Inlaid English Victorian Trinity Lighthouse lap desk, England, circa 1870. A fine inlaid writing slant box made by the Trinity lighthouse keepers during the second half of the 19th century. The top of box features inlaid crossed white Ensign of United Kingdom's Royal Navy flags in burr walnut veneer with inlaid corners and framed inside both simple and extravagant parquetry inlaid banding. The front of the box is designed with four marquetry diamond inside a rectangular marquetry arrow banding. The sides are parquetry in three wood in a triangular form, and surrounded by burr walnut veneer and a rectangular frame mahogany and parquetry banding. The hinged lid opens to an interior with a the original blue velvet-covered hinged mahogany writing slope that opens both top and bottom to open storage wells. the front of the box interior features four small divided spaces for ink bottles and a long center cavity for pens. The back of the box is mahogany and the bottom is covered in old green velvet. Box measures 18 inches wide X 10 inches deep X 6 inches tall(closed).
This writing slope is simply amazing workmanship, but does have some flaws. There are small pieces of veneer missing in various area on the box, but is 95 percent intact. The velvet writing slope top was worn out from use and the top and bottom slopes are presently not attached together. We have chosen to leave it "as is" so that the next owner may choose a cover of their desire. The box retains the top keep, but the box lock and key are missing.
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Trinity House was the name for the lighthouse service in Great Britain in the 19th century. While on station, the keepers of lighthouses and lightships made exceptional boxes with fancy wood inlays, including marquetry and parquetry, often featuring sloops, lighthouses and other nautical symbols of the period. Sizes typically fall in the 6- to 12-inch range. The keepers sold these boxes directly to the captains of sailing vessels using Trinity House services. Surviving examples are rare, including still banks, storage boxes, valuables boxes and writing boxes.
A similar tradition was followed in the United States, where keepers of the Nantucket lightship made high-quality baskets for their families and/or for sale to island visitors.