Of somewhat later date, but in very similar style to this two-tier sideboard, or buffet, is the charming oak box or desk illustrated here in Figs. 86 and 87. The carving of the sloping-hinged front, in bold relief, appears to suggest that this was rather an illuminator's colour box than a desk, and the nest of drawers was probably intended to contain the bladders of pigment or gold in powder or leaf form. The sloping front is finely carved with the royal arms of James I, which show that this example is of seventeenth- not of sixteenth-century date. The sides, above the reeded band, are somewhat crudely inlaid in the manner of the period. This box is the direct prototype of the later slope-fronted bureau.
With the next example we are introduced to the process of lathe-turning, in the fashioning of wood, and although turning is found in the chairs of the reign of Henry VIII, these "tourneyed chairs" were, evidently, a novelty, and much prized at that date, as they are frequently referred to in the inventories of the time, a distinction shared only with important chests of ornate character. That turning was an actual innovation in the middle years of the sixteenth century would appear to be an established fact, yet it may be only a revival. There was little or no scope for its use in the earlier furniture, yet, in the chancel screens of the very first years of the fourteenth century, as at Chinnor in Oxfordshire, and at Southacre in Norfolk, the shafts of the columns under the traceried heads are of round section, if not actually lathe-turned. The early English aisle columns of stone would offer the suggestion, and, as we have seen, the woodworker copied the stonemason very closely in the early periods. It is probable, of course, that these round shafts were fashioned by hand, without the use of the lathe at all, and this is further suggested by the fact that the diamond-sectioned mullion, or shaft, rapidly ousts the turned column in the screens of the later years of the fourteenth century, and round balusters or shafts do not appear again. The diamond or square section would be obtained by workmanlike means, with the tools of that date, whereas round shafts, in the absence of the lathe, would be troublesome to produce, with very little decorative result to compensate for the time involved, yet the capitals, bases and neckings of the Chinnor and Southacre screens seem to imply either lathe-turning, or remarkable accuracy in the fashioning by hand.
Fig. 89. Oak Dole Cupboard. - First half of the seventeenth century. - St. Alban's Abbey.
Fig. 90. Oak And Pearwood Dole Cupboard. - Height, 2 ft. 6 ins.; width, 3 ft.; depth, 8 1/2 ins. l.ate seventeenth century. - H. Clifford Smith, Esq.
In the early lathes the wood was " chucked " in the modern way, but the actual revolution was effected by a grooved wheel fixed to an outer prolongation of the right-hand shaft of the chuck. A bow with a loose string of gut was then wound once completely round the wheel, and the operation of drawing the bow smartly backwards and forwards, caused the wood to revolve. This bow-work was the province of the " bow-boy," the wood-turner's apprentice in his first year. Watchmakers at the present day sometimes use the same method for very small lathes. The cranked foot-lathe appears, however, early in the seventeenth century, but it is doubtful if the slide-rest, for spiral turning, was known before the middle of the eighteenth century, as many, if not all, of the "barley-sugar" twistings of the Restoration chairs are undoubtedly fashioned by hand from the plain turned shafts. The pole-lathe is of very early origin, and is used, to this day, in some country districts, especially in Buckinghamshire.
Lathe-turning loses its novelty in the early seventeenth century, but spindles and columns remain a very favourite device for many years. Often these balusters are split, and applied to flat surfaces as decoration, as we have seen. Many examples of this work will be noted in the illustrations to other chapters both in the earlier and in the later part of this book.
Towards the middle of the seventeenth century a number of small cupboards were made, with open fronts partly filled in with turned balusters or spindles. They were intended either to be placed on a table, shelf or bracket, or to be fixed to the wall. Their probable use was to contain articles of food, for the keeping of which ventilation was necessary. Numbers of these cupboards are to be found in churches, as it was the custom, at this date, to distribute loaves and similar offerings to the poor of the parish, on certain stated occasions, in fulfilment of the terms of wills of charitable persons. One such gift, from the Skinners' Company, survived to recent times, if it has ever been abolished. These spindle-fronted dole-cupboards (for want of a better name) may have been made especially for such offerings, but this cannot be substantiated. Fig. 88, in the South Transept of St. Alban's Abbey, was undoubtedly used for such a purpose. Fig. 89 is from the same source. Both are designed with considerable taste, and the workmanship, especially the carving, is good. The spindles of the former are of the pattern of the later Charles I period. The latter may be earlier. The date, 1770, scratched on the right-hand bottom corner, is probably that of the commencement of a dole in accordance with a bequest. The cupboard itself cannot be later than about 1630, according to the style of the carving of the end visible in the illustration. Fig. 90 is another of these oak cupboards, considerably later in style, with three drawers below, beaded in the manner of the last decade of the seventeenth century. Fig. 91 is partly from deal, with arcaded panels, the framing inlaid with a chequered pattern and the top bracketted in imitation of miniature joist-ends, in the earlier timber-house fashion, here used as dentils only. This is a charming piece of the simple kind, of date about 1640, with pear-wood spindles of fine pattern, and the carving in very flat relief, almost like " poker-work." Fig. 92, made to stand on a table or shelf, and secured to the wall by nails through the tops of the back uprights, is in the form of a miniature buffet. It has all the appearance of East Anglian work of the middle seventeenth century.
Fig. 91. Dole Cupboard Of Deal.
Carved and inlaid.
Height, 2 ft.; width, 2 ft. 4 ins.; depth, 9 ins.
First half of the seventeenth century.
H. Clifford Smith, Esq.
Fig. 92. Oak Hanging Cabinet. - Height, 2 ft. 6 ins.; width, 2 ft. 4 ins.; depth, 9 ins. - With rails of pear. - Mid-seventeenth century. - H. Clifford Smith, Esq.