To illustrate the chairs of this period in a regular order of progression as regards their dates, and at the same time to arrange them in groups showing development of type and similarity in detail, is impossible, and has not been attempted here. Chronological order has been abandoned as being of lesser importance. During the seventeenth century, articles of furniture began to increase, both in amount and variety. Apart from the era of building that commenced about 1510 and lasted, with little intermission, until almost the end of the eighteenth century (a list of important houses from 1510 to 1790 could be made with no lapse of as much as a decade between the completion of the one and the commencement of another), which gave a great impetus to the craft of the furniture maker, there was gradually emerging from the ranks of the artisans a middle class that also demanded furniture for houses of the lesser type. For such the interesting chair shown in Fig. 232 was probably made. The wood is hickory, with the top rails of the back inlaid with herringbone stringing of walnut and bog oak, surrounding the device "S.G. 1633. S.C." The uprights of the back originally finished with small turned vases, similar ornaments of smaller size being fixed to the top rail immediately above each of the five spindles, but these have all disappeared. The panel of the back is inlaid with the five-diamond device (see Fig. 221), in lime and bog oak. The chair has been upholstered on seat and arms at a later date, which may account for the arm-terminal scrolls being cut off.
Fig. 237. Oak Chair. - 1640-50 - Messrs. Gregory and Co.
It is difficult to imagine how the ends of arms could be broken off, fashioned, as they are, from the long-grain of the timber. Even if the scrolling were to break across the short-grain, the actual arm-length would not be affected. Fig. 233 has suffered in the same way, and its three finials on the uprights and the centre of the cresting are missing. The panel of the back is unusually choice for a chair of this class; carved with a conventional rendering of the carnation, the dahlia, the Tudor rose and the acorn, all on the one central stem. Some family significance may attach to this choice, but, without indication, it is obscure.
One of the fine chairs from the Lady Chapel of St. Albans Abbey is shown in Fig. 234, which, at first glance, bears a resemblance to the one shown with it on the same page, Fig. 235. Both have the heavy horizontal top rail to the back, projecting over two carved brackets on the sides of the back uprights. The design of the arm is the same in each. There are points of difference, however, which may be pointed out with advantage. Both chairs have lost their original cresting; had this been present, the casual resemblance between the two would not have been so marked. The first has the type of key-cornered framing of the back, which was borrowed from the Low Countries about 1650-60, and was rarely used other than by East Anglian designers. To complete the pattern of this back, one must imagine a central panel of upright rectangular form framed with a chamfered moulding or field. The front legs are turned in the form of columns, well cut in at the necks and bases. The carving motif of the seat and back rails is purely geometrical in inspiration. The cushion-moulding of the top rail of the back is not the original form, but the carved members above and below it belong to the chair.
C.1660. St. Albans Abbey.
Fig. 238. Oak Chair.
There is one detail which many of the chairs of this date exhibit in common - the gouge cuts, or " fingering," which is a relic of the Gothic period. It will be noticed in the hickory chair, Fig. 232, in the arches and pilasters of Fig. 233, in the cutting of the conventional leaf on the back uprights above the junction of the arm in the chair which we are considering, and, in the next example, in the lower rail and the framing of the back. A study of this chair, Fig. 235, and also the previous one, will show that the former methods of construction, without the necessity for adhesives, had departed. The mouldings of the back - two sections of which are missing - have been secured with nails and glue. This is a finely-designed and well-made chair in every other respect, as although the top rail has been tenoned on the uprights of the back, instead of between them, the wood is too stout and solid for this method to be a source of much weakness in the chair. There is a good deal of classical influence present, and with its original cresting - in the form of a cornice of ogee and fillet, probably - this may have been even more marked. Attention may be directed to the top rail with dentil course, and the vertically fluted frieze, with the fillets separated with the parting tool and the punch. These suggest a Middlesex or Hertfordshire origin for the chair. Its date is about the middle of the seventeenth century.
Fig. 239. Oak Chair. - Dated 1682. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
The chair in Chelsworth Church, in Suffolk, here shown in Fig. 236, has its original cushion-moulded top rail to the back, but with a cresting which is certainly of later date. There is the same shape of arm as in many of the preceding examples, cut out, probably, so that the sitter could grasp it easily, and, half rising to a standing posture, draw the chair close to a table. The leg and baluster turning is of the same pattern as in Fig. 234.
Fig. 240. Chair Of Ash, Elm And Fruit-Wood. - Mid-seventeenth century.
Fig. 241. Chair Of Apple And Yew. - Mid-seventeenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.