DAVENPORT DESKS - 1795 to 1885
A small free-standing writing-desk made in large numbers and with many variations through the 19thC. The name derives from an entry in the 1790s cost books of Gillow in lancaster - 'For
Capt Davenport, a desk' - alongside a design for a box like desk with drawers opening to one side and a
writing slope above. Although presumably as a space-saving design for use on board ship, its small size and
lower than-average height ensured its popularity with women and children.
Regency examples had a simple slope-top which could either slide forward or sideways on runners to provide knee-space, or
swivel to one side on a stout peg. Some had a brushing and/candle slide at one side.
The flat surface above the slope was generally bordered by a brass gallery. Many had a long narrow drawer fitted with small
compartments for ink and writing implements which pulled out from one side. This was usually released by removal of a long pin inside the antique desk
its head masquerading as the knob of a small dummy drawer. Most were supported on bun feet, some on short, turned legs on castors.
During the 1820s the front was often faced with pilasters, but more commonly a fixed slope, supported on pillars rising from a plinth, replaced the sliding top. The lower
drawers became correspondingly narrower. Galleries were constructed from wood, and bun feet were flattened or replaced by
After 1860 'piano lid' tops were popular with pull-out writing-slides attached to antique desks.
During the 1880s fashionable 'Art Furniture' Davenports had short ring-turned legs and panels of gilded and painted decoration.
Totally plain antique Victorian pieces are within the average buyer's reach. Highly decorative, burr veneer, harlequin examples can fetch sums in high
four figures. The majority are in the low four figures. Surprisingly, fussy Victoria Davenports sell better today than more elegant Georgian ones.