Fig. 129 is also from the middle of the sixteenth century, and is important in possessing one of the original stools, but the draw-top is later in date. This method of extending the top is a seventeenth-century innovation, and the practice of inserting mitre-ended clamps in the solid wood is also not a sixteenth-century custom. This table and its stool is reputed to have come from Broadway, Ilminster, in Somerset, and might be accepted as the type of that locality, were it possible to ascribe counties of origin at this early date. It is safer, however, to reserve such speculations until the end of the sixteenth century is reached.
Fig. 132. Oak Table With Modern Top And Rail Cappings. - 8 it. 8 ins. extreme width (not over top) by 2 ft. 10 ins. deep by 2 ft. 9 ins. high over all. - Late sixteenth century. The Vicars' Hall, Exeter.
Fig. 133. Oak Table. - 6 ft. 7 1/2 ins. long by 3 ft. deep by 3 ft. 1 in. high. - Late sixteenth century. Pilton Church, N. Devon.
It has been remarked that long chests were probably used also as tables, and Figs. 130 and 131 show a type which is a combination of the two. Fig. 130 is earlier, and much finer in quality than Fig. 131. It dates from the first years of the sixteenth century, and shows the influence of the rich woodwork of the fifteenth. Unfortunately, this piece has been badly restored at its ends, by a workman unacquainted with the fact that the true mitre (as distinct from the mason's mitre which is worked on the solid after the framing is put together) was practically unknown at this date. Actually, very little remains of the original, other than the four pierced and carved panels with their framings and the front legs, although there is no reason to doubt that the piece was in much the same form as it is at present, when it was made. The panels show, on the first from the left, a crown, probably ducal, with the portcullis of Beaufort below, partially covered by the sacred monogram (I.H.S.) which suggests that the piece was made for ecclesiastical uses. Next in order is the three lilies of France on a shield. There is some slight significance in the use of three lilies only, as they were adopted as one of the quarterings of the royal arms during the latter part of the reign of Henry IV, and continued until James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne in 1603, - unfortunately a margin of time far too great to be of service to us here. The central panel is not original, and may have been, former!}-, the most elaborate of the five. The fourth has the Tudor rose pierced and carved, and the fifth suggests that this table cannot be earlier than the first years of the sixteenth century. It is of unusually high quality, both in design and cutting, which is also some indication that it is early in the century.
Fig. 134. Walnut Table. - 4 ft. 7 3/4 ins. long by 2 ft. 10 3/4 ins. deep by 2 ft. 6 1/4 ins. high. - Late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Ruckinge Church, Kent.
Fig. 135. Draw-Table Of Elm And Ash. - Sizes (closed) 7 ft. long by 2 ft. 9 1/2ins. deep by 2 ft. 9 ins. high. - Dated 1630. Capt. N. R. Colville, M.C
Fig. 131 is the secular version of the same form of table, of rougher make and later date. The oak front is cut from the log without quartering, a sure indication of the decline in power of the early Guilds, - whose officials inspected all timber before use, up to the first years of the sixteenth century, - and a date subsequent to the dissolution of the Monasteries. The central door here is of doubtful authenticity; it has the appearance of a later endeavour to make use of the space behind the front as a cupboard. The usual form was to hinge the tops of tables of this kind with large pins pierced through massive end-clamps or battens under the top into the sides. On these pins the top opened in the manner of the thirteenth-century chests.
With the introduction of the table formed by framings tenoned into the upper squares of turned legs and with bracing stretchers below, we are on firmer ground. Turning is a much older art in the history of English woodworking than its appearance in tables would suggest. Primitive methods probably caused it to be abandoned in favour of the square-section, either plain, or with carving. It is rare to find tables with turned legs of date prior to the last quarter of the sixteenth century; in fact, if they were made, none seem to have survived.
Fig. 136. Oak Table. - 5 ft. long by 2 ft. 6 ins. high. - Date about 1630-40. Earl Stonham Church, Suffolk.
