Our Old Charm Collection is very distinctive, featuring delicate carvings and turnings. But where does this come from? Lloyd did some investigating to find out the story of Tudor and Elizabethan furniture.
The Tudor Period
Between 1485 and 1603 is what is termed the Tudor Period. The House of Tudor was an English Royal House, founded by Henry VII. Many people will be familiar with the red and white Tudor Rose from the period. The Tudors ruled England, Ireland and Wales with 5 monarchs during its time.
Tudor furniture was mainly constructed from solid oak. It was bulky and very heavy with carved designs. One of the most popular carvings was that of the linenfold, pictured on a piece of Old Charm to the right. The linenfold was used to decorate flat panels on furniture, as well as on wooden paneling on walls. Of course only the wealthiest people could afford to have their walls paneled with carved wood.
The carving designs were very similar to the Gothic furniture that had come before the Tudor style. This is because of King Henry VIII’s disdain towards, and excommunication from, the Roman Catholic Church. Due to the Pope’s refusal to divorce Henry and Catherine of Aragon, King Henry separated England from the church and placed himself in charge of The Church of England. Despite all of the beautiful Renaissance art being produced in places such as Italy, Henry wanted as little to do with it as possible, and so kept much of the Gothic design.
Not As We Know It
Dining chairs as we know them today were very rarely seen – only the master of a wealthy household would have one, while other guests sat on long wooden benches. The Tudor chairs that were around were predominantly box chairs, also known as settle chairs. Our Domesday Chair from 1988 is an example of this. The seat of the chair is removable providing storage space underneath and has a tall, straight back.
As for dining tables, many of these were trestle tables. This allowed for quick removal after a meal to make space for dancing and other entertainment. Eventually more sturdy and decorative tables were made for comfort and to show the owner’s status.
Smaller occasional tables were popular and used to play games. These were real showpieces used to impress guests and so were ornately carved. Our Games Table features carving on the bulbous leg, reminiscent of Flemish craftsmen at the time. They would carve as much as they could on the leg – the more carvings they got on, the more expensive the piece would be, and therefore the higher the status of the owner.
The Elizabethan Era
Elizabeth I took the throne from 1558-1603 and allowed the Renaissance-inspired ornamentation to be included in furniture. Italianate style houses were very open plan allowing plenty of room to entertain guests, and so furniture was in high demand. Furniture-making as a trade grew as furniture was made in higher quantity and quality.
The materials used started to move away from the heavy oak used previously and walnut was often used. Nearly every surface on the furniture featured carvings and ornaments.
Although 4 poster beds were around in the Tudor times, it was the Elizabethan Era that really made them into a fine art. These intricately carved pieces were not only for looks but for comfort too – the old uncomfortable straw-stuffed mattresses were replaced with down filled ones.
The Great Bed of Ware, now on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is an extreme example of this. Large enough to fit 4 couples, the bed is beautifully decorated with delicate carvings from people and swans on the headboard to the pillars at the foot.
From Old to New
We continue some of these traditions, and our carvings are still done by hand. Some of our carvings are very similar to Tudor and Elizabethan designs, such as the floral carving pictured to the right. Other carvings that we use are cactus flowers, chop bead carving, Tudor arches and linenfold.
Our Old Charm Collection is created in a way that lets every piece complement any other – similar carvings run throughout, and with character oak showing beautiful grain, no two pieces are ever exactly the same.
Continue scrolling to see some pictures of more beautiful Tudor and Elizabethan furniture.