In Cumbria and Lancashire, antique desks seem to go in cycles. One month, everyone will want substantial partner and pedestal desks, with lightweight writing furniture going unsold. Another month, the reverse will be true. But one thing will always be true – when it comes to price, good provenance will always add to the value. In areas like Preston, antique desks are the one area where provenance should be almost guaranteed. Antique desks in Lancashire were purchased for mill offices, council chambers and other areas where records were likely to be kept. In reality, this is rarely the case. Factories get torn down, and records burnt. Occasionally, a valuable piece such as a Gillows partner desk will have its provenance intact, generally because it was kept for the family boardroom. All too often, though, those precious records have been scattered to the wind.
Sometimes, the record of provenance may be no more than a maker’s stamp or a piece of paper stuck to a drawer, Sometimes, that’s enough. In November 2010 an antique dining table valued at £2,000 sold for £48,000 at auction. The reason? A piece of paper stuck underneath instructing the vendor it had once been the property of Windsor Castle.
Many antique desks in Lancashire have no provenance at all, yet are still prized for their beauty or usefulness. But if you want to make a serious investment, antique dealers in towns like Preston will steer you towards those antique desks with “rare provenance.” Expect to pay more, though.
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