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Campaign Furniture – The Origins and History

Campaign furniture, also known as British campaign furniture, was designed to be packed up and carried. Its origins can be traced back as far as the Roman armies of Julius Caesar.

In Europe, most of the surviving pieces are from Napoleon’s campaigns in the 19th century. However, it is most commonly associated with the rise and expansion of the British Empire, which saw an increasing demand for portable furniture.

18th Century Furniture Makers

Famous furniture makers such as Chippendale, Sheraton and Gillows offered specialist campaign living pieces and by end of the 18th-century famous makers such as Thomas Butler and Morgan & Sanders, dedicated to producing campaign furniture, took up this lucrative opportunity.

Popular Pieces

The most common item of campaign furniture was the chest of drawers, often referred to as a military chest or campaign chest. Campaign chests’ primary wood was mahogany or teak.  Brass corners and straps offered protection while being carried on pack animals or in wagons and typify the distinctive “campaign look”.

British Campaign Chest
British Campaign Chest | The African Touch

Probably the most famous campaign chair was the Roorkee chair. It was first built in the village of Roorkhee, in the foothills of the Himalayas. During the Boer War in South Africa many British Officers carried it on campaign, so campaign furniture is now used in upmarket safari camps and lodges throughout Africa.

Campaign living on safari

Campaign furniture was a craze amongst the rich and famous going on an African safari.  Safari is a Swahili term meaning a journey or expedition. People who embarked on African safaris expected the very best comfort. Their Safari outfitter could provide it using the British Army furniture.  The tradition of using campaign furniture in safari camps and lodges across Africa continues to this day and is often referred to by decorators as campaign living.