Brass bound pieces like this chest of drawers are either referred to as military or campaign furniture and were the state of the art camping equipment from the mid 18th century through to the early 20th for army and navy officers. Their form is generally quite plain, built for convenience and function rather than style, they tended to buck the most popular style influences of the day. There are always exceptions of course and as much of this furniture was made to order customers could always request pretty much what they wanted in the way of luxury.
Military furniture that has seen active service usually has the scars to prove it in the form of scratches, dents and gouges in places where you wouldn’t normally expect to find them on any domestic piece. They’re the result of being transported vast distances over the roughest terrains by road, rail and cart in climates that are generally not kind to furniture. Other indications of their original use might be the addition of a name plate relating to the owner, carrying handles and of course on occasion the odd travel or delivery label slapped on its backside. As none of these were evident on this example it’s unlikely it ever ventured much further than the Army & Navy stores on Victoria Street.
If you’re in to construction details, and you are because you’ve made it to this blog, there are few things worth noting that make this an excellent example. Firstly it’s made almost entirely out of teak including the drawer boxes and back boards. Secondly the brass fittings, especially the handles on the drawers, are of a good quality and by that I mean usable and not just there for appearance. My favourite detail, and it’s barely noticeable, is the faintest whiff of a cocked bead applied to the drawer fronts via a delicate scratched line suggesting it was made by someone with an eye for detail.
When you’re buying period furniture it’s good to look for something with as few miles on the clock as possible and the drawer runners are a good place to look for signs of wear and tare. There’s hardly a mark on these which is surprising given that they’re made from cedar; a material perfectly in keeping with the style but much softer than the teak drawer sides. Also, when the feet are this clean you’d expect them to be later additions but considering the overall condition I’d say they were original. It was estimated to sell for between £300 and £500. The hammer came down at £900. Someone got a good deal.