An 1850’s Welsh Long Case

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

This was such a treasure when it came into our store. I can’t remember why the owners had to part with it, but they told us they believed had been made in the 1600’s. Apparently it had been pulled from a burnt down cottage in the UK at some point in it’s history.

Sadly, some of this is not true. After taking the clock to a local restorer and conservator for better information he was pretty quick to tell me that it was more likely build in the 1850s than the 1600s.

There were a couple giveaways that it wasn’t from the 1600s. Firstly it was made primarily of Cuban mahogany which for a product of the UK strongly suggests 1800’s. English furniture history is often categorised into The Age of Oak, The Age of Walnut, The Age of Mahogany, The Age of Satinwood, etc. Mahogany was most prominently used throughout the 1800s. The import of Mahogany to the UK didn’t reach prominence until the late 1700s.

The other big giveaway was the brand name. A cast iron plate behind the clock face had the name “Finnemore and Sons” pressed into it. A quick bit of research showed that that branding was only in use around 1850.

Because of how special it was, our office decided that the piece would be cleaned up and put in our organisation’s annual fundraising auction. A likely price to be obtained was between $600-$800 AUD. Because of hourly wages and costs, this meant an allotted work maximum time frame of 17 hours to properly restore/conserver the piece.

I will probably talk about this a lot, but so much of the work I’ve been able to do has been dictated by time frames and costs. A perfect conservation effort of this piece would have ideally involved at least 17 hours of just research into the piece and it’s history, but you didn’t get that option in our world.

My decisions on how to proceed were balanced between preservation of history, resources available, and capacity for sale in our market.  Where possible, a minimal impact approach was utilised. However, in certain places, a complete transformation and replacement of surface coating was performed.

I personally find the history of how the piece was worked on and changed to be a fascinating tell of fashion and lifestyle in history. The replacement of the presumably fluted and brass columns to something turned in a Victorian style says something about the tastes of the time.

The time frame and work done for the purpose of quick sale was disheartening. The damage done to the piece’s history through stripping and refinishing frustrates and disappointing me.  The inauthentic aged japanning of the columns is both a proud skill of mine leftover from set and prop work, but also a possibly unethical undertaking for the piece.

All in all, given the parameters of the job provided, I am both proud of and disappointed in the work done.