Description & Technical information

A fine quality mid 19th century mahogany kidney shaped desk, the shaped gilt tooled leather writing surface above three frieze drawers and three further graduated drawers with later brass knob handles to each pedestal flanked by a plain pilaster locking mechanism all supplied by Bramah, the back fitted with two open bookshelves, on plinth base with castors, Stamped 'Gillows٠Lancaster' to the top front of the central drawer.

Gillows were renowned for making some of the finest mahogany furniture in England particularly from the start of the 19th century. Based originally in Lancashire they opened a branch in Oxford Street, London in 1769 and quickly established a thriving business. This design of this type of desk has become synonymous with Gillows' inventive style with its practical and comfortable kidney shape. The simplicity of the form belies the experience of the cabinet maker required to make it as every drawer and almost every surface is curved making the most extravagant use of timber as well as testing the cabinet maker's ingenuity. As well as choosing the best timber the firm also used the most sophisticated locks invented in 1784 by Joseph Bramah who had designed a round lock mechanism operated by a tubular key, of such complexity and security, that he put it in his shop window and offered a reward of 200 guineas to anyone who could open it. The challenge remained until it was picked, though controversially, by an American locksmith by the name of A.C. Hobbs, at The Great Exhibition of 1851.

Identification of Gillow work has been helped by the firm signing their furniture with a stamp from about 1780 and from the meticulous records that the firm and family kept and which are now in the collection of the Westminster City Library and Lancaster Museum. As well as a broad metropolitan client base Gillows was also successful in supplying a great amount of furniture to a variety of North country houses such as a considerable commission in Cheshire for the Marquess (later Duke) of Westminster for Eaton Hall as well as to the Egertons at Tatton Park. In Yorkshire and Lancashire the firm supplied a great number of houses and included the Archbishop of York and those of the Lancastrian connoisseur collecting families the Ince-Blundells as well as the Townleys.

Date:  1860
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  England
Medium: Mahogany
Dimensions: 74.5 x 130 x 70 cm (29³/₈ x 51¹/₈ x 27¹/₂ inches)
Categories: Furniture