The moulding of the under-framing of these bulb-leg tables appears to be typical both of Devonshire and the last years of the sixteenth century. Fig. 133, the present altar table in Pilton Church, N. Devon, has a carved cushion frieze. The stretcher railing has disappeared, and the table has been raised by the additions of turned vases under the original legs. The carving is not so rich as on the Vicars' Hall example, nor is the entire design as fine. This is a typical draw-table of a very early date for this form of extending top.
Fig. 140. Oak Table. - 4 ft. 6 ins. long by 2 ft. 7 ins. high. - Date about 1640-50. Stonham Aspal Church, Suffolk.
It is curious to note how a comparison of many of these tables, now in use in Churches, leads to the supposition that, although made for secular use in practically every instance, they have nearly all remained in their own county of origin. Thus the example from Ruckinge Church, Fig. 134, is typical not only of Kent, but of the Romney Marsh district. Kent is a puzzling county to the student of English furniture, especially in the case of early oak. We find the London fashions perpetuated in the towns and villages in the line from London, through Eltham, possibly Sidcup, certainly Dartford and so on to Gravesend and Rochester. There is another style evident which may have had its fountain-head at Canterbury or Ashford, - probably the former. The Ruckinge table is of this type. Yet a third manner, markedly influenced from French sources, is to be met with in the neighbourhood of Hythe, extending from thence over the Sussex border into Rye, Pevensey and Hastings.
Fig. 141. Oak Table. - 3 ft. 6 ins. long by 2 ft. deep by 2 ft. 4 ins. high. - Date about 1640-50. H. Clifford Smith, Esq.
This Ruckinge altar table has been painted or grained - the work is so old that it is difficult to distinguish between the two - and the wood appears to be walnut; it is certainly not oak. Originally a draw-table, the signs of three runners, or "lopers," can be seen at each end, the slots being visible, externally, at the end not seen in the illustration, but on the other they have been covered by the facing of the frieze. This facing is now so worm-eaten that it has the hollow sound, when tapped with the point of the finger, of embossed paper, yet, although much altered, it is original. The top is a later addition, and the lower squares of the legs, with the stretcher-railing, are largely restored, if not entirely replaced by subsequent work.
The bulb-turning of the seventeenth century is generally more loosely designed than is the case with the work of the sixteenth. A comparison between the next example, Fig. 135, and the Vicars' Hall table will show this distinction more clearly than it can be expressed in words. Both examples are equally fine of their kind, but there is a difference not only of district but also of date. One is unmistakably Tudor, the other equally as unquestionably early Stuart. The use of elm and ash, in combination, at this date suggests Cumberland or Westmorland, as it is rare, in the south, to find ash of the size in which it is used here, and it is very exceptional to find it at all in tables from East Anglia, until almost the close of the seventeenth century. The notching of the stretcher-framing over the squares of the legs is later work, evidently a restoration at a subsequent period. Additional evidence for this northern origin can be found in the pattern of the carving of the framing. The date, 1630, is carved on the upper square of the left-hand leg in the illustration.
Fig. 142. Oak Table. - 6 ft. 61 ins. long by 2 ft. 6 1/2 ins. deep by 2 ft. 4 1/2 ins. high. - Date about 1650-60. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.
Fig. 143. Oak Table. - 15 ft. 3 ins. long by 2 ft. 7 ins. high. Date about 1640 - 50. - Albert Cubitt, Esq.
Fig. 144. Oak Table. - 9 ft. 2 ins. long by 2 ft. 9 ins. deep by 2 ft. 7 ins. high. - Date about 1640-50. Victoria and Albert Museum.
The ordinances forbidding the use of elaborate altars in churches, which were reiterated on several occasions during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, led to the use of secular tables as altars. It will be found, in nearly every church throughout England, that where simple altar tables have been specifically made as such, they are nearly all of modern construction. In the larger number of instances the secular tables of the time are used, generally altered or modified, - often raised in height, - with loss to their original integrity. These alterations or additions, in nearly all cases, however, have been made so frankly, with no attempt at deception, that there is no difficulty in differentiating the original from the subsequent work. Thus the oak table in Earl Stonham Church is, obviously, a larger one cut down, with extension brackets added and the stretcher-railing of late work. It will be wiser, in nearly every example of these church tables, to consider them as specimens of the bulbous-leg turning and decoration of their period, and to ignore the remainder of the table entirely. In this example from Earl Stonham the bulb-legs, with the graceful vase form of the lower section, are in the finest East Anglian manner of the first half of the seventeenth century.
Fig. 145. Oak Table. - 8 ft. long by 2 ft. 5 ins. deep by 3 ft. high. - Date about 1590.
Cathedral Church of St. Michael's, Coventry. 116