Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at a luxury item from yesteryear...
The children are back into their routine and we hear a small sigh of relief from parents across the land! I thought it would be a good week to feature this writing desk. A must-have for any Victorian scholar’s study, nowadays it would be a talking-point or a luxury feature, rather than a homework station!
Today most of us are attached to our tablets and laptops, often sat with our devices on our knees, but in days gone by, a writing desk was a must-have piece of furniture, and growing in popularity again.
The original writing table was adapted from the simple serving side-table, the replacement of one central pedestal for four corner-legs allowing a more comfortable seating position.
The smaller writing desk which evolved from this allowed Victorian ladies a much-needed elegant, private and comfortable writing position. Often with an extended writing slope, and narrow legs that billowing dresses could fit underneath, there was less risk of becoming tangled up!
Most of the eminent furniture-makers made writing desks which mirrored the styles of the day, including Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Robert Adam and Thomas Sheraton. Straight or curved legs and plain, embellished or inlaid finishes are all guidelines to the era.
A flat-topped desk has the advantage of use as a regular table for modern lifestyles. However I have a fondness for the leather-inlaid writing-slope- however indulgent! And it’s no coincidence modern tablets include a flap to prop the device to exactly the angle of a vintage writing desk- next time you pass one, sit and try it; you will find it is still the most comfortable position for both writing and reading.
One lovely connection when considering a purchase is that the original writing desk was designed in large part by our very own local master cabinet makers, Gillows.
With small drawers down one side and sometimes a pull-out slide for additional papers, this style went on to be adopted as the ladies’ writing desk so familiar today. Gillow desks still come up on the market, and current prices range from £600 to over £40,000!
This more affordable desk is nice and high so any huge skirts can still be accommodated within its legs!