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Friday, September 12, 2014

Restoration Of The Brighton Belle By Wheathills

Video Showing Restoration Of Pullman Carriages 85, 88 and 91 From The Brighton Belle

Historically and technically, this is a very important train. The Brighton Belle is the only one of its kind in the world; it is the source of countless fond memories for many travellers. Unfortunately, as with its counterparts, the Belle suffered from the Beecham reforms with several beautifully decorated carriages being lost for ever. Thankfully a number have survived which now are being enthusiastically restored by the Brighton Belle Trust. Specialist companies up and down the country have been brought together by Rampart Engineering to bring back the beauty and glamour of this much beloved train.

We at Wheathills have been charged with providing restoration expertise to repair, replace and conserve the interior marquetry panels. Great care is taken during the works to apply the correct and appropriate methodology to enable the wonderful atmospheric appearance of the original layout to be maintained and in return provide a fabulous historic train journey. Although the train will remain as original as possible, the engineering will be brought up to modern standards by Ramparts to enable the train to run on the main line between London and Brighton. The condition of the panelling is very poor with severe water ingress throughout carriages 85, 88 and 91. Inappropriate repairs and fire damage have also taken their toll leaving a disheartening level of mismatched timbers, standard of finish and missing components. Wheathills, in conjunction with Morrells, have developed a specialist fire-retardant finish to allow the panels to be French Polished to the required standard.

The immense efforts of the Belle Trust are now beginning to see results after many years of meticulous planning. Restoration is taking place in all areas of engineering and cabinetry. In this snapshot of two years of work you can see the type of restoration requirements and some of the dedicated craftspeople here at Wheathills involved in this project. Please also visit to learn more and help them in their cause by showing your support and passing on the good news about the restoration of this fine piece of British workmanship.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bespoke And Handmade Furniture

In earlier times, commissioning handmade furniture was an important practice amongst the wealthy and well-to-do. The quality of furniture within the home dictated a person’s standing in society, so most people were very hands-on in the building of their custom pieces. The patience and skill required to build handmade furniture led to a great appreciation of both the work of the craftsman and the value that the piece added to the home, at Wheathills all of our Cabinet Makers are highly skilled artisans.

Around the 20th century, the mass production of manufactured furniture took away from the value of original pieces. Instead of looking for quality in each piece of furniture that was put in the home, people began focusing more on price and availability. Gone were the days when furniture was one of the most important aspects of the home.

Recently, people have rediscovered the benefits of commissioning quality handmade pieces. Commissioning bespoke furniture provides buyers with a fulfilling experience that cannot be matched by purchasing from a store or catalogue.

One of the greatest benefits of commissioning handmade furniture is that the client is able to see their ideas turned into creation. When a person seeks to build a customised piece of furniture, they must choose a craftsman that they trust. Once this is done, they are able to work closely with the craftsman, choosing the proper materials and modifying the design to ensure that their product comes out exactly as they wanted. They are also able to frequently check in with the craftsman to watch as their creation comes to life. This process is very rewarding for the buyer because they were able to be very involved with the building of their furniture, making each custom piece so much more valuable to them.

Wheathills have taken this one step further and offer an “Under Lock & Key” facility where clients have their own secure web page, images and video clips of the construction process are posted onto the page for viewing, and the client is kept informed of any new footage.

Another benefit of commissioning handmade furniture is being able to own a piece that no one else has. Even some of the best shop-bought furniture cannot compare to the originality and quality of a handmade bespoke design. Commissioning handmade furniture is a practice that can add lasting value to a buyer’s home. Having an exclusively made item of furniture in the home is a source of pride for many home owners. The handmade pieces are often the first items they show off to visitors and make for a great conversation piece. Wheathills assist at every stage of the creation process and supply highly detailed specifications and artist’s impressions of the furniture. With the increasing availability of low quality and overly-accessible manufactured furniture, there has never been a better time to commission handmade pieces. While the low price tag of shop-bought furniture may provide a momentary thrill for buyers, custom handmade pieces are able to provide a lifetime of satisfaction and value to their homes. Commissioning handmade furniture is a practice that inspires creativity and appreciation for skillfully-crafted, high quality items that will last for years to come.

If you would like to further your interest in Wheathills' Handmade Furniture then ring us on 01332 824819, email us at or please feel free to visit our Showrooms and Workshops at Wheathills Farm, Brun Lane, Mackworth, Derbyshire, DE22 4NE

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wheathills Expert helps to solve Silver Markings Query

The initial message from the client ran:
"We purchased this serving tray with 11 hallmarks. Both handles have six and some numbers. One sequence has: quarter moon with a star in the middle, a scale, and what looks like a thisle plant. The same handle opposite corner has: 00521 1/2 with 20 I N. The other handle contains: a crown, i don't know, and a star. The opposite corner has: i believe is an M B O with an E P or E B underneath the first three letters. All letters are encased in a shield. Any information given would be greatly appreciated."

Our Silver Expert specialises in Antique British Silver, ie Sterling Silver (classic hallmarked Silver), this tray presented a series of different challenges in the quest to track down its roots:

I detail below his response to the query

"This item has presented a considerable number of problems in trying to identify not only the country of origin of the piece but also the interpretation of the marks. The fist thing that can be said is that the piece is not manufactured from British Sterling Silver as none of the marks stamped on the piece are British hallmarks. The next thing is the design of the tray which is what I would call high Victorian and the use of vine leaves and grapes (which look as if they are on border of the tray above the 'pie crust' design) was very popular in the early Victorian period. The plethora of marks stamped on the tray handles cannot be identified from any of my reference books, thus the suggestion that the piece may be foreign is not unreasonable to suggest. HOWEVER the number 00521

appears to be a British Registration mark as this was one of a series of numbers used during the year 1884 on a number of electroplated wares (1-19753 was the full series for this year) whilst 20 IN probably represents twenty inch width of the tray. The letters stamped on the handle cannot be identified because of the convoluted way in which plated silver goods were manufactured and unlike sterling silver these marks did not have to be registered.

