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19th Century Kidney-Shaped Desk

19th Century Kidney-Shaped Desk



circa 1845 - 1855

The original gilt brass three quarter gallery is fitted to a one piece oak top and made with a leather-lined reading and writing lectern that is fitted with a mahogany ratchet. The frieze with one long centre drawer and two short mahogany-lined drawers retain crisply cast gilt brass handles. They sit above a concave kneehole and are flanked by two convex fronted pedestals. The concealed locking pilasters are embellished with magnificent ormolu cast escutcheons that compliment the conforming handles that decorate the graduating pedestal drawers. The figured English brown oak panels to the reverse are fitted with gilt brass ormolu mounts and an oak frame that sits on a solid oak moulding and stands on a plinth base. The castors are impressed with the maker's mark "JW Lewty's" Patented castors.




Although this kidney desk is not stamped Gillows we have enough evidence to attribute it to the firm. The frieze drawers are made with faux mouldings to match the reverse side of the frieze. The mouldings to the drawer fronts are actually part of the drawer. This is a known feature that Gillow practised. We know of a stamped Gillows of Lancaster desk that has the same feature and is of a similar period.

The castors are patented by JW Lewty 1834 (as per the illustration) and this helps us to date the desk with a time line of 1835 to 1850. The work shop of Gillows were leading manufacturers of the furniture business and would be well aware of new products coming to market. So it is no surprise to see the most up to date products of the day being used by Gillows.

The 1840 sketch illustrates a drawing of a kidney-shaped desk, which happens to be made in oak. The information on the cost of materials lists the costings of a 'Patent Lock'. This tells us that Gillow were only interested in using the best brass fittings for the pieces they made and the present desk we have in stock has the finest castors, albeit fitted concealed, which goes a long way in understanding the methodology of Gillows. Although the illustrated sketch does not list patented castors only 'set of concealed castors' it does list the cost of a patent lock.

This model of kidney shaped desk is one of Gillow's best known models from the mid 19th century although desks of this pattern were produced by other firms such as Hindley and Holland & Sons. The design relates to an entry in the Gillow Estimate Sketch book (1840) for An Oak Pedestal and Kidney Table supplied to Ferguson & Co. The model is derived from a design published by Thomas Sheraton in his The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, London 1802, pl.58, Gillow produced these desks for several decades in the middle of the 19th century.

The present desk relates to a design by Gillows recorded in their Estimate Sketch Book of 1840 (as illustrated).

The kidney desk retains all the original gilded metalware.

Kneehole dimensions
63cm high 45cm wide


Height 78.00cm (30.71 inches)

Width 137.00cm (53.94 inches)

Depth 58.00cm (22.83 inches)

Stock No: 11005


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