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  • Writer's pictureClassic Antique Fairs

Can you keep a secret?

Updated: Jun 13

What could be more intriguing than a secret compartment (or private drawer) in a beautiful Library Secretaire Cabinet? How about even more secret compartments within the first one!

The ingenious device for creating foolproof hiding places and how to access them was discovered by David Harvey of fine English antique furniture specialists W R Harvey. He is hoping to bring the secretive piece to the Birmingham NEC in July, if he has not sold it already. David is looking forward to the first of our Classic Antique Fairs of 2024 having exhibited at the December event last year.


W R Harvey
George III Mahogany Library Secretaire Cabinet

The George III Mahogany Library Secretaire Cabinet is attributed to illustrious Lancaster manufacturers Gillows and is the second of its kind to come David’s way in a matter of weeks. No sooner had he sold one of these excellent pieces to a collector than he was offered another. “When I saw a photograph of it, I nearly fell off my chair,” said David.


With an asking price of £25,000, the cabinet is free-standing and would have been a feature in the centre of an impressive private library. Each of the similar cabinets made by Gillows was commissioned by a wealthy patron with specific requirements but often included alphabetically lettered compartments – an early form of filing - and secret or private drawers. This one has a hinged top with a detachable and opposable reading rest, a long deep secretaire drawer incorporating a baize covered writing slide with fall and six lidded boxes. David cannot disguise his admiration for the craftsmanship and says: “Part of the genius of Gillows furniture lies in the technical know-how used to make cabinets where everything worked then and still functions perfectly today.”


Let’s hope we have the opportunity to see it at our Fair in July.



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