The letters 'EP' would indicate that the piece is electroplated silver and the other initials MAY refer to either the manufacturer or the craftsman who made it.

Looking at one mark, namely the scales, according to the reference book there was only one company that apparently used such an identification device and that was the Meriden Britannia Company, but that device was usually stamped within a circle with a double outer edge and the name of the company inserted between the borders and without any supporting marks. If however the tray is American then further research would be required to be carried out by the client as this is outside my area of expertise which is antique British Sterling Silver. All in all this is a fascinating look into how silver plated goods can give rise to good mysteries and which more often than not cannot be solved in their entirety. As with such other matters, the caveat to the above opinion is based solely on seeing a photographic image of the item and not through a hands-on inspection."

Response from client:
"THANK YOU very much for your quick response and helpful information. Our information coincides with both of our findings. I finally narrowed the piece down to: Rogers Brothers, whom along with their designs were bought up buy the Meridian Britannia Company in or around 1895 out of Meridian Connecticut, in turn were absorb into International Silver in 1898. We were hoping for real silver but it is a nice piece and look forward to having it restored. Thank you again for your time and information."

More Information on Identifying Silver Hallmarks can be found in the Features Section of Wheathills.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Anatomy Of Antique Identification - Old Nails
Genuinely old nails (pre 20th century) found in antique pieces can be identified by their lack of uniformity. The older nails were furnace-forged up until the start of the 19th Century and then handmade, as a consequence they will be different in shape and size. After 1880 nails became more uniform as mass production took place (when steel works started utilising the Bessemer Furnace production method).

The Rose head nails were roundish-headed and sat proud of the timber's surface, and although round -headed (due to the nature of the nail head's construction) they left a square hole when extricated. Basically they were made from a square rod of iron, heated and then tapered at one end (often only on two sides) by the smith and the other end was flattened to create the head. The most common form was the rosehead; however, broad headed and narrow L-heads also were crafted. L-head nails were popular for fine finish work due to their more delicate head appearance. Later mass-produced nails were formed from wire with a head attached to the other end rather than their being flattened.

Clues For Determining The Age Of A Nail
1.Check existing nails, do their holes or any markings around them seem in keeping and consistent with the current nail? If not then they are probably a later addition, which in itself may not necessarily be a bad thing unless all of the nails are similar.

2. Over time oxidisation can take place and 'bleeding' appears around the nail. Red / brown discolouration around the nails tend to show that a more modern nail is in place- black discolouration shows that the nail is older due to its make up and content. However, the nail should be the same colour as the surrounding discolouration, if not then Lovejoy may have been around!
Further Research on How To Identify Antiques

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Decoding Silver Hallmarks

We often get asked to help in Hallmark Identification and, when we have the time, are happy to oblige.
We will show some of them on the blog and hopefully it will help you in your search or quest for more knowledge.
Mesage From Client:
"I have a Solid Silver case for matches which has a makers name that I cannot find. I have attached pictures of the piece. DSC02799 shows the hall marks.
OM Maker that I cannot identify
Anchor I think is Birmingham
Lion that I believe is after 1850
B or g early 1900’s
Could you help please.


Our Silver Expert's Response:
This piece is a Vesta Case and would have been attached to a gentleman's Albert silver chain (watch chain for waistcoat) thus the small ring at the top of the case to attach the piece.
The piece itself is sterling silver and was assayed in Birmingham in 1906/07 as indicated by the anchor and the date letter 'g.' The maker's letters 'WO' are for William Oxley, a silversmith about whom very little is known. Oxley was first recorded as carrying on business at 118 Mildmay Road, Mildmay Park, Islington, London, N 16, on 6th January 1904 and later at 1 Murton Street, City Road, London EC on 14th February 1906. This latter address was also his private address and it is probable that he only carried on his own business as a silversmith for a very short time. He is recorded as being a stick mounter, which is someone who puts silver collars and similar decorations on walking sticks.
[Acknowledgements: (a) The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellery and Allied Trades 1838-1914 by John Culme and (b) Jacksons Hallmarks
In the Features Section of our website we have a selection of Silver Makers Marks and a page on how to identify silver hallmarks for reference purposes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How To Use The Bag Press

What is a Bag Press, What Does It Do and How Does It Work? Below is a short video explaining the Bag Press: The Bag Press is a tool used by Cabinet Makers to aid in the construction of pieces with contoured or rounded surfaces, or attaching decorative veneers to contoured pieces.

The piece sits on a Former, which is in effect a timber construction created as a template of the required contour or shape.

In this case marquetry is being affixed to the concave side of a cupboard door. The drawer front lies on the Former and is placed inside the Bag Press, under the rubber matting cover.

The cover is battened down and clamped to create an air tight seal.

Once the Cabinet Maker is sure the Press is airtight the vacuum is turned on and all air is extricated.

The force of the vacuum pulls the rubber cover tightly around the drawer front and the shaped template Former; a pressure equivalent to approximately 8 tons per square inch is achieved.

Whilst this pressure is constant, the length of time the object sits in the Bag Press for is variable dependent upon the type of construction being formed. In the case of Marquetry the Cabinet Makers will leave the piece in for about half an hour; or when actually forming the door from construction veneers would necessitate a Bag Press of about four hours.

Bag Presses are useful in ensuring that a constant, and all encompassing, force is exerted equally over all areas of the piece. Additionally no Tool Marks or scarring will be present on the piece.
Here the Cabinet Maker is removing the Marquetry Tape to reveal the inlaid work. This will be tidied up before being Traditionally French Polished.