Arm Chair In Black Lacqufr

Made by (iillows in 179S.


Compared with the elaborate toilet-tables in use at the present day, the small enclosed dressing-table illustrated in Fig. 381 appears to be a very primitive article of furniture, and yet this was the only type in use until after the close of the eighteenth century. The note on the left-hand side of the sketch suggests that these fitted dressing-tables acted as receptacles for strong waters in the bedroom. In a hard-drinking age, such as the later Georgian era, it is not surprising to find dressing-tables fitted also as spirit cabinets. In the cost of this table, four square bottles, two decanters, and two tumblers are reckoned at a total cost of us. qd. The silvered glass of the mirror, 16 ins. by 12 ins., is priced at 9s., which shows that the former prohibitive prices of glass were still maintained.

The mahogany sideboard, Fig. 382, indicates the influence of both Adam and Hepplewhite. The entry bears the date September 19,1797, and is not the less interesting by reason of having been made for Robert Peel of Drayton Manor. The prime cost is given as £10,13s. io^d., the making being reckoned at £1, 17s. 3d., the carving at £2, 2s., and the varnishing at 5s.

These cost-books show a considerable improvement, on the part of Gillows, in the designing of chairs, towards the last years of the eighteenth century. Fig. 383 is the sketch of a typical Hepplewhite chair, better illustrated in Fig. 384. The seat is indicated as being covered in hair-cloth, and the cost is given as £1, 15s. 6^d. The quaint note on the right-hand side of the sketch is worthy of note.

  1. 385 is an actual Gillow chair, the frame of beech, painted and lacquered in the Anglo-Chinese manner of the later Hepplewhite period. It will be noticed that there is verv little, if anything, of the provincial " touch " remaining in their designs in the last decade.
  2. 386 of this series is a " Peir glass frame " which is very much in the style of Adam. The mysteries of the art of composition ornament, however, do not appear to have penetrated as far as Lancaster, although the pendant husks, carved from mahogany, were evidently wired from behind, the item of " Iron wire, 4d.," figuring in the cost. The price of the glass is also worthy of notice. Robert Adam, with his taste for the severely classical, especially in matters of wall decoration, would have been the last to have consented to a mirror frame of this kind being made from mahogany " varnished and fart gilt."

The foregoing illustrations have been sufficient to indicate that Gillows occupied a worthy place in the history of English furniture of the eighteenth century. They founded no style, and were, perhaps, quite satisfied to occupy a niche in the temple of fame considerably removed from its pinnacle. They were purely commercial, although influenced to a marked degree by considerations of workmanship, but all was

35o fish which came to their net. Mangles, coffins, bird-cages and the like, figure very prominently in the pages of these cost-books. The pathetic note, even, is not entirely absent. William Beckett makes a grand coffin of oak, with furniture of gorgeous brass, for some Lancastrian notable, and before the year is past we find a small diagram, with a cost of 4s. 2d., for a " Deal coffin, stained black, for William Beckett's Child."

The general impression one gathers from these old books, the chronicles of the CTillows' factory for half a century, is one of sturdy honesty, good craftsmanship, and a keen appreciation of the decorative value of well selected and finely figured timber. Pei haps this is the surest foundation 011 which to erect a business reputation which shall survive the vicissitudes of more than two centuries.

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