A figured walnut Campaign Chest with straight grain wood to the top and sides.
Walnut military chests used solid, straight grain timber to the carcase, as veneers were more likely to be damaged as it was slid in and out of its packing cases. The better, book matched veneer figured walnut was used on the drawer fronts as the show timber. What is unusual about this walnut chest, and is also evident on our secretaire by the same maker, is the painted figuring onto the solid walnut edges of the drawer dividers. It would have hardly been noticeable when first done. It is more so now due to the aging of the wood.
Comparison with the walnut Secretaire Chest by Hill & Millard, also on this site, confirms the maker. Although there is no maker's label or mark to this chest, Hill & Millard were known to stamp their locks with their name and this chest is no exception, confirming the attribution. The stronger, top right-hand drawer lock bears their name and address of 7 Duncannon Street, London, W. They were very good makers who went the extra step to ensure the quality of their work. This can be seen with the gilt lacquered, brass strapwork which is oversized to the drawer dividers but cut to their width. Most makers would simply use smaller straps. A single tramline mould has also been cut into the drawer edges. The drawer linings are made of ash and the turned feet are original to the chest.
Walnut campaign chests were the best you could buy when first made and this has held true today. Add to this one of the best Victorian makers of campaign furniture and you have a very good piece of furniture. Circa 1880.
Richard Millard, who is noted on various documents as being born in 1795, 1797, 1799 or 1801 dependent on which you read, learnt his skills over a 40 years period working for J.W. Allen. His position at Allen's, starting as a boy, reached such a high level that his designs were registered under his name. These included a patent for a campaign recumbent chair in 1845 and a portmanteau bag in 1851,with his address on both noted as 12 Craven Street, Strand. He met Henry Hill, who had recently commenced as a tailor in Old Bond Street, in 1853. It is likely that Hill was connected to John Hill a trunk maker of Regent Street. Henry suggested that they set up in business together using his £1000 capital and Millard's knowledge. Henry's brother William, it was agreed, would became a partner after the business had become established for 3 years. Later Hill & Millard letterheads and labels state that they were established in 1810 but this is probably an exaggeration, possibly referring to either William Millard's business or when Richard started at Allen's. It is likely that William was a relation of Richard Millard. The official start date of the company is noted in court documents as the 1st of January 1854 although the pair had been organising the partnership and premises the year before. They described themselves as Naval, Military and General Outfitters, Portmanteau, Travelling and Dressing Case Manufacturers.
They chose good central premises at 7 Duncannon Street on the corner with Trafalgar Square in London and advertised them as a Portable Military Furniture Warehouse. It was also close to Millard's residence at Craven Street. There was an early minor dispute between the two as they were supposed to be joint lease holders of their Duncannon Street address but only Hill's name was noted and the landlord would not change it. In later years, the dispute would resurface and break the partnership.
The firm enjoyed great success with the luggage and cabinet making driven by Millard who drew on his years of experience at Allen's. The range of goods they offered, although not as large, was naturally similar to J.W. Allen. This included much of the standard campaign furniture that other London maker's sold such as Douro chairs, washstands, chests of drawers with packing cases and folding beds. They made a version of the Cavalry campaign chest widely associated with the Army & Navy CSL and it is possible that they were the originators of the design. This is not to say that they weren't an innovative maker as well. One of their first act in partnership was to jointly register a design of a Dispatch Writing Case on the 13th of January 1854. They also registered a design for an adjusting arm for reclining chairs in the same year. In January 1873 they patented a portable Pedestal Desk (illustrated below) with an unusual stationery section which also had secret drawers. This stationery holder was also used on their secretaire campaign chests. The campaign table shown below is also inventive in the way it packs down to such a small size. They also had a full range of leather luggage and writing and dressing boxes etc. In September 1867, a further property at 21 Villiers Street, Strand was also taken on as a warehouse and they had a smith's shop at Carting Lane, Strand.
The business was very prosperous but by 1870 Millard was fed up with William's intemperance, his overdrawing of the profits and lack of accounting for money he had taken. On the 29th of July he gave both brothers a notice of dissolution of the partnership. Henry put little work into the business and William was worse than useless. After much pleading by Henry it was agreed William would retire and they would continue together only until the lease was up on Duncannon Street. In drawing up a new agreement, Millard once again had trouble with Hill over the ownership of the lease. Henry Hill would not show Millard the document and wanted only his name on the lease. The partnership was due to continue until the 29th of July 1874, the date Hill said the lease ended. The lease was actually set to expire in December 1874. Perhaps Hill gave the wrong date in the hope that nearer the time he could once again persuade Millard to continue the partnership. In June of that year, Millard agreed a 21year lease with the landlords for 7 Duncannon Street. Hill took him to court.
The business continued to advertise as Hill & Millard in 1875. After many exchanges between the pair's solicitors, in December 1875, Millard offered Hill the more than generous settlement of £ 5000 in dissolution of the partnership and it is assumed that he took it. In 1876 Millard advertised the business as Richard Millard (late Hill & Millard) and continued to do so until his death in 1886. At this point it is not known what happened to the business but mysteriously the name Hill & Millard at 7 Duncannon Street starts to appear again in adverts.
They continue to be listed as bag and trunk makers at Duncannon Street upto 1934 when the address changed to 103 Jermyn Street. When Richard Millard died in 1886 we can guess that his family either sold the business as a going concern or the next generation took over and reformed a partnership with Henry Hill or his relatives. Further research is needed on this area.
Hill & Millard are rightly celebrated as one of the best names in Victorian campaign furniture and there is little doubt that the manufacturing side of it came from Richard Millard. There work is of a high quality and their designs, although many conformed to the other London makers, also showed clever innovation. If Millard is to be believed he was also largely responsible for the business side of it. However, he may never have left Allen if it wasn't for Henry Hill and so both should be recognised for their contribution to campaign furniture.