Campaign furniture has been around since the times of Julius Caesar and was carried by the Roman Army. Later in time it was introduced in the early 18th century to provide high ranking British officers fighting campaigns abroad with some of the home comforts they would miss whilst serving in the field of duty under canvas.
This furniture was good quality and made to endure the rough and rugged travelling involved to reach their destination.
The selection of furniture produced was large and varied and its wide range included chests of drawers, writing desks, beds, chairs, bookcases, card & gaming tables, washstands, commodes and even chests to carry fine wines and liqueur.
|A 19th Century English Mahogany Campaign Chest, Available from; www.fshenemaderantiques.com|
No expense was spared in the making of this furniture and the British military employed such esteemed furniture makers as Thomas Chippendale & George Hepplewhite. The design and construction had to be stylish but at the same time foldaway and transportable with relative ease. In those days it seems the appearances and luxurious lifestyle of the “Top brass” came before the tough rigour of war. They expected the same home comforts and lifestyle whether on campaign in Asia or Africa.
|British Campaign Bookcase in Rosewood, made in India circa 1900, Available from; www.parisflea.1stdibs.com|
The vast majority of campaign furniture of this time made in England was built in mahogany or walnut, both hard woods and able to stand up to the task in hand. As time went on campaign furniture began to be made “en route” and finer exotic woods such as camphor, teak and paddock were used.
|English Campaign Table in Mahogany circa 1800, Available from; www.foleyandcoxhome.com|
Nearly always the hardware on campaign furniture was brass, the handles were fitted to sit flush with the wood to ensure the piece was symmetrical and didn't have any obstructions when being packed. Brass corners and straps were also fitted to restrict any damage caused when the furniture was transported.
|A Very Rare Mahogany Campaign Card Table circa 1898 by Albert Barker, London, Available from; www.nicholasbrawer.com|
A Major General by the name of Lachlan Macquarie wrote both in 1791 & 1806 of the expensive loss of his luggage and equipment after having had to abandon it.
“I was for some time in great pain and anxiety about my baggage, having received information on the line of march, from my cook, who came up to me puffing and blowing and terribly frightened, saying, that he was obliged to quit the bullock he led which carried my tent, in order to save his life from a Looty that attacked him, and he saw my head servant Francis run away from another Looty, as he was with and had charge of all my bullocks and baggage I concluded that I had lost everything belonging to me. What distressed me above all was the idea of losing all my paymasters books and papers, which would occasion great perplexity and doubts in the settlement of accts with the regiment,But I was happily relieved from all my fears and anxiety on this score, in the course of an hour by the agreeable appearance of my head servant Francis with part of my baggage. Having only lost one bullock with my tent, my table and some baskets with wine and Liquors and sundry small articles for messing – in all amounting to to about two hundred rupees in value.”
In October 1806 he then penned;
“I must therefore still prosecute my original intention of joining the 86th Reg in the field for which I have already made all the necessary arrangements and preparations by equipping myself completely for field service at an enormous expense have already laid out not less than five thousand Rupees on several field equipments. “
|Major General Lachlan Macquarie|
So as you can see it cost a small fortune for each officer to equip himself with the items he considered himself worthy of for a campaign. (Just as a after note, Lachlan Macquarie ended his career as the 5th governor of New South Wales..)
|Late 19th century British campaign Tobacco Chest, Available from; www.douglasrosin.com|
Today antique campaign furniture is popular and sought after, the fold away & compact style suits a home or apartment that is short on space. It is expensive, but alternatively there is also some very good quality reproduction pieces available.
Personally I adore the style and elegance of campaign furniture with its almost timeless appearance especially antique with the endless history and stories each piece holds.
|An British Naval Sea Captains Secretaire circa 1890 in Mahogany, Available from; www.parisflea.1stdibs.com|
|A Very Fine English Campaign Dining Table circa 1830, Available from; www.danielsantiques.com|