Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Am Resolute...

The Resolute desk is the president's desk in the oval office of The Whitehouse. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B Hayes in 1880.

It was built from the timbers of the British arctic exploration vessel HMS Resolute (shown below). The Resolute was sent in search of Sir John Franklin in 1852, but abandoned 2 years later. It was found a year after it was abandoned by a US Whaling ship and was salvaged, refurbished and sent back to HM Victoria as a gift from The President and people of the US (at a time when tensions were high between the two countries - they had yet to forge a 'special relationship'.

Years later when the ship was broken up, timber from it was used at the Queen's request to make four pieces of furniture - the resolute desk which was sent to the US President, a similar desk for herself currently in Windsor Castle, a small lady's writing desk for her yacht (below, currently in the naval collection, Portsmouth) and a small writing desk for the widow of Henry Grinnell, an American merchant and philanthropist. 

Above: The Queen's writing desk

The President's desk was originally a traditional partners desk, being open on both sides for legs, but president Roosevelt had a small door built for the gap on the front side of the desk, with the great seal carved on it.

Above: The original desk

Below: A famous photo of the desk, now with door built in, with JFK at the desk and his son playing under-foot. JFK was the first president to install the desk in the oval office. He also had a plinth made to raise the desk up as his knees kept hitting the underside. That plinth was removed and replaced in 1986 with one which matched the desk better and remains in place today.

Below: Willoughby underneath my current desk. I think he will have more room underneath the next one...

Below: Maggie inspecting the plaque with Jimmy Carter in 1979.

So, when it came time to find a large desk for my study at Willowbrook, I decided to have a replica carved for me. I had looked around for a large partners desk for quite a while. You see, I already have a lovely antique writing desk, which was a present from Peter on graduating medical school, but it is not large enough to spread out all my paperwork on when I am in the thick of something. So I decided that I would use it as just that, a writing desk for letters etc and sit it by the window of my study overlooking the front courtyard. 

I would need a much larger desk for the centre of the room which would be my working desk. When I came across the story of the resolute desk I found that it was indeed a pleasing shape and of generous proportions and so I decided that instead of continuing my search for a suitable desk, I would have a replica of the definitive desk made...

I figured that as The Great Seal was not part of HM's original design I was within my rights to have my own monogram carved onto the front of the desk instead...

It is solid mahogany from a renewable source.

Above and Below: A carver at work. You can see some of the other furniture we have commissioned in the background.

Once it is stained a dark walnut colour and had its top inlaid with dark red leather it will look the same as the replica below...

In the two photos below you can see the little escritoire being made for the Brideshead Suite prior to being stained, and then the actual finished piece after it was stained...

Update 4 February 2015: My Completed Desk...


  1. I wonder how many hours a day we spend at our desk? More than in our bed, probably, yet people pay far more attention to getting their bed exactly right. A desk needs to be elegant to look at, huge surface area, well organised spaces for stuff in drawers and shelves, sites for computers telephones and all other bits of technology etc etc. Obama's desk is totally empty on top!!

  2. I love it! Your attention to detail is infectious and is really setting Willowbrook Park aside not only as an outstanding new-build project, but also exceptional property.
    Keep up the great work


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