2014 Christopher Gilbert Lecture

A quick reminder that the 2014 Christopher Gilbert Lecture:  ‘A Day at Home in Early Modern England’ will be given by Dr Catherine Richardson, and held at the Geffrye Museum, London, on Saturday 29 November 2014 at 2.30pm.

Catherine Richardson is Reader in Renaissance Studies at the University of Kent. She and Tara Hamling, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History and Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, have a book forthcoming with Yale University Press about how the ‘middling sort’ used domestic spaces and objects in early modern England.  They are developing new methods for the study of domestic material culture and examining how people experienced their living spaces and furnishings – from bed chambers and warming pans to apostle spoons and chamber pots.  Their research will be the subject of her lecture and their website can be viewed here: materialhistories.wordpress.com

The Christopher Gilbert lecture is open to all and will be relevant to those with an interest in interiors or buildings, and how they are studied.
Cost: £10 for members; £12 for non-members. Contact events.rfs@gmail.com or use the booking form here.

A full listing of previous years’ lectures can be seen here.

Regional furniture online

This week sees the publication of a blog post by the RFS chairman Chris Pickvance on an important medieval chest at Gressenhall on the Norfolk Museums Shine a Light project website. The Shine a Light Project “seeks to unlock the potential of the Norfolk Museums’ fabulous reserve collections, by making them accessible to all” and Chris’s post certainly does that –  looking in close detail at the construction, condition and history of the chest.


The chest at the Norfolk Collections Centre, c.1400s from St Margaret’s Church, Norwich (NWHCM : L1974.29.3)

Another RFS member, Max Kite, has set up his own blog “aimed at raising the profile of James Reilly, a prolific chairmaker, inventor, innovator and entrepreneur in Manchester, England, between 1850-1889″ which is worth a look: jamesreillychairs.wordpress.com.

If readers are aware of other online resources relating to regional furniture we would like to hear about them – email regionalfurnituresociety@gmail.com with your suggestions. Have a look at the Links page to see what’s out there already.



Autumn Events 2014

Though we are still in the midst of a gorgeous summer the Society’s Autumn events listings are now available on the Events page. The selection of fascinating trips and visits include a study day on chairmaking in Lincolnshire and full details of this year’s Christopher Gilbert Lecture. Do take a look.

The Christopher Gilbert lecture is open to all and will be relevant to those with an interest in interiors or buildings, and how they are studied. Other RFS events are only open to members. Details for joining us and the other perks of RFS membership are here!

Chicago and Milwaukee, Friday 3 October – Saturday 11 October 2014

Crab Tree Farm

It is still possible to join the Society’s visit to Chicago and the Milwaukee area in October.  Flight arrangements are being made individually but we will meet in Chicago on Saturday 4 October, staying in a city centre hotel for 3 nights, then by coach to Crab Tree Farm for a day visit and on up to Milwaukee, where we stay for a further 2 nights before returning to Chicago for one last night and free day.  This last night is optional.

This trip will not be wall to wall regional furniture.  It includes Crab Tree Farm, the museum formed by John Bryan with outstanding collections of English and American furniture and one of the best collections anywhere of American Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative arts, so this is certainly a highlight for those seriously interested in furniture; and the Chipstone Foundation, a private collection with extensive first-class collections of fine American furniture and early English pottery, the Foundation is run by Jon Prown, our erstwhile American Secretary and a leading expert in American furniture history.  In the Milwaukee area we plan to visit two further collections in historic houses: one is a lovely old house with a fascinating personal collection but a visit here will depend on the owner’s health and this may not prove possible. The other, Kelton House Farm, is a relocated colonial Massachusetts house with a collection of early colonial American furniture mainly from New England.  Apart from these we will be seeing great 19 and 20th century architecture in Chicago, a city with a character and energy all on its own, superb art and decorative arts in the Art Institute, Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and Unity Temple, and a quirky artist’s house and eclectic collection at the Roger Brown House. There will be plenty to do and see but if you are hoping for 6 days of vernacular furniture this trip will not deliver.

The cost of accommodation, coach travel, entrances etc will be £835 per person, based on two persons sharing a room.  There is a supplement for a single room.  This price will reduce if a few more people join the tour.

As an indication re flights, at the moment return Virgin Atlantic flights direct to Chicago from Heathrow seem to be about £750; non-direct flights about £650.

If you would like further information, please contact Polly Legg (events.rfs@gmail.com).

Exhibition: British Folk Art at Tate Britain 10 June – 31 August 2014

A new exhibition opened at Tate Britain last week.

From the Tate Britain website:
“Discover the extraordinary and surprising works of some of Britain’s unsung artists in the first major exhibition of British folk art. Steeped in tradition and often created by self-taught artists and artisans, the often humble but always remarkable objects in this exhibition include everything from ships’ figureheads to quirky shop signs, Toby jugs to elaborately crafted quilts…Folk art has often been neglected in the story of British art: by uncovering this treasure trove of folk art objects, this exhibition asks why.”

For more information, booking tickets and listings of associated events see here: www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/british-folk-art




From the Country House to the Laboratory

MAY 14 COVER.indd

This week’s issue of Country Life magazine (May 14th) includes an article by RFS  journal editor Adam Bowett.

From the Country House to the Laboratory celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Furniture History Society which was founded in 1964 and he suggests some ways that the society may advance. Adam explains how research into furniture history and its related fields (largely through innovations from across the Atlantic) has moved forward in leaps and bounds over the succeeding years and how neglect by the FHS of the exciting field of vernacular furniture studies led to the formation of the Regional Furniture Society twenty years later.

He illustrates his arguments with photos of the evolution of period room displays at the Geffrye Museum in recent years and examples of scientific timber analysis of a 13th century coffer from Westminster.

Whilst promