Picture This CXXIX

I came across yet another coffre fort recently. Like the previous examples, this late seventeenth-century walnut, iron and brassbound coffre would have kept money and other valuables safe whilst its owner travelled.

By utilising a T-handled key (figure 1), two captive screws (figure 2) enable the strongbox to be secured to a chamber or cabin floor.

Fig. 1. Key engaged with captive screw. (John Beazor Antiques)

Fig. 2. Captive screw extending beneath the coffre. (John Beazor Antiques)

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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11 Responses to Picture This CXXIX

  1. bobbarnettpe says:

    Fascinating. What is the compartment in the lid.
    I am not sure how a hotel owner would feel about the screw holes left in the floor, if it was necessary to travel with it. I assume it mostly stayed at home.


  2. Matthew Pease says:

    Nicely cross-veneered interior too. I don’t get how the ‘captive key’ works because the lid can’t close on it. Might it be more of of an awl to prepare a hole in the hotel room floor to take a couple of big countersunk screws?


  3. stevenrey56 says:

    It would seem to me like a utilitarian type of strapping might not look like a valuable war chest. Interesting though.


  4. Pingback: Picture This CXXIX – Redux | Pegs and 'Tails

  5. R Phillips says:

    Bonny Prince Charlie landed in North Britain in 1745 intent on starting a rebellion. He arrived with a ‘war chest’ of money in a French turn-of-the century travelling strongbox of wood bound with brass bands of fleur-de-lis pattern. In 1746, with the rebellion defeated and his money all gone, Prince Charles left the strongbox with his last noble host, before taking ship back to France.
    Numbers of copies of that box were made as discreet Jacobite souvenirs; Walter Scott acquired two of them (now at Abbotsford House). The National Trust Scotland still owns the original. Copies circulate through the antique trade, now mostly shorn of their Jacobite origin. There is another on show at Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh, for example. The Goodwood House example seems more elaborate but basically similar design, although no longer with the original french fleur-de-lis.


    • Jack Plane says:

      What is your reference for “a French turn-of-the century travelling strongbox of wood bound with brass bands of fleur-de-lis”? A war chest containing the wherewithal to kick off a rebellion would have needed to be considerably larger than one of these small strongboxes!

      The fleur-de-lys was employed in I and IV quarterings of the House of Stuart armorial (Stuart reign 1603-1714) and was therefore fashionable in many aspects of domestic decoration. These brassbound strongboxes were made in quite considerable numbers in the 1600s by several specialist London box-makers, so it is no surprise that they also bear the emblem.

      What is your reference for later copies? I have not seen any evidence of copies being made of any particular design.



      • rphillips52 says:

        Bonnie Prince moneybox Thank you for your reply to my comment. Firstly, I would like to thank your site for showing clearly how these boxes screwed down onto a shelf or floor. I have asked several Curators, none was willing to show me. Your site is the only place I have seen a true explanation and demonstration. (Somebody told me there was a sort of bracket under the box that screwed onto a shelf.) Long years ago (actually, decades), pre- computers and Internet, I was chasing obscurities such as a roman strongroom door on Hadrian’s Wall, an unpublished paper of Charles Babbage, and … a small wooden moneybox. You ask for published references to be cited; but alas, I cannot. I have been in two houses in the last decade. The previous house I hoped would be my last house but I had to move. As a result, I have lost two walls of bookshelves and a filing cabinet of pre-computer papers. Now I have no ordinary history books, nor furniture books. I have come down to my lock and crime books. Happening decades ago now, to see an article in a magazine about a National Trust for Scotland exhibition, I saw a small picture of a box, described as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’s moneybox’. I had seen similar examples at Walter Scott’s house. I wrote to the NTS curator, who told me the story that the box had contained the Prince’s money. He donated the box to the Duke of Queensbury (his less than willing host) when the rebels stopped for a night at Drumlanrigg Castle, during their retreat northward. The box was empty, and anyway, a purse would be easier to carry and conceal. Later, copies were made for Jacobite supporters.

        Calling it a ‘war chest’ is perhaps an exaggeration. It was the money the Prince brought for his personal use, which allowed him to come to Britain to start a rebellion. Perhaps some was paid to Highland Chiefs. The men were paid (if at all — some were not) by their own Chiefs. After the ’45 Rebellion, Jacobite souvenirs were popular. There are many, more or less discreet, objects. However, within half a century, Scots had largely lost their enthusiasm for the Jacobite cause.

        New roads and other infrastructure had involved considerable public spending in Scotland. By the time Fort George, near Inverness, was completed, Scotland was passified, Scots fighters had become a valuable part of the British army. Indeed, after the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington made a point of mentioning that it was *Scottish* soldiers who held a farmhouse to the front of Wellington’s main front line, and vital to eventual British victory.

        Is the story I was told by the NTS curator true, or a romantic legend? I cannot say. If it is not true, many folk have been deluded for a couple of centuries. However, considering, for example, the number of places where it is claimed Mary Queen of Scots slept a night, it is impossible to discount the possibility of the box’s story being a myth. After looking through my remaining papers, I can find nothing further for corroboration.

        It is your website. If you deem my comment incorrect/untrue, you can of course delete it. Certainly it is true that during the 19C particularly, there was much faking (often politely called replicas) of Jacobite souvenirs, particularly wine glasses.

        The story of the Prince’s travels around Scotland as an evader after his defeat at Culloden Moor, with the British soldiers rarely far behind him, until he eventually met a French ship and returned safely to exile, is a ripping yarn. And it’s true.

        Richard Phillips


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