Antique Davenport Desks


Introduction to Antique Davenport Desks

Antique furniture has always fascinated collectors and enthusiasts alike, with each piece telling a unique story. Among the cherished relics of the past, antique davenport desks hold a special place. These elegant and functional pieces of furniture have a rich history that spans several centuries. In this blog post, we will take a journey through time and explore the captivating history of the antique davenport desk.


The antique davenport desk originated at the end of the 18th century, reputedly named after a British captain, Josiah Davenport, who commissioned its design by Gillows of Lancaster. This portable writing desk was intended to provide ample storage space while being compact and convenient to use. Its innovative design appealed to the growing middle class who sought both functionality and style in their furniture.

Design and Features

Antique davenport desks feature a unique blend of form and functionality. They typically boast a slanted writing surface that opens to reveal various compartments and drawers, perfect for storing writing supplies, papers, and other essentials. Many davenports also include a series of pigeonholes or small drawers for organization. The top of the desk often showcases decorative motifs, such as carved or inlaid designs, further enhancing their aesthetic appeal. Antique davenport desks are traditionally crafted from fine woods like solid mahogany, rosewood, walnut. The sloped writing surface, set at the perfect inclination, offers a comfortable writing experience for correspondence. While early davenports had movable writing surfaces, later iterations were designed with fixed positions for convenient writing.

Davenport desks are known for their versatility and meticulous finishing, often being freestanding and well-finished on all sides. Most are equipped with castors for easy mobility. Despite their compact size, these desks provide ample storage space, with ink wells, pigeonholes, and small internal drawers as common features.

Antique Davenport Desk

The smartly fitted interior of an antique walnut davenport desk, featuring two usable drawers below a dummy drawer.

Evolution and Influences

As the popularity of antique davenport desks grew, they underwent several design changes and adaptations. In the mid-19th century, the introduction of mass production techniques made these desks more affordable, thus accessible to a wider audience. The Victorian era witnessed a surge in ornate designs, incorporating intricate carvings, veneers, and brass accents as common features. Victorian davenports sometimes feature a piano top, resembling the curved form of pianos, which revealed hidden compartments and additional writing storage.

During the late 19th century, the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement brought a shift towards simpler, more streamlined designs. This movement emphasized craftsmanship, resulting in antique davenports with clean lines and functional simplicity. Today, collectors highly value these pieces for their understated elegance and historical significance.

Popularity and Enduring Appeal

Antique davenport desks enjoyed popularity throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, appealing to individuals from various social classes who appreciated their practicality. They were particularly favoured by writers, scholars, and professionals in need of a compact workspace. These desks found their place in libraries, study rooms, and offices, serving as statement pieces that exuded sophistication. The enduring appeal of antique davenport desks lies in their timeless design and craftsmanship. While modern workspaces have transitioned to digital mediums, these desks serve as reminders of a bygone era, evoking nostalgia and a sense of history. Collectors and enthusiasts prize them for their quality construction, attention to detail, and the rich patina that develops over time.

Collecting Antique Davenport Desks

For those passionate about antiques, collecting antique davenport desks can be a fulfilling pursuit. When acquiring these pieces, it is essential to consider their authenticity, condition, and provenance. Researching reputable dealers, auction houses, and antique fairs can provide opportunities to find genuine and well-preserved examples.

Restoration and Care

If you are fortunate enough to own an antique davenport desk, proper care and maintenance are crucial for its preservation. Regular dusting, using gentle cleaning products, and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight or extreme temperature changes can help maintain its beauty and integrity. Consulting a professional restorer experienced in working with antique furniture is recommended for any repairs or restoration work.


The captivating history of antique davenport desks stands as a testament to the enduring allure of craftsmanship and functionality in furniture design. These elegant desks have stood the test of time, captivating collectors and enthusiasts with their rich history and timeless beauty. Antique davenport desks continue to hold a special place in the hearts of those who admire their unique blend of form and function.

Here at Penderyn Antiques we offer a wide range of Davenport desks, to shop our Davenport desks click here.

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