Turned table-legs admit of a somewhat definite classification, due allowance being made for inevitable overlapping of types. Thus, the bulbous-leg begins about 1575, or possibly somewhat later, and persists, in modified form, until about 1645-50. Fig. 132 is the early type, and Fig. 141 the last phase of this manner. The leg in the form of a column, generally with astragal collars, commences somewhat later, about 1590, and lasts until the end of the seventeenth century, if we may include tables inlaid with marqueterie in this category. The vase-turned leg comes into vogue just prior to the Commonwealth and carries us into the early years of the eighteenth century, running parallel, for a part of this period, with the cabriole form. The twist or spiral turning is much more confined in period than the other patterns just referred to. It is doubtful if it was used for the legs of tables prior to the Restoration, and it is rare to find it on pieces of the eighteenth century, with the exception of the square cabinets on spiral-turned stands which were made until the close of the reign of William III, if not the opening years of Anne.
There is still one type of turning, a representation of a number of bobbins strung together, which belongs to the middle of the seventeenth century - from about 1640 to 1665 - and is rarely found on pieces other than chairs or tables of oak or fruit-wood, apple, pear, cherry, and sometimes yew. The leg turned in the form of an inverted cup with a downward tapering shaft below, on the other hand, is nearly always found on furniture of walnut; rarely of oak. We are, therefore, not concerned with this pattern at present. The twisted leg is both an oak and a walnut type, being found almost as frequently in the former wood as in the latter.
Fig. 137. Oak Draw-Table. - Length (closed), 10 ft. 8 ins.; height, 2 ft. 8 ins.; depth, 3 ft. 1 in. - Date about 1670. Lord Cranworth.
We have, therefore, five distinct patterns of leg-turning during the period from about 1575 to 1689. These are, with their dates, as follows : -
The Column ......
The Bobbin ......
The Spiral or Twist .....
The Vase .......
To this may be added the inverted-cup turning, for the sake of completing the series, with a period of from 1689 to 1705, running parallel with the shaped or cabriole leg, in its various forms, for about the last seven of these years.
Fig. 138. Oak Table. - 5 ft. 5 ins. long by 1 ft. 1 1/2 ins. deep by 2 ft. 8 ins. high. - Date about 1630. Formerly in Sutton Courtenay Church.
It is proposed to follow the order of type-development rather than that of chronological progression, in this as in other chapters, as being more illuminating, although it may involve periodical returns to a starting-point. The advantages of being able to compare the same form at different stages in its development, however, far outweigh any drawbacks such as the one just referred to.
Following the order outlined above, in this progression of oak tables with turned legs, we may commence with the bulb, that turning feature which enjoyed such favour, and for so long. It is used for the legs of chairs as well as those of tables (although in an attenuated form, as one would expect in the case of a chair), and for the posts of important pieces. It is a Stuart rather than a Tudor form, although it undoubtedly originated in Tudor times. Bulbous legs of the sixteenth century are rare, however, and they may be characterised by possessing a richness of carving which is unusual in the early years of the next century. One of the finest examples of a Tudor table with bulb legs is the one in the Vicars' Hall, Exeter, illustrated here in Fig. 132. The history of the Hall of the Vicars' Choral has already been given in pages 271, 277, 278 and 279 of the preceding volume. At what period, and under which Bishop this table came into the Vicars' Hall is not clear, but that it has not been highly esteemed is evident. The top, with its Victorian carved thumb-moulding, and the cappings to the stretcher railings, of the same period, are ignorant additions. The original top was, probably, one of square-edged boards. There are no signs of the runners, or "lopers" which would indicate a draw-top table. The ogival frieze and the massive legs are carved in the rich manner of the later period of Elizabeth, with a strong suggestion of Devonshire work at this date. The stretcher-rails are much worn, which may have suggested the addition of the moulded capping rails, but the other parts are in a fine state of preservation.
Fig. 139. Oak Table. - 11 ft. 1 1/2 ins. long by 2 ft. 8 ins. deep by 2 ft. 8 1/2 ins. high; 4 ins. deep framing; 4 1/2 ins. legs. - Mid-seventeenth century. The Earl of Essex.