One of our Superb Large Antique Partners Desks

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Antique Desks - Winter Sale - 20% Off

Antique Desks - Winter Sale Now On - 20% Off

The annual Antique Desks winter sale is now on.  We are offering 20% off the list prices of all our fine Antique Desks, specialist Antique Writing Desks and Antique Writing and Library Tables.  This means that there are some genuine opportunities to buy a fine piece of genuine antique furniture at an excellent price.

For example,  we have a Small Antique Pedestal Desk (ref 2062) made and retailed by the famous London firm of Shoolbred in our sale.  This is a walnut desk and is original inlcuding its black writing surface - its list price is £2,175 and its Sale Price is now only £1,740.

Even better value may be our Large Antique Victorian Mahogany Library Table (ref 3047) - six drawers and a beautiful red leather writing surface (hand tooled) - listed at £4.750 its Sale Price is only £3,800.

All our stock can be viewed at

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Quality Antique Desks and Antique Office Furniture

They say quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten - certainly true of our fine antique desks and antique writing tables. A number of up-market retail stores are now selling on the premise that their customers "buy once, pay once" i.e. they buy top quality and then don't have to buy again soon. It is worth paying a little more for something that lasts....

When we buy our antique desks and antique writing tables for stock we are looking for originality and careful ownership - we often buy antique desks and antique writing tables that have been in the same ownership for over 100 years - these desks and tables will be refurbished by us (as necessary) and are then ready to go to their new homes - hopefully for another 100 years. Two examples we currently have in stock are a Small Antique Mahogany Pedestal Desk that was bought around 1850 and had been in the same ownership ever since and a Large Antique Mahogany Partners Desk that had been in the same Country House since around 1910. The quality of both items was immediately apparent to us when we saw them and all the original fittings (locks, keys, handles etc even the leather tops) were still present - all they needed was a good clean!

So - the moral of the story - pay a little more for something that will last - in the case of one of our Antique Desks or Antique Writing Tables - probably for the next 100 years with a little care !

To help you select your Antique Desk or Antique Writing Table - please refer to our helpful "Guide to Buying an Antique Desk"


Thursday, 25 October 2012

ANTIQUE WRITING DESKS - History and Fashions

A writing desk is one of the most appealing items of furniture. Whether highly polished or ink-stained and well-used, it is often more evocative of its owner than a hairbrush or a monogrammed dinner napkin. Consider the side-by-side intimacy of Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s in Osborne House or the solidity of Vita Sackville-West’s in her Tower room at Sissinghurst Castle, her “inner sanctum where nobody dared to disturb her while she worked.” And yet the writing desk only materialized in the 17th century. Before then a desk had merely been a box with a sloping lid, somewhere a scribe could store all the paraphernalia of writing. This sloping box metamorphosed into the escritoire.

Charles Dickens own writing desk and chair

Charles Dickens' Writing Desk and Chair

“The escritoire was rare in England before the middle of the 17th century. Basically formed as a desk with a space to accommodate the knees of the writer and in some instances with a flap that could be raised to form a larger surface, a small drawer was often incorporated in the frieze of the stand,” says furniture expert, John Bly. A further development was when the stand for the escritoire was replaced by a chest of drawers and the bureau was born. Today we are more likely to have a work station or, in the very least, a cupboard designed or adapted for a PC than to sit at a traditional desk.

The first piece of furniture produced as a recognizable desk was the secretaire. The writing surface was a front flap (or false drawer) that was hinged to fold back against a chest of drawers when not in use. By the the 18th century this had developed into the kneehole desk – a popular design with Georgian ladies - with its traditional cupboard at the back of the kneehole cavity, providing extra storage space. Meanwhile in France, the bonheur-du-jour, often referred to as ‘a lady’s writing cabinet’, became the fashionable Frenchwoman’s must have: a small side table with a single frieze drawer and a shallow superstructure of small drawers and pigeonholes. It was much imitated in Victorian Britain.


Another much imitated style of desk is the Davenport. It is believed that the first was made by Gillows of Lancaster near the end of the 18th century for a Captain Davenport, who wanted a desk of small proportion suited to the confined space aboard ship. It is a narrow, upright cabinet with a sloping top that slides forward, and with a series of drawers in the base. Early Davenports were made of mahogany or rosewood (a name for several richly-hued timbers which have a sweet smell, explaining the name ‘rosewood’.)

“Davenports remain popular,” says Lynda Lawrence of “They are able to accommodate a laptop which can also be stored under the writing slope.”

