Chairs of the last years of the fifteenth century are exceedingly rare pieces, as they did not replace stools, and become general articles of household furniture, until more than a century later. Fig. 213 is an example from the Mayor's Parlour in St. Mary's Hall, Coventry. Apart from the addition of the high extra back (to serve as a firescreen, as this chair is used at the end of a fine draw-table, with its back to the fireplace), the bracing of the seat to the front legs, and the absence of the original finials to the back, the chair is in original condition, and wonderfully preserved considering its age. It has a bright varnish finish and in general tone is a fine golden-brown. Some additional measurements to those given under the illustration may be of service. The top of the original back measures 2 ft. 1 3/4 ins. across, and from the seat to the machico-lated cresting 1 ft. 9 3/4 ins. The panels in the back are 1 ft. 3 1/2 ins. in height, with a top rail of 3 1/2 ins. From the floor to the top of the mortise at the side of the front leg (the tenon is carried through) is 1 ft. 3 1/2 ins., so the chair has lost little, if any, of its original seat-height, especially as it may have been provided with a squab-cushion originally. The legs are 4 1/4 ins. in width on the front. From the seat to the under side of the overhang of the arms, measures 10 ins., and the arm-caps taper from 2 ins. at the front to 1 3/4 ins. at their junction with the back. The seat is original, and 1 1/4 ins. in thickness. The bottom edge of the back rail is 3 ins. above the top edge of the side rail. The front seat-rail is 3 ins. by 1 1/2 ins. The side-rails are tenoned right through the back legs. The entire chair is well-constructed, in the skilful manner of its period, and is made from selected quartered and sawn English oak. The fine oak draw-table from the same room is illustrated in Fig. 146 of the preceding chapter.
Fig. 214 is more than half a century later in date, about 1540-50, and is the real type of a Tudor chair. The seat is boxed in, with a cupboard below open at the back. The arms are of similar form to the chair from Coventry, but the linen-fold panels are of late pattern, and the well-defined Renaissance ornament above shows that the Gothic traditions had departed at the date when this chair was made. Fig. 215 is later, dated 1574, and the boxed seat has the door on the front. The purpose of these cupboards under the seat can be readily surmised. The back is tall, and the chair has an important appearance, which was evidently intentional, in spite of the fact that it is practically without carving. There is no doubt that, in the designing of many of these Tudor chairs, the earlier models were freely copied and adapted. They were important pieces, and were often signed and dated, in the manner of this example, the initials "J.E.S." and the date 1574 being carved on the cresting rail of the back, an honour shared only with the chest and the standing cupboard. The skirting to the base is a later addition.
Fig. 213. Oak Chair. - 2 ft. 6 ins. wide across front of seat by 3 ft. 3 1/2 ins. total height. Late fifteenth century, 1490-1500. - St. Mary's Hall, Coventry.
Fig. 214. Oak Chair. - 4 ft. I in. high by 2 ft. 3 1/2 ins. wide by 2 ft.6 ins. deep. Mid-sixteenth century.
Fig. 216. Oak Stool. - 7 ft. 11 ins. long by 1 ft. 8 1/2 ins. high by 10 3/4 ins. deep over top, 12 1/4 ins. at base. - Mid-fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 217. Oak Stool. - 1 ft. 10 ins. long by 1 ft. 10 ins. high by 1 ft. 1 in. deep. - Early sixteenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 218. Oak Upholstered Chair. - Late sixteenth century. - Lord Amherst.
Fig. 219. Oak Inlaid Chair. - Date about 1590-1600.
Fig. 220. The Back Of The Chair, Fig. 219. - Barking Church, Suffolk. - (See next page for sizes.)
Fig. 221. another view of the chair, fig. 219. - Floor to top of straight capping rail, 4 ft. 1 in. - Floor to top of seat, 1 ft. 7! ins.
Seat to top of arm, 1 ft.
Seat cushion moulding, 3 1/2 ins.
Frieze panel of back (including mouldings), 5] ins.
Back, outside uprights, 1 ft. 10 3/4 ins. wide.
Back panel, outside pilasters, 1 ft. 5 3/4 ins. wide.
Extreme over front of seat, 2 ft. 4 7/8 ins. wide.
Outside squares of front legs, 2 ft. 1 3/8 ins. wide.
Depth over front and back legs, 1 ft. 5 3/4 ins.
Pitch from seat line to top of capping, 4 1/4 ins.
The chair being a rare article of furniture during the sixteenth century and almost unknown in the fifteenth, the usual seat was either the long or short stool. Even after the Restoration, when chairs were made in considerable numbers, the stool maintained its popularity, owing, possibly, to its greater portability. Oak chairs are heavy pieces, as, apart from the intrinsic weight of the wood itself, - which is, approximately, double that of walnut, - chairs until the Restoration were heavily made and framed. It is partly due to this fact, no doubt, that so many have persisted to our day in good preservation.
Fig. 222. Oak Stool. - Date about 1600.