is tired but full of character with one or two gauge marks, whilst the mahogany veneers are super quality, good colour and healthy patina with some knocks and markings one would expect from a piece of this standing. There is one crack to the end-facing pedestal which has been filled. We have restored her to an extent, being given a light polish and made mechanically sound with one or two veneers. She is structurally true and has good portability due to sitting on the support castor and rollers. The castor is marked to both sides, one reads ‘VR’ with a crown motif, the other side with ‘Harcort Bros Patent Birmingham’. We can safely say this is for James Harcourt, Staniforth Street, Birmingham, brassfounder (1816). At the Great Exhibition of 1851 their exhibits included two bell pulls and a vase that were appreciated by the reviewer. The Harcourt Brothers, Harcourts Ltd., 222 Mosley St. (Bristol Street), Birmingham B5 were brassfounders and electric lighting equipment suppliers. James Harcourt patented an improvement in the construction of castors in 1819 which helps us cement the date of the desk somewhat.
This desk was obviously made to order to a very exacting specification and, along with individuality, portability seems to have been a key element to it’s design with one able to access the writing surface by swinging one side on or out, moving the wrought iron support. The slots for bills and letters is another wonderfully idiosyncratic touch, with the slots allowing the documents to drop into the drawer below. It is possible it was made for a disabled or partially crippled person so they could easily access the writing surface from one side though this is but a theory, another being that the desk could be a patent. We have never seen another example that has either this arrangement or with a single pedestal and never expect to.
Desks first appear in the late 17th century (1600's) as bureaus, they were an adaptation of the chest of drawers onto which the writing slope was fitted. It is not until the 1750’s that we start to see the pedestal desk that has become so popular today.
The advent of the UK Industrial Revolution, in the later part of the 18th and early 19th century, lead to the rise of a business class. This entrepreneurial group grew rapidly during this period and during the whole of the 19th century. They followed the fashions of the day and had a practical use for desks of all sizes within the workplace and at home. Generally made of mahogany, or using mahogany veneers, as we see here, desks from the late 18th and early 19th centuries are not that common, and one this unusual is certainly not common at all.
A fabulously eccentric antique desk, that is quite simply unique… and there’s not many a time you can actually say that.
*Desk is pictured with our pair of gothic revival chairs by Holland & Sons, also available for sale.