An attractive but less practical desk is the Carlton House, the first having been made for the Prince Regent and which originally stood in his bedroom at Carlton House. A U-shaped desk, its writing surface is surrounded by a bank of shaped narrow drawers. Such desks are often very ornate, with a great deal of decoration and brass galleries around the top. Today, they can command high prices and are bought mainly as decorative pieces.

Was there a ‘golden age’ of the desk?

“The Victorians were the administrators of the Empire. They needed clerical staff, people working in offices to get the work done and orders sorted, and desks were needed. The earlier Georgians’ desks were more of a gentleman’s affair, from which to run his estate or for a lady to do her correspondence,” says Lawrence.

As the Empire grew, craftsmanship was superseded by mass-production. Limited quantities of finely crafted desks were still being produced by cabinetmakers, but the vast majority of desks in the late Victorian period and the early 20th century were assembled rapidly from component parts by relatively unskilled labour. Therefore, age alone does not always guarantee quality.

According to Lynda Lawrence, some of the most popular desks today are pedestal desks with leather writing surfaces. “The pedestal desk usually comes in three parts – two pedestals and a top. This makes for easy moving up and down staircases. They were usually made of mahogany or oak. We try to keep the leather if it is sound, and have restorers who can refurbish or even dye the colour to match your curtains if you wish. Antique desks are excellent value right now. Much of the detailing such as panelling, cock-beading around the drawers, and turned or brass handles would be prohibitively expensive to produce today.”

For people who value quality and craftsmanship the choice of desk comes down to personal taste. A partners’ desk for a couple running a business from home; a bureau/bookcase which combines a writing surface with storage space for a small apartment; a writing table which can double as a sofa table. There really is something for everyone.

Added value

The Louis XV style desk made of rosewood and tulipwood by Edward Holmes Baldock (1777-1845) owned by the 7th Earl of Lucan, who disappeared in July 1974 after the murder of nanny Sandra Rivett at the family home, was sold at Bonhams in 2009 for £13,200, nearly twice the amount it was expected to fetch. Charles Dickens’ writing desk and chair, sold by Christie’s in 2008, fetched a jaw-dropping £433,250 (with proceeds benefiting Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.) The cricket commentator, Brian Johnston’s desk, was sold by Bonhams in 2006 for £54,000. Ownership - with provenance - by the famous and the infamous, adds value.

Top makers

The highest prices are fetched by good 18th century makers such as Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) London cabinet maker and furniture designer; William Marsh (1775-1810) and Thomas Tatham (1763-1818) cabinet makers in Mount Street, London; and William Hallett (c1707-1781) cabinet maker of St Martin’s Lane.

Further reading

Portable Writing Desks by David Harris (Shire Books)

English Furniture by John Bly (Shire Books).

Friday, 12 October 2012

We are The Antique Desks Specialist. Our stock can be found at the website

Our website has now had a makeover - we hope you like it and that it is even simpler to use!

Key features are the new stock categories.  We offer Large Antique Desks, Medium Antique Desks and Small Antique Desks (these all contain Partners Desks and/or Pedestal Desks) - what could be simpler!

In addition we also feature specialist Antique Writing Desks, Antique Writing, Reading and Library Tables and Antique Office Furniture (Desk Chairs, Bookcases and Filing Cabinets).

As usual there is a vast amount of information on our Antique Desks and Antique Office Furniture contained on our website - this can all be accessed from the Desks Information and Resources Page.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Antique Writing Desks carries a large stock of fine antique writing desks. We differentiate our stock of desks into three categories - Antique Partners Desks, Antique Pedestal Desks and Antique Writing Desks.

For us an antique writing desk is often a one piece desk with unique features as opposed to, say, the traditional 9 drawer pedestal desk.  Therefore our antique writing desk category includes Antique Davenport Desks, Antique Dickens Desks, Antique Clerks Desks and Antique Superstructure Desks.

Click on the following links to see  various examples:

Example:  Antique Davenport Desk
Example: Antique Dickens Desk
Example:  Antique Clerks Desk
Example: Antique Superstructure Desk

See our full stock of Antique Writing Desks

See our New Antique Desk Arrivals into stock

See our Antique Desks Restoration Projects

Friday, 13 April 2012

Wanted! Antique Desks

Wanted! Large Antique Desks
We buy antique desks - best prices paid and we collect. In particular we are currently looking for Large Antique Partners Desks and Large Antique Pedestal Desks - originality is more important than condition since we carry out all our own restoration - for full details visit our "Desks Wanted Page"

Friday, 30 March 2012

Antique Desk Chairs

Fine selection of Antique Desk Chairs and Antique Library Chairs now in stock.  Those still requiring restoration or re-upholstery can be restored to the Clients own specifiction - please contact us at for more information.