The early stools, from the mid-fifteenth to the early sixteenth century, are usually of the one type, with solid ends, held together with deep framing-pieces halved into the trestles, and with tops pegged to the framing and supports. Fig. 216 from Barningham Hall is a long stool of this kind, dating from about 1450-60. The front "apron" is cut out in the form of eight ogival arches, the two in the centre, only, being cusped, and this is original, no signs being visible of cuspings on the other archings. This form, which was discovered in the stables of the Hall, is very complete for its period. The present building only dates from about 1612, but it was erected on the site of a much earlier house, to the furnishings of which this long stool probably belonged, or it may have formed a part of the possessions of Sir William Paston, who acquired the old manor house of the Winter family, on the site of which he erected his new hall.
The date assigned to this piece, by the Museum Authorities, that of the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, is somewhat early, as the form of the trestle ends is later than the pattern of the cusped arches, and it is the latest feature which establishes a period. The cusping also, is more mannered than one would expect, at least in the late fourteenth century. It is safer, therefore, to ascribe a date towards the middle of the fifteenth century rather than at its beginning. The back rail of this form, which is missing, but of which indications remain, was probably a plain board, as the cutting of the back of the trestle-ends suggest that the piece was made to stand against a wall.
The early sixteenth-century type of single stool, such as was the usual seat at table for meals, is shown in Fig. 217. This is a full expression of the manner and constructive methods of its time. The turned leg does not appear on stools or chairs until the very close of the sixteenth century. It is somewhat earlier in the case of tables.
It must not be assumed that the art of the wood-turner was not known in Tudor times. Actually, in some of the inventories of the mid-sixteenth century, certain "turneyed" chairs are mentioned. These will be again referred to at a later stage in this chapter, with the reasons why no examples of the original early period appear to have survived.
Fig. 225. Oak Chairs. - Midland Type. - Date about 1620. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
While upholstered chairs and settees became usual in wealthy houses towards the end of the reign of James I, - the well-known examples from Knole Park are representative of this period, - the fashion for upholstery first appears to have arisen, in England, in the years from 1590 to 1600. The device of padding with horse-hair or tow, and covering with fabrics, such as silk or velvet, originated from Italy, rather than from France. These upholstered chairs and settees, however, are too rare at any period in England, up to the close of the seventeenth century, to enable any progression of types to be illustrated. Fig. 218 is only given to show an upholstered chair of the X-form, such as was made in England at a date from 1590 to 1645-50, in very rare instances only, and in houses where a high standard of comfort and luxury was attempted.
Fig. 227. Oak Chair. - Date about 1640. - St. Michael's Church, St. Albans.
Fig. 226. Oak Chair. - Date about 1630. St. Michael's Church, St. Albans.
Chairs with turned legs, prior to the accession of James I, are very rare, and usually of high quality. The fine chair from Barking Church, Suffolk, here illustrated in Figs. 219 to 221, is one of this late sixteenth-century kind and of East Anglian origin. The use of the pilastered arch in early chair backs and chests-nearly always suggests Norfolk or Suffolk. Occasionally, especially in Kent, this arcaded form was adopted, but the arches lack the finish and proportion of those in East Anglian work, and are nearly always flatter.
Fig. 228. Oak Chair. - Date about 1630-40. - Messrs. Gregory and Co.
Fig. 229. Oak Chair. - Dated 1621.
In this chair from Barking Church, the seat-rail, of inverted thumb-section, is carved with the late form of Elizabethan strap-work. The front legs are turned, with flutes of light wood, inlaid in the shafts, with the arm-balusters to correspond. The arms sweep downward in a graceful line, and finish, on their supports, in well-carved volutes. The central panel, and frieze of the backs, are inlaid with holly and other woods cut into the solid oak. Of this inlay, the central vase has fallen out and been replaced with a piece of plain veneer, cut to the original shape. The cup-like finials, which are later additions, were, probably, of the same form as this vase, and may have been inlaid with flutes, in the same way as the arm-balusters. The arch of the back is in flattened ovolo-section, finely carved with strapping and scrolling. The small ogee cornice breaks forward over carved trusses, finished on the uprights of the back-framing with laterally fluted scrolls. The lunetted cresting is a later addition, or a replacement, crude in every way, compared with the rich and finely-designed chair below. The shaping of the under-side of the arm remains a popular pattern for half a century. It will be noticed again in Figs. 234 and 235, two chairs some fifty years later in date.
Fig. 230. Oak Chair-Table. - Date about 1650.