Rare as this St. Mary's Hall table is, as much on account of its design as of its well-preserved state, the column-leg itself appears to have enjoyed considerable popularity in the early Stuart years. Fig. 147 is an ornate example from St. Michael's Church at St. Albans, with a later top and stretcher, and with the lower squares of the legs mutilated and added to. The carving is small in scale and low in relief, but is choice in quality. It is to be suspected that this table comes from a locality considerably to the south-west of Hertfordshire. Fig. 148 is a coarser edition of this column-leg form, but it is doubtful if any parts, other than the four legs, are original.
Fig. 149, from Holme Lacy, but not original either to the house or its district, is one of the large guardroom tables of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, of great size, possessing six legs, to which the framings are tenoned, and two on the central line of the top, secured above and below by cross-rails from the framing and the stretcher. The turning of the legs is typical of East Riding work of this period. These large tables were beginning to become rare after about 1610, and carving began to be either dispensed with altogether, or used with great reticence.
Fig. 165. Oak Folding-Top Table. - Date about 1650. - Messrs. Gregory and Co.
In a general way, tables of large size are usually of sixteenth-century date. With James I, the Great Hall went out of fashion, and in the Long Gallery, tables were usually constructed according to the width of the gallery rather than its length. Examples, such as the remarkable shuffleboard table at Astley Hall, here shown in Figs. 150 to 161, do not disprove this, as the table was made of great length for a specific purpose, i.e. a game, and all other considerations would be subservient to this. With long refectory tables, the great length presupposes the Great Hall, which was declining in importance, even in the later days of Elizabeth. In instances where these long tables were intended for the guardroom, an even earlier date must be assigned, as fortified houses, necessitating a guardroom close to the drawbridge, were rarely built after the first years of the sixteenth century, although Fig. 149 is certainly a guardroom table, and of seventeenth-century date.
Fig. 166. Oak Table With Hinged Tops. - Top, 2 ft. 7 ins. by 2 ft. 2 ins. 2 ft. 0 1/2 in. high. - Date about 1620-40. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.
Fig. 167. Oak Table With Hinged Top. - Early seventeenth century. - Victoria and Albert Museum.
This shuffleboard table from Astley Hall, Chorley, Lancashire, could be described at considerable length were not the illustrations given here almost self-explanatory. The game of shuffle-, or shovel-board, is one of great antiquity in England, and persists, in remote country districts, to this day, under another name. It is rare, however, to find tables especially constructed for the game, such as this Astley Hall example. Very few are known to exist. The top of the table was generally marked out in squares, with varying numbers, and the player, standing at the end, placed a wooden disc, about three inches, or less, in diameter, at the extreme edge, with a portion hanging over. With a smart blow of the open palm, the disc was impelled up to the table, if possible into the square division bearing the highest number. A disc, too vigorously struck, would travel the entire length, and would fall into the box at the end, shown in the illustration. At a later date the disc was placed on the table and struck with a " mast" or implement something like a modern billiard cue, with a small cross-piece at its end. The earliest game of billiards (of which shuffleboard is probably the direct progenitor), was played with a mast instead of a cue, but in those days the use of chalk to prevent slipping of the cue-top on its contact with the ball, was unknown. The top of this table is constructed of a light framing or lipping, with an elaborate parqueterie, or herring-boning of thin oak pieces, the idea being to ensure a flat and level top. There are no squares or other divisions, the winner being he whose disc was the nearest to the verge of the box at the end. Two of the brass discs used, which appear to be original, still exist with the table, in size and form very similar to a flat brass four-ounce weight.
Fig. 168. Apple Wood Table. - Top, 2 ft. 7 ins. by 1 ft. 9 ins. 2 ft. 2 ins. high. - Date about 1650.
H. Clifford Smith, Esq.
Fig. 169. Yew Tree Table. - Top, 2 ft. 4 ins. by 1 ft. 7 ins. 2 ft. 4 ins. high. Date about 1660. - H. Clifford Smith, Esq
Both illustrations show only one side of the table, with its pierced panels shown in larger detail in Figs. 152 to 160, arranged in their correct progression. The other side has the double border which can be seen in the end view, Fig. 151, carried along its length. There must have been always an important as well as an unimportant side to this table. There is no question that it is in the gallery for which it was made, as it cannot be taken to pieces without breaking it apart, nor can it be moved out of the house where it is, without demolishing one of the walls. It was made for this gallery, put together in its position, and here it has remained ever since. The presence of the lion and unicorn in the section shown in Fig. 156 shows that it is a Stuart, not a Tudor table. The carving is quaint with devices and grotesques, many of which probably possess a real significance, and a personal application to the original owner for whom the table was made.