New to Graham Smith Antiques is a huge, Chippendale-style partners desk, measuring 183cm wide! The desk in our collection is of special local interest having been made in Newcastle in the Chippendale style by one of the leading cabinetmakers of the early 18th century. The Chippendale style used to describe the desk refers to Thomas Chippendale, a popular 18th century, London cabinetmaker who set the trend of using mid-Georgian, English Rococo and Neoclassical styles to make his unique mark. Chippendale was so influential that in 1754 he published a book of his designs which other cabinetmakers of his time followed enthusiastically. Many top class cabinet makers working today use his designs in their own work, such as this desk.
Apart from the good quality mahogany and excellent storage space design (including eighteen drawers), this partners desk stands out because of it's manufacturers, Sopwith & Co. Ltd of Newcastle upon Tyne. The Sopwith business was founded early 19th century, contuing until early 20th century was set up by Jacob Sopwith, (1770-1829) who was the first cabinet maker in the family.
Thomas Sopwith, son of Jacob, was born on Pilgrim Street (in central Newcastle) in 1803 and served an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker. The Sopwith name was so well known, The Newcastle Journal, a local newspaper still in print today, published an article on May 11th, 1833 with headlines reading: "Destructive Fire". It goes on to say: "On the evening of Saturday last, the cabinet workshop of Thomas Sopwith, situated in the Painter Hough, in this town, was consumed with fire." It was shortly after this event that Thomas became a civil engineer and went on to design aircraft for the First World War. Thomas's other accomplishments included designing a prison for Newcastle and being a surveyor, mainly of mines, which may have led to his appointment as Chief Agent of Blacketts, Allendale & Weardale Lead Mines in 1848. He also surveyed railways such as Newcastle and Carlisle, County Durham, and he was the surveyor of the roadway from Newcastle to Otterburn.
We would like to say a special thank you to the ancestry.com for their helpful website which provided some of the research of this week's blog post.