Fig. 24. Carved Walnut Chest (French). - 4 ft. 3 3/4 ins. wide by 1 ft. 9 ins. deep by 3 ft. 4 1/2 ins. total height. Date about 1540. - Cap1 N. R. Colville, M.C.
Fig. 25. Chip-Carved Chest Of Elm And Oak. - 3 ft. 1 1/2 ins. long by I ft. 1 1/4 ins. high by I ft. 1 3/4 ins. back to front. - Date about 1500.
The sixteenth century witnessed the abrupt decline of the fine earlier Gothic traditions, after the destruction of the monasteries began in 1536. The Gothic lingered, but the earlier guidance of the Church is clearly absent in the woodwork produced after this date. Such a decline can be explained by no other hypothesis than the dispersal of the former knowledge and taste, with the abolition of the monastic houses. It is at this period that we get crude Gothic ornament of cusped tracery, coupled with still cruder construction, which might cause one to imagine that these examples were the forerunners of much of the fine woodwork of the fifteenth century. There are later methods visible in many of these pieces, however, such as the scratch-moulding of the upright styles of Fig. 36 for example, which show that mere crudity is no necessary indication of age. The construction here is from solid boards, without framing, uprights nailed to the sides in the manner of the early chests, and the doors of one piece, pierced and carved. No woodworker of the Gothic period, however, would have been responsible for the Catherine-wheel-like pattern of the tracery in the lower door of this cupboard, nor the circular holes above the arcading in the upper one. This must be regarded as an example of the depraved period, from about 1540 to 1560, when the former Gothic designers were roaming the highways or lurking in the forests of England as vagabonds and outlaws.
Fig. 26. Oak Reading Desk - 3 ft. 2 1/4. ins. high by 2 ft. 9 7/8; ins. wide by 1 ft. 9 1/2 ins. deep. Late fifteenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
The dole cupboard, Fig. 37, said to have come from Ivychurch, an old house at Alderbury in Wiltshire, but probably looted from a monastery at the Dissolution, is earlier, and better than the preceding. To begin with, it is low, not as high as an ordinary table, and has little or none of the appearance of a cupboard cut down. It has the usual central door (it is to be noted that double doors shutting together do not appear, in English furniture, until the close of the seventeenth century) pierced with geometrical devices, and the broad front styles or uprights are traceried in rude Gothic forms without cusping. The vertical mouldings are merely gouge-channels, very different from the scratched mouldings of Fig. 36. This dole cupboard was probably intended to stand on a raised platform or table in the chancel, to contain gifts of the charitable, such as loaves, to be distributed on certain occasions. It is significant that doles of this kind began to be general at the commencement of the sixteenth century; they were unknown before, as up to 1470 living was so cheap that it was frequently included in the terms of hiring of the skilled worker in wood or stone, as we have seen in the earlier chapters of this book.
Fig. 27. 15 ins. high by 10 1/4 ins. wide.
Fig. 28. - 15 ins. high by 10 1/2 ins. wide. - Victoria and Albert Museum. - Oak Ambry Doors. - Early sixteenth century.
Fig. 29. Oak Door From Buffet. - 18 1/2 ins. high by 14 3/8 ins. wide. Early sixteenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 38 is a standing cupboard of about 1550; an important piece for this date. The doors, which are central, the one above the other in the usual way, are pierced in crude Gothic tracery, but the designs are of no period. In the upper door the crocketting is early fifteenth-century in character, whereas the door itself is sixteenth. The supposition that the design of the piercing of two lower side panels represents the feathers of the Prince of Wales and that the cupboard was made for Prince Arthur, the eldest brother of Henry VIII, Mr. Fred Roe, very rightly, rejects. The device is, more probably, a representation of a bill-hook, and Mr. Roe's contention that this device may represent a rebus on the name of its first owner may be correct. William Hook occurs as an easy solution, if one could establish the date when the Christian name was first known by its familiar diminutive. The cupboard came from Burwaston in Shropshire, and was presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Mr. Robert Mond, F.S.A., in 1912. Belonging to a type of furniture which has been extensively forged, there is no doubt as to its authenticity, although the apron-pieces uniting the front legs are certainly open to question.
Fig. 30. Oak Chest. - 4 ft. 5 ins. wide by 2 ft. 2 1/4 ins. high by 1 ft. 7 ins. deep. - Late fifteenth century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.
The long oak panel, Fig. 39, carved in open piercing with stems of hop and oak may be introduced here to make a comparison between the line work of the fifteenth century and that of the sixteenth. This panel, carved as it is with knowledge, skill and taste, is probably earlier than 1480, yet it shows a scholarly emancipation from much of the Gothic tradition which is truly remarkable for this period. There is, of course, enough of the Gothic in the forms of the openings, together with its fine execution, to establish an approximate date. It owes a good deal to the worker in iron.