Mahogany Enclosed Dressing Table

From the Gillow Cost-Book of I7Q6.

3 44

In 1765 the firm acquired the lease of certain land on the north side of Oxford Street, close to the present Marble Arch, at that time the terminus of Tyburn Lane, and famous as the place of exit of many a notorious malefactor. Marylebone was a village on the outskirts of London at this date, bounded on the south by the Tyburn Road —the present-day Oxford Street. From Newgate along the Tyburn Road to the fatal tree, many a notorious felon must have passed the windows of Gillows' new premises on his last journey.

The date of the " Adventure to London " coincides with the period when Chippendale was at the zenith of his fame, Hepplewhite slowly making his way to the front with the more effeminate style which bears his name, and a few years after Robert Adam had returned from Italy to dominate the furniture fashions of his time until his death in 1792. Gillows do not appear, however, to have followed the tide, but this is probably due to

Fig. 382. MAHOGANY S1DFHOARD.

Made l>v Gillows for "Robert Peel of Dravton Manor'' in 1797.

Fig. 382. MAHOGANY S1DFHOARD.

Made l>v Gillows for "Robert Peel of Dravton Manor'' in 1797.

the factories being still at Lancaster, and the fountain-head being little affected by events of a city which at that date was relatively as far removed as are the Dardanelles at the present day. Occasionally the influence of the London house is seen in entries in the cost-books marked as " For London, for sale," but these are exceptional.

The pedestal table, Fig. 373, is unusual, as in the constant repetition of patterns, pieces of this type were rarely made. The influence of Chippendale is noticeable in the hollow corners, the carving of the drawer mouldings, and the handles. Figs. 374 and 375 are further examples of sturdy designing and sound construction, although somewhat provincial in the sections of mouldings and the shapings of the bracket feet.

Figs. 376 and 377 are two variations of the well-known Carlton House table, made

Fig. 383. MAHOGANY ARM CHAIR.

From the Gillow Cost-Book of 1797.

Fig. 383. MAHOGANY ARM CHAIR.

From the Gillow Cost-Book of 1797.

by Gillows in 1796 and 179S, the latter for the Earl of Derby at Knowsley. The two records are interesting, as this table is usually regarded as exclusively the creation of Thomas Sheraton, and to have been especially designed by him for C ad ton House, when that residence was redecorated and refurnished under the superintendence of Henry Holland. How this legend arose, and the reason for the name—which appears to have been a well-known one in 1796—it is useless to speculate. Sheraton illustrates a table of this type in the " Appendix " to the Drawing Book of 1793,* but there is no reason, either by the superscription to the plate itself or the description in the front, to connect it with Carlton House. Had the table been designed for the Regent, and by Sheraton, there is no doubt that the fact would have received ample mention in the Drawing Book. There are also certain reasons for believing that the design was well known in its various editions—as there are some five or six versions of the pattern—even in 1793, and Sheraton merely borrowed it, as he did in many other instances, and improved on the general lines by substituting the well-known hollow flaps in front for the stepped terrace shown in the Gillow example. Fig. 378 is the Carlton table as illustrated in the rabinct Dictionary of 1802-3, and m other of the design books of the period.

From the Gillows' custom of following the London fashions at a distance of from ten to twenty years—a fact which is abundantly manifested in the pages of these old cost-books—we are justified in assuming that the Carlton House table was no novelty in 1796, since it had already acquired a recognised trade name. Fig. 376 is indicated as for " Gillows, London, for Sale," and it is the first of its kind which is illustrated. The design was, therefore, probably supplied by the London house, and may have been the creation of Hepplewhite ; certainly Sheraton is out of the question. The design was well known fiom 1795 to 1800, as several variations are given in design books published about this date. The cost of the 1796 table is shown under the illustration.f

* Already illustrated in Fig. 255.

t Compared with the extracts from the cost-books of former years, the enormous increase in the cost of both wood and labour in this entry is very significant. It is, of course, obvious that the purchasing value of money—the only really reliable criterion for comparison—had diminished in nearly a corresponding degree. Mahogany had more than doubled

Fig. 384. MAHOGANY ARM CHAIR.

Another edition of Fig. 3S3.

Fig. 384. MAHOGANY ARM CHAIR.

Another edition of Fig. 3S3.

  1. 379 is a representative specimen of a sideboard 01 side table, many of which were made by Gillows, possessing the same peculiarity —the rounded back as shown in the illustration. The sketch is marked " For a recess," and from the number of these tables we can infer that a recess in the form of an apse was a usual feature in dining-rooms of this period. As the particular one for which this table was intended must have measured five feet six inches in width, it must have been specifically designed for a side table. The circular-headed apse was a favourite detail with Robert Adam, which he used with great effect in the designs which he made for Gawthorp—now Harewood House.
  2. 380 is a " Vaitse Knife-case," from an entry of September 1796 ; a close approximation to the manner of Hepplewhite. The prime cost is given as £4, 12s. 5jd.—Gillows did not despise the humble " bawbee " in their calculations—the making costs £1, 7s., the carving 18s., and "varnish and varnishing" is. So much for the " polishing" at this date. The entry has a significant footnote, added in 1S00, to the effect that the price is advanced by £1, is. 3d. From 1799 to 1803 were the historical " Famine Years," when the unskilled labouring and the agricultural classes starved in the highways of wealthy England. This advance of 50 per cent, in the cost of making —it can be nothing else—is a highly significant indication of the labour market, and the cost of living, at this period.

and labour nearly trebled in price, in the years from 1785 to 1796. The standard of comfort of the working classes had not really risen with this apparent appreciation of wages ; Thorold Rogers has estimated that the usual provisions of the labouring classes had increased by more than 125 per cent, between 1792 and 1795. House and land rents had risen in the same period in even greater degree. During the period when England was practically a self-supporting country as far as the common necessities of life were concerned, the rate of wages of the working classes touched the starvation level nearer than ever before or since. Wages had increased, but by no means in the same ratio as the cost of the means of subsistence ; had they remained stationary, the artisans would have starved as they worked. The time of the William Beckett in the above entry is reckoned at 5id. per hour, a rise of nearly 150 per cent, as compared with the wages of only fifteen years previously. An idea of the value of the present-day perlection in tools, and the value of labour-saving machinery such as the circular saw and the moulding machine, may be gathered from the fact that the making of this table occupied William Beckett for the space of 351 working hours, or more than double the time which would be allowed in a first-class shop at the present day. It will also be remarked that no entry is made for polishing. The usual process was to merely oil the wood and then to nib in beeswax, turpentine, and powdered resin. This would be done by the cabinet-maker, and on such a table as this not more than two hours would be allowed for the operation.

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