It has quite a history. It came from the family of Len's first wife, Beryl, whose family lived in Kent, England. In the mid 19th century it sailed with a family member all the way to Australia. I don't know the full circumstances but it returned to England later that century.
DMJ's Grandparents sailed to Australia in the 1940s and, once settled, sent for and paid the passage of all nine children and their spouses to join them in this 'promised land'. The desk sailed again, along with some other treasured pieces.
It still has all the original knobs but some of the little bone knobs on the drawers were missing. We had a friend who had worked on the restoration of some old ships in England and could make wonderful things out of wood. When he saw the desk, he said that he could make replicas of the bone knobs and so we went looking in opp-shops for bone-handled knives (I wasn't going to use my Mother's set!). Well, Peter set to and turned four perfect little knobs which only need to age a little!
Legend in the family has it that there is a secret compartment somewhere containing a ruby/diamond necklace. Well, the family has been all over it and that compartment has not yet been found! Two months ago, Michele at mynottinghill wrote about her craigslist bargain; a similar desk at USD350.00!! A steal, considering that another desk I found on the Antiques Roadshow site would realise $25,000 to $35,000 at auction and, with contents, $100,000!!!! Michele's desk is a little more elaborate than ours and she said that she actually found the secret compartment; hidden behind the middle door is a false floor, under which is a tiny drawer! The floor behind our door is firmly attached.
I did some research and found that this
particular desk would date to about 1760.
"The many and various words that describe the glamorous members of the desk family are an obvious clue to their origins. Escritoire, bureau, bureau plat, secretaire and bonheur du hour ... yes, the first furniture to be purpose-made for writing derived mainly from 16th century French styles. The Italians also had some influence and, indeed, the word 'desk' probably comes from desco or table.
There are subtle differences between the terms used to describe writing furniture. 'Escritoire' usually refers to a small, portable writing desk - a neat arrangement of drawers and pigeonholes, enclosed by a lid which folds down to double as a writing surface. However, some early bureaux are also known as escritoires.
The bureau became popular during the 17th century and its basic design - a set of drawers with a desk area above - still gives us one of the most practical, space-saving work centres available. A sloping hinged lid folds down to reveal the interior fitted with drawers and pigeonholes; sliding rails pull out to support the lid. Bureaux were made in a huge variety of styles, from simple cottage pieces to those destined for sophisticated townhouses."
Excuse the mess of wires;
I had to remove my computer for the pic!
When we brought it home, I reckon it was covered in nearly 250 years of grime! Patina is the word! Probably had never been polished, only dusted.
I used a tepid water and methylated spirits mix and scrubbed with some old rags. No sandpaper or steelwool touched it. Then I gave it a couple of coats of Organoil, which has a strong, orange smell that disappears after about a week or two.
I love it, sit here every day and, yes, it is most practical for my needs; everything at my fingertips!