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Campaign or Military Chests

To those who have not studied campaign furniture understanding military or campaign chests can appear quite confusing. When was it made? Where was it made ? Is it original ? What timber is it ?

We often come across military chests and other pieces of campaign furniture online that have descriptions that bear no resemblance to the piece in the photograph at all. Even antique dealers with many years experience fall foul of wanting a piece to be something that it is not or believe it to be much older than it actually is.

I hope that some of the information provided here may help you make a more informed judgement.

To start off with a few common mis-conceptions:

If a chest or other piece of furniture has carrying handles it must be campaign. It could be but not always. A lot of Georgian library furniture had wonderful substantial carrying handles but would never have been taken travelling. Can you imagine anyone taking a large astragal glazed bureau book case which has carrying handles to both top and bottom section on the Peninsula Wars ? We have certainly seen the top sections being sold as campaign purely because of the carrying handles.

All campaign chests should have flush handles, brass corners and strapwork and have turned feet that should be removable. Not quite.The above description would be what most people think of as a military chest which will date to the middle of the 19th century. The campaign chest evolved through the Georgian period and on into the 19th century. In the Georgian period the main premise for the maker was to make a domestic chest or other piece of campaign furniture easier to transport and stronger to survive the rigors this involved. The look would strongly resemble the domestic equivalent which is why it is not immediately obvious they are campaign. There may be a moulding to the top, swan-neck handles, wooden knobs or bracket feet.

I hope that gives you a small insight into what you should be looking at when considering a campaign chest. As with any other type of antique if thinking about buying you are better off dealing with an expert.

By Simon Clarke.

Published at: 05-06-2018