Video: 270-year-old Leeds writing desk is hiding secret

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It could well be the world’s oldest and most beautifully made Transformer.

And next week, visitors will get an up-close look at Temple Newsam’s magnificent mechanised reading and writing desk, crafted more than 270 years ago.

Rachel Conroy, curator at Temple Newsam, Leeds, admiring their newly acquired mechanised reading and writing desk expertly crafted more then 270 years ago.  PIC: James Hardisty

Rachel Conroy, curator at Temple Newsam, Leeds, admiring their newly acquired mechanised reading and writing desk expertly crafted more then 270 years ago. PIC: James Hardisty

The newly-acquired desk, made from mahogany with inlaid and finely engraved brass decoration, was fashioned in around 1740, possibly by Thomas Potter, a rather mysterious London-based master craftsman.

With the push of a button, a complex system of internal springs and weights activates and automatically transforms the desk from a flat tray-top table with a drawer, to one suitable for reading or sketching.

The main body of the table separates to reveal five hidden drawers, one of which contains an original glass inkwell.

The spell-binding desk will be the focus of the first in a series of sessions at the house entitled Transformers: Furniture in disguise – a play on the ‘Transformers: Robots in disguise’ franchise created by Hasbro and Tomy.

Date:8th March 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
Temple Newsam, Leeds.

Date:8th March 2017. Picture James Hardisty. Temple Newsam, Leeds.

Each session will focus on a piece of the house’s collection of unusual furniture.

Rachel Conroy, curator at Temple Newsam, said: “We’re very excited to have added this new desk to our collection and for visitors to get a look at how it works.

“As well as being very beautiful, it really is an impressive feat of both engineering and craftsmanship. Watching the desk transform brings home just how intricate and practical the design is- especially when you consider it was made more than 270 years ago.

Taking part in Transformers: Furniture in disguise is free but usual admission applies. Visit the event’s page at whatson.leeds.gov.uk for details.

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