A brass bound, mahogany Military Chest by J.W & T Allen – ‘Manufacturers of The Most Improved Portable Military Furniture For The Barrack Room, Camp or Field’.
The above description of Allen is taken from the cover of their 1855 catalogue. Within it they illustrate a similar campaign chest, to the same size, described as ‘No. 20 Portable Mahogany Drawers’ priced at £ 10.10. For that price you also received iron clamped packing cases with your name painted on them. They also offered No. 21 – the chest made to a larger size, No. 22 – the larger size with an extra drawer and No. 23 – made to Second Quality.
The catalogue notes that the top right-hand drawer has a Bramah lock, which ties in with this chest. All the other locks also have a round escutcheon, like the Bramah, but they are not as raised. They are, however, all marked ‘Allen London’. Aside from features in the construction, the locks confirm the maker, who likely would have labelled the packing cases in a more obvious manner.
The mahogany chest has an extra brass strap to the centre of the top to both the front and back and on each side which is not a feature seen on most campaign chests. The flush handles have an indent to the plate below the bale to make it easier to lift. The drawer linings are ash and the replaced, turned feet removable on wooden threads.
The chest has a number of marks and scars to the front and sides includes those made by sliding it in and out of packing cases. It has a good, deep colour and is by a maker that doesn’t come on the market often. The cabinet maker wrote in pencil under one of the drawer dust boards ‘P Vine. July 21/ 56. Dated 1856.