The date of this table, - that is the actual period at which it was made, as distinct from the inception of the fashion which it exhibits in the turning of the legs and the carving of the frieze, - is somewhat obscure, and does not really concern us here, as dates stated in these pages are those of the birth of styles or the introduction of new details, not of the manufacture of the pieces themselves. Mr. Christopher Hussey, in "Country Life" (February 25th, 1922), while admitting that from the point of style alone an earlier date might be assigned to this great table, places it as contemporary with the re-facing of the Hall in 1665, and the construction of the Gallery in which it is at present. The possibility of advantage being taken of the work done at the time to house a pre-existing table in a Gallery long enough to contain it, is ignored, not altogether with reason. If made for the gallery, instead of the reverse process, it is curious that such details as the lion, unicorn, crown and thistle, - details which had a real and topical significance during the reign of James I, - should have been perpetuated some fifty years later, when the union of England and Scotland must have been forgotten as an event in English history. In any case, the type of leg-turning is that of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, which is the date given here.
Fig. 170. Oak Table With Hinged Tops. - Top, 2 ft. 7 1/2 ins. by 2 ft. 6 ins. 2 ft. 4 1/2 ins. high. Date about 1645. - W. Smedley Aston, Esq.
Fig. 162 is one of the small side or serving tables which were made in numbers during the first half of the seventeenth century. The top is in the form of half an octagon. The legs are in the column form of the period, turned with astragal rings in pairs. The squares above are ornamented with the early Jacobean type of split baluster. The table has a drawer, the front of which is decorated with flat fret or strap-work, carved from the solid. It was originally fitted with a second top, hinged to the first and supported on a pivoted framed " gate " behind.
Fig. 163 is later, and of more usual type. Here the legs are of the inverted vase-baluster form, which develops in several ways towards the close of the Restoration period. This is a true side table of the Cromwell period, and may be taken as a good example of the simple furniture which was in favour during Puritan times in England. Fig. 164 has the extending leg at the back and a double hinged top, so that it could be used, on occasion, as a centre table. It is fitted with a central door, behind which is a cupboard, probably intended to contain silver or pewter. Fig. 165 is smaller, and has the true vase-baluster leg of the later period of James II. This is, however, still a Cromwellian piece. It has the folding hinged top supported on the pull-out back leg in the manner of this date.
Fig. 171. Oak Table With Hinged Tops. - Top, 3 ft. 9 ins. by 3 ft, 3 ins. 2 ft. 3 ins. high. - Date about 1660-70. H. Clifford Smith, Esq.
These tables with double tops, pave the way, in the progression of table-types, for the gate-leg, where the top consists of a central part with hinged flaps on either side, each supported on a pull-out leg or gate. It must not be assumed, however, that these Cromwellian double-top tables are the progenitors of the gate-leg. Fig. 166, although it may possess an early appearance by reason of its crudity, both in design and make, is still prior to the Commonwealth and might be referred to a date as early as the reign of James I. It would be safer, however, to ascribe it to the years between 1620 and 1640. It is, probably, of Welsh origin, which would account for the solid trestle-form of the supports at either end. The development from this type is shown in Fig. 167, where some attempt at relief from this primitive trestle form has been attempted. The method of pivoting the gates on either side is early, indicating a date not later than about 1640. This table is, probably, of Shropshire origin.
Fig.172-Oak Table With Hinged Tops. - Top, 5 ft. 9 ins. by 5 ft. 1 in. 2 ft. 4 ins. high. - Date about 1660. Messrs. Williamson and Sons.
It is to the period of the Commonwealth that we owe the so-called bobbin-turning before referred to. Small tables, often of oak, but sometimes of apple, pear, cherry or almond, were made in numbers for the Puritan houses. They are generally of simple type, but extremely effective, correct in proportions, and showing considerable ingenuity in the use of the lathe. Three examples are given in Figs. 168 to 170, of which the last is probably somewhat the earlier in date.
The gate-leg table reaches its full style and importance after the Restoration, and although at this period, walnut was superseding oak, for such pieces of furniture as were made to stand away from a wall, - chairs and the like, - these tables are more often found in oak than in walnut, especially when of large size. Fig. 171 is one of the smaller kinds, intended rather as an occasional than as a dining-table. Fig. 172 is larger and more important, with spiral legs, finely lathe-twisted. It will be apprehended that the size of a table of this kind is limited, as, given a dimension of the central portion, the height of the top from the floor governs the size of the flaps. It is rare to find one of these Restoration gate-leg tables with a top larger than six feet by five, and even of these dimensions they are rare and valuable.
Fig. 173. Walnut Table With Hinged Top. - Date about 1670-80. II. - T 137