An oak strongbox with olive wood veneer. The box is richly ornamented with brass fittings (with traces of gilding) in the shape of leaves. The elaborate fittings should prevent the box from damage during long travels. The box can easily be moved with the help of the handles on the sides. Centrally there is a large escutcheon, that can be opened with a secret lever. When the lid is lifted, one gets access to the main storage space. In the lid there are to panels that can be opened to hold documents. There are four more secretive storage spaces in the interior. The actual keyhole, used to open the front panel, is hidden behind the lock of the lid.
With a key the front panel can be unbolted. The panel opens to the front. Once opened two small drawers are visible. Hidden to the eye are five more secret compartments. The interior is entirely finished in solid rosewood and rosewood veneer.
In general this type of strongboxes is considered to be French or Flemish. Nevertheless, the vast majority of these cases stem from England. Recent research hypothesizes they were made in London between 1600 and 1720. The earliest evidence for the production of this type of strongboxes comes from the inventory of Edward Traherne, a renowned joiner who died in London in 1675. Traherne’s trading stock contained a number of shipping and traveling chests with various specifications. It may be noted that several of them still had to be finished. English furniture makers advertised with “Strong-Boxes” throughout the first part of the eighteenth century. A typical quality of these boxes are the iron rods that are vertically positioned in the side panels and that can be screwed onto the wooden floor of a ship or carriage.
London Metropolitan Archives, Orphans’ Court Record, Roll 117, Box 15.
Peter Thornton and Maurice Tomlin, ‘Ham House’, Furniture History, XVI (1980), pp. 1-194.
Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, ‘Documents on the Furnishing of Kensington House’, Walpole Society, Vol. 38 (1960-62), pp. 15-58.
National Archives, LC9/280, 281.
Bowett, Adam. Woods in British Furniture-Making, 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary. Wetherby: Oblong Creative, 2012. 193-94.
Geoffrey Beard and Christopher Gilbert (eds), Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds (1986, pp. 16 & 200 & 378).
Coleridge, Anthony. Chippendale Furniture: The Work of Thomas Chippendale and His Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste, Vile, Cobb, Langlois, Channon, Hallett, Ince and Mayhew, Lock, Johnson and Others, Circa 1745-1765. Cirencester: Collectors’ Book Club, 1973. 44.