The popularity of the Davenport lasted right up until the end of the 19th century

Last week one of our daughters sent my wife a text which read ‘Unforgotten’ and this was followed by three emoji, each being a face crying tears.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:00 am
Davenport drawers.

Not being particularly emoji savvy we both puzzled over this message, thinking we had forgotten something that had upset her. Then the penny dropped, the end of the particularly sad Unforgotten Series had made her cry.

Long before texting and the emoji, an entry made in the 1790s in the records of the cabinetmakers Gillow of Lancaster, was much easier to understand, it stated ‘Captain Davenport, a desk’.

This is thought to be the first recorded example of the small writing cabinets now known by the Captain’s name.

The basic form of a Davenport consisted of a small chest of drawers with a small desk compartment on top. This form changed very little throughout the 19th century when most examples we see today were made.

Most Davenports have four drawers opening to the side, with simulated drawer fronts on the opposite side. Some examples do differ slightly with cupboards concealing the drawers and these were also symmetrical with opposing dummy cupboards.

Most Davenports were fitted with castors for easier mobility and because of the stand alone quality of them all four sides were equally well veneered and finished.

The top section generally comprises of a sloping lid, inset with a tooled leather writing surface.

The first Davenports had a top section that would slide forward to accommodate the writer’s legs, but by the mid 19th century they were beginning to be built with the desk section fixed in the writing position.

The popularity of the Davenport lasted right up until the end of the 19th century.