Captain Moonlight's Notebook: Thackeray desk is a walking treasure

Share
Related Topics
NEWS reaches me of consternation among staff at the Observer. A rather special piece of furniture, known as the Pendennis table, has gone missing. It is a large oblong leather-topped Victorian table on which - according to a brass plate screwed into the middle of it - William Makepeace Thackeray wrote his novel, Pendennis, in 1850. It came into the possession of the Observer when the Pall Mall Gazette, a sister paper, folded early this century.

Donald Trelford, the present editor, shortly to be replaced following the Guardian's takeover, uses it as his desk at the Marco Polo building, Battersea, the Observer's headquarters. Or did until last week. He told me he had originally rescued it from oblivion before the newspaper moved from its former headquarters at St Andrew's Hill, Blackfriars, to Battersea in January 1988. On Tuesday when staff turned up for work it had gone. A modern substitute was in its place.

This was distressing for the hacks, because the table has followed the Observer for years round its various offices. David Astor, Trelford's illustrious predecessor, used it as a conference table. And when the newspaper decided to start a diary in the 1950s it chose Pendennis as its title and Astor gave the job to Anthony Sampson, the Anatomy of Britain man.

But, then, things always seem to go missing when newspapers, particularly Sunday ones, change ownership. On the day the Sunday Times was bought from Lord Thomson by Rupert Murdoch in January 1981 the fridge of the editor, Harold Evans, disappeared from his office. Its contents included various bottles of alcohol, ice, a pair of smoked trout and several bars of KitKat. Missing too were hundreds of green carpet tiles from another part of the building in Gray's Inn Road, Holborn. The disappearance has never been explained.

There was also an unseemly squabble between the Times and the Observer when the former moved out of its original home in Printing House Square to Holborn in June 1974 and the Observer moved in. The dispute was over a large Henry Moore sundial which stood in the forecourt of Printing House Square. It was sold off and the money was pocketed by the Astor family trust which owned the Observer.

However, there should be no fears for the missing Pendennis table. Mr Trelford told me on Friday that he was putting together a collection of Observer artefacts and 'archive material' so that the Guardian could choose what it wanted when the newspaper's new editor, Jonathan Fenby, takes over, possibly early next month. He said the table was wobbly and damaged and had been sent away for repairs.

I only hope a large oil painting known as 'Ascherson's cat' by the Berlin artist Sara Haffner is among the 'archive material'. It, too, has apparently disappeared. Painted in the 1960s, it belongs to my colleague Neal Ascherson and is of his marmalade tabby on a chair poised to pounce on a copy of one of the first editions of the Observer's colour magazine.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
 

Labour's Simon Danczuk is flirting with Nigel Farage, but will he answer his prayers and defect?

Matthew Norman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick