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An attractive & very sturdy 19th century mahogany and brass-mounted two-tiered dumb waiter


The two circular tiers with carved fluted and reeded edges supported by three ring-turned brass columns, raised upon a sharply ring-turned knopped column with three gracefully downswept square tapering legs terminating in brass capped feet on castors.


This form of 'Dumb waiter' with two tiers raised by three columns was illustrated in Gillows of Lancaster & London Estimate Sketch Book dated 14 February 1803 (see illustration). The form was evidently popular since the same model 'with two tops' appears again in Gillows Estimate Sketch Book of 1819.


Today, this open-tiered & very sturdy form of dumbwaiter makes a stylish portable bar, showcasing bottles on the lower tier and glasses on the upper, as well as the more classical use as a dessert stand for grand meals.


Measurements: 44-3/4 inches high; 24 inches diameter


History of The Dumb-Waiter


According to Kathryn Kane, "a favorite form of fashionable entertainment among the upper classes of England in the early eighteenth century was a fruit or sweetmeat banquet. Essentially, these were grand desserts which were set out very elegantly, usually on a long table in a large drawing room. Though most guests at these sweetmeat banquets did enjoy wine with their sweets, the presence of all those waiters and goblet boys put a considerable damper on conversation. It was well known at that time that servants were always listing for any tidbit of information they could use to blackmail the people concerned or to sell the secrets to professional blackmailers. The more embarrassing and intimate the indiscretion, the higher the price the sharp-eared servant could demand. Thus, guests at sweetmeat banquets had to mind their tongues and refrain from discussing the juicy gossip in which they were most interested. By the late 1730s, some clever furniture designer or cabinet-maker found a solution to this problem. They reinterpreted the tiered glass pyramid on a larger scale, in mahogany. This completely English furniture form was called the dumb-waiter, since it would serve in place of a human waiter. These mahogany "waiters" were both deaf and dumb, and were therefore unable to hear or tell secrets. Thus, they became popular in upper class homes, especially for sweetmeat banquets, almost overnight. Early dumb-waiters were almost always made of mahogany, the most elegant and fashionable wood of that age. They were constructed with a single, central carved or turned shaft, typically supported on three arched legs which terminated in claw and ball feet. Most of these dumb-waiters had casters attached to their feet so they could be easily moved around a room. The earliest casters were made of layers of thick leather, but by mid-century, brass casters were more common. The ornamental central shaft would support three, or sometimes four, round trays of graduated sizes, also made of mahogany, which were affixed so that they would revolve around the shaft. In addition to being beautiful and fashionable, mahogany was an exceptionally hard and strong wood which could take a very hard, smooth, high gloss polish, known in the trade as "teaboardy." This was the same type of finish which was used to finish tea trays and tea boards, since it made the wood nearly impervious to moisture and heat. Some of the trays had a raised edge, carved from the mahogany board of which the tray was made. Other trays were flat, with the addition of a raised gallery edge, usually about a couple of inches high. On these hard, glossy finished trays could be placed the wines and confections which were served at a sweetmeat banquet, thus eliminating the need for eavesdropping servants. Gossip and all the popular on-dits could then flow freely in conversation at these fashionable banquets."

A 19thC mahogany & brass-mounted dumb waiter, manner of Gillows


    For more information, please contact


    416 666 6295

  • Additional information


    From the collection at Chelster Hall, a Jacobean mansion located in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Built in 2006 for retired beer-magnate Hugo Powell, the stately home covers over 47,000 square feet, and sits on a 10.3 acre lot backing Lake Ontario.

    Powell was born in India, and later spent some of his years in England where he studied at Charterhouse School prior to emigrating to Canada in 1971 where he became the president of Labatt Brewing Company. During his time in this role, a Belgian company called Interbrew SA purchased the company. Powell was promoted to CEO of Interbrew at which time he relocated to Belgium. Upon his retirement in 2002, Powell returned to Canada and built Chelster Hall.


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