George III Mahogany Tambour Desk


Circa 1780 - A very good George III Period Mahogany Tambour Writing Table or Cylinder Bureau by Gillows of Lancaster, the tambour enclosing a fully fitted interior of small drawers and pigeon holes, the sliding writing surface with a gilt tooled leather lined reading stand on an easel support all above two drawers retaining the original brass handles to the frieze flanked by a pull out slide to each side and raised on square tapered supports terminating in the original brass cups and casters. The piece is finished on the back as well making it a free standing centre piece. H: 39.5”,100 cms, W:36.5”,93 cms, D:25”,63.5 cms.


Circa 1780 – There is definitely something very Gillows about this desk. It is all about quality both of materials and manufacture so I always look to see how the cabinetmaker has constructed the piece and the drawer linings are an excellent place to start. Here we can see the beautiful dovetailed joints with the drawer front in Mahogany and the sides in Beech. This drawer looks as though it has hardly ever been used and that is how it should be.

In this case it is the bottom of the drawer which takes the most stress and so the maker has chosen to use Oak for this and you can see clearly the construction with the drawer bottom being slid into place in a groove. If there is any shrinkage across the grain it is easy to restore. You can also see the medullary (secondary) grain or rays on this piece of Oak. The back edge of the drawer is pinned from underneath to hold everything in place while the glue etc is drying and there is light oxidation around the pinholes.

The construction of the main drawers is commensurate with that of the inner drawers. Again, the sides are Beech, the front, Mahogany and the drawer bottoms are all Oak.

The desk is fitted with a pull out slide to each side thus extending the working space massively. These too have hardly been used and have not faded as much as the outside of the piece has. It is surprising to think that originally the whole piece would have been darker and redder.

It is as you would by now have expected when you look inside the drawers, the original locks and handles are all there and in very undisturbed state. The handles etc are all the originals as are the brass cups and casters terminating the square tapered legs.

I am indebted to Susan Stuart and her magnificent 2 volumes “Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730 to 1840” where in Vol. II pages 335 & 336 she shows similar handles from an anonymous catalogue to those used by Gillows and shown at Plate D9 (c).

Also pictured is a letter from Gillows dated 20th. March 1797 to Messrs John Clark & Sons Brassfounders of Birmingham complaining of the delay in supplying handles and importantly with a sketch of the square handle but with canted corners as shown on this desk above.

H: 39.5”,100 cms, W:36.5”,93 cms, D:25”,63.5 cms.

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