Two versions of the Midland type of arm-chair of James I period are illustrated in Figs. 224 and 225. The backs are of one panel, framed up, the top rails with low cresting cut from the solid. The legs are baluster-turned, and tied with moulded stretcher-rails. The seats are thin, cut round the squares connecting the front legs with the arm-balusters, with a small overhang, in Fig. 225 taken across the squares, but in Fig. 224 only cut between them.
Lancashire and Cheshire appear to have adopted the four petal Tudor rose and the interlacing guilloche as favourite design motives. Yorkshire chairs differ in many respects from those of Lancashire. In much the same manner as with clocks in the later eighteenth century, the Yorkshire oak chair of this early seventeenth century is generally clumsy, with crude carving in low relief.
In Figs. 226 and 227, two chairs from St. Michael's Church, St. Albans, the general character is unusual. This is due, in great measure, to omissions and additions due to decay and restoration. Thus, the lunette panel in the cresting of the first is carved in the manner of a century later. The original top rail of the back is below this, and has lost its small trusses at each end. The central panel of the back is coarsely carved with a representation of a winged angel holding a chalice, and appears to be earlier work. The legs and arm-balusters are in the manner of the early years of the reign of Charles I. The back stretcher-rail is missing. There is so much that is exceptional and not original to the chair, that it is impossible to postulate its locality of origin. It may be said, however, that it is not of the west or middle England types. Fig. 227 has lost its stretcher-railing entirely, and the feet are badly decayed. It is somewhat later in style than Fig. 226, and is of pronounced East Anglian character. It may be as well to notice here, that the arms of both of these chairs are of almost identical pattern. The overhanging back rails of both are without the original small trusses.
Fig. 233. Oak Chair. - Dated 1648. - W. Smedley Aston, Esq.
Fig. 234. Oak Chair. - Date about 1660. - St. Albans Abbey.
Fig. 235. Oak Chair. - Date about 1650-60.
Whether chairs of this kind were made for Church use is problematical; many are to be found flanking altar tables in small churches throughout England. It may be that their dignity, which was still maintained during the first half of the seventeenth century, caused them to be bequeathed, as valued possessions to the Church. In sacred buildings, as a rule, chairs are finer and in better preservation than in private hands. This may be owing to the fact that the best were given to the Church in the original instance, and they have been more carefully preserved, and certainly less used, than would be the rule in secular houses.
Fig. 228 is the Cheshire type of oak chair of about 1630-40. The carving is in low relief, with a peculiarly soft modelled effect. There is hardly a trace of vigorous cutting, with the gouge, anywhere. The back panel is coarsely incised. The chair has lost its original board seat, its place being taken by a squab-cushion. The trusses, or earpieces to the uprights of the back framing will be noticed here. They will be found in nearly every example of these Stuart oak chairs, from 1610 to about 1660.
Fig. 229 is the work of the Welsh bordering counties, probably of Shrewsbury make. It has its original cresting, with the date 1621 carved to flank a guilloche-framed semicircular panel, scrolled at the bottom and cut with a conventional vine tendril with leaves and grapes. The interlacing guilloche pattern is used for the styles and rails of the back framing, the bottom rail of which is a replacement. The sides of the seat framing project above the seat, which is thus sunk to receive a squab-cushion. The eagle-pinnacles, which surmount the side uprights of the back, are well conceived and executed, and give a fitting finish to a very stately chair. The columnar type of leg and arm-baluster, as in this chair, does not indicate either the manner of a locality or a defined period. It was adopted in Lancashire, Somerset, Kent, Hertfordshire and East Anglia, frequently alternating with a severely modified form of the Tudor bulb, and persists, as a favourable design, until about 1685. It may be described as the characteristic seventeenth-century front leg of English oak chairs of that period. The modified form of the bulb-leg can be seen in the remarkable oak chair-table shown in Figs. 230 and 231. The top is formed of three boards, nearly two inches in thickness, clamped at the ends. The under side, which forms the visible back of the chair when raised, is carved with a double-headed crested eagle resting on a scrolled base, all cut from the solid wood, framed round with a narrow moulding. The top has two stout runners which are pivoted on the arm rests. Below the seat is a drawer pulling out on grooves and runners. This piece is of western-midland make and, in spite of the early appearance of the carved back, is probably of mid-seventeenth-century date. The title of a monk's bench for chairs of this kind is a misnomer; monks had almost ceased to exist in England when they were made.
Fig. 236. Oak Chair. - 1660-70 - Chelsworth Church, Suffolk.