Own a piec e o f British c olonial milit ary his tory
CAMPAIGN furnitur e is furnitur e that, in da ys gone by, was specifically made to be dismantled, folded up and packed up and carried on the march.
It has been used by travelling armies since the time of J ulius Caesar and e ven ear lier.
With the rise and expansion of the British Empire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centu ries British gentlemen began to dominate the army, g overnment and c ommerce in c olonies throughout the world. The finest British furnituremakers pr oduced “campaign furnitur e” f or this new class of traveller. British officers of high social position in the Geor gian and V ictorian periods (1714 to 1901) took it for granted that when they set out on a military camp aign in Africa or India they c ould enjo y the same s tandard of li ving as they did at home.
These furnituremakers competed t o de vise ever more elegant and ing enious “knockdown” chairs, t ables, desks, bookcases, games t ables, sofas, beds and even bidets for their ladies — all in the height of fashion. The British officers and civilian gentlemen travelling to the colonies could order complete suites of furniture for the genteel life abroad.
By the mid 19th century it was possible to buy a complete Barrack Room Outfit from several London firms.
This outfit would comprise chair with packing case that w ould convert t o a t able, a washstand that would pack down into a hip bath, a camp bed, and chest of drawers — often referred t o as a military chest or campaign chest. Some of the se chests also incorporate a secretaire d rawer.
These ar e generally made of either t eak or maho gany and break down into two sections with screwoff bun feet.
The br ass c orners and s trap work off er some protection and typify the distinctive “campaign” look. Their packing cases would then form a wardrobe.
The demise of campaign furniture manufacture can, lar gely, be blamed on the B oers during the Boer War. The beginning of the 20th c entury sa w chang es in the way war was conducted.
The B ritish had been t aught a le sson by the B oers, w ho could mo ve quickl y and the y disc overed their mobile unit s were not quite as mobile as the y thought. In 1 903, T he B ritish Secretary of St ate for war, H.O. ArnoldForster stated: “The British Army is a social institution prepared for every emer gency e xcept that of w ar.”
The ne w c entury saw de velopments in transport and the rise of the mot or car meant that travel was quicker, making it less of a necessity to equip yourself f or a long journey.
There w as a decrease in demand f or campaign furnitur e.
Portable furnitur e was s till used f or sporting e vents and shooting p arties, but it was less acceptable for an offic er to have a large baggage train.
Today disc erning collectors ar e happ y to pay “top dollar” for campaign furnitur e.
Cannon’s Auctioneers have had two military chests in the last two months that sold at R9 000 and R17 000 respectively.
This Tuesday Cannon’s will be selling this rare display cabinet on che st that promises t o g enerate considerable int erest.
This r are Displ ay Cabine t on Che st, which is rich in history, will be up f or grabs this T uesday at Cannon’s.
This T uesday Cannon ’s will be s elling this r are Display Cabine t on Che st that pr omises t o g enerate considerable int erest.