Both were almost certainly commissioned by Henry Page Croft for Fanhams Hall near Ware, a Hertfordshire mansion remodelled and extended by William Wood Bethel (1848-1909) in the Arts & Crafts style. Estimated at £8000-12,000, the walnut secretaire pictured here sold at £42,000 (plus 22% buyer’s premium).
The original design for the 4ft 3in (1.3m), 14-drawer secretaire is held by the Cheltenham Trust. The drawing is inscribed Writing Cabinet in Solid English Walnut, dated August 26 1903 and includes the surname of cabinetmaker Percy Burchett (1887-1940).
Variations on this popular design exist. A similar secretaire with fewer drawers and a single cupboard made by Gimson’s chief cabinetmaker Peter Waals was sold by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter for £34,000 in October 2014.
The Sworders price is among the highest at auction for Gimson furniture. Back in 2007 Woolley & Wallis sold an oak ‘double wishbone’ table, made for the Aylsham Poor House in the 1890s, for £67,000.
The design for a cedar linen press with a pair of five-panelled doors and six slide-out trays is also held by the Cheltenham Trust. The example in Stansted, probably made by Waals, was pitched at £3000-5000 but sold at £22,000.