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  • Writer's picturejohn gutsell

Hidden compartments in a 18th century bureau

I customer recently asked me to restore what first appeared to be a very standard looking victorian bureau with the usual round handles.

On closer examination though it was odd that the handles on the top drawers were offset and not central. Also the feet were shorter than they should have been and were more of a mid Georgian design. Another contradictory clue was also the types of nails used in the construction pre-dated the victorian uniform mass production. It turns out that the customer remembers driving his grand parents mad with banging the original brass handles and as a result they changed them to a grand-children proof design.

Primary restoration work required was to get the handles back to their original design. Re-build an inner bureau door, source a an antique lock and key for the fall flap, rebuild a missing foot and to revive and restore the finish making sure to retain its patina.

Many antique bureaus have hidden compartments. This one had an interesting design seldom seen. Inside the bureau flap you see a range of small drawers and a door.

Open the locked door and you notice nothing special.

However if you were to pull out the drawer to the right, move up the hidden catch you can then slide out the base, revealing a hole where three small containers are hidden down inside.

People kept all manor of interesting things in these, love letters, property deeds and jewellery. The master of hidden compartments was the cabinet makers Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793). His son David carried on the work and was also amazing. See this attached link for an example of the quality and a video of the amazing work they did

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