26 May 2019
January 18, 2012 - Filed under: Antique Tables — Richard

A recent Period Design sale held at Bonham’s of London included several extending antique dining tables – one circular example realising £7500, despite having a modern base. Perhaps the bidders regretted an earlier decision, in which an extending circular dining table by Gillows, valued at £3000 – 5000, failed to find a buyer.

Extendable antique dining tables and the Lancashire firm of Gillows have a particularly strong connection – it was Richard Gillow, Robert’s son, who is credited for inventing the telescopic dining table, around 1800. Antique dining tables were originally restricted to fixed trestle, pedestal or refectory designs. All remained popular, but the Industrial Revolution saw enormous technological advances in terms of furniture design. Following the arrival of the drop-leaved Pembroke table, D-ended styles began to appear. These had removable leaves supported by swing legs, hinges or simply brass brackets and tenons, and had the benefit that they could be used as small consul tables, with the centre as a free-standing unit. However, assembly was cumbersome, and by the dawn of the Victorian period a huge number of ingenious patents had been issued for various extending devices, which were wound or pushed to extend or decrease the table size. However, Richard Gillow is credited with creating the true telescopic system with sliding bearings.

In Lancashire areas like the Ribble Valley, antique dining tables with extendable leaves can be found in many antique dealers. The most common designs are rectangular, but circular versions are not unknown. The Gillows table mentioned above uses a capstan mechanism – although it wasn’t their invention.

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