Dumb waiters and whatnots

The first dumb waiters appeared in the 1740s.  The basic form is a central column on tripod base with three circular trays of graduated size. The name ‘’ dumb waiter’’ is derived from its function as a receptacle for food from which guests could help themselves.

Until the 1770s, decoration followed that of tripods tables. After that, distinct variations began to emerge, with the widest variety of designs produced in the Victorian period. Trays are most often dished, with lip around the edge but finest are those with galleries.

In the late 18th century the plain whatnot firs appeared. Initially used as receptacle for books and manuscripts, it soon became general ‘’holdall’’. Victorian variations on the form included the whatnot ‘’Canterbury’’ –music stand and writing desk, with bookrests and drawers. Decoration took form of pierced galleries, carved and turned spindles, deeply shaped shelving and veneers and marquetry.

Victorian walnut whatnot.A highly ornate design with drawer to base and turned supports. Many whatnots were made of walnut and figured walnut with the most expensive pieces exhibiting the finest craftsmanship.

Victorian, walnut corner whatnot.Fine example with decorative satinwood inlays, shaped upstand and turned supports. Typical mid- Victorian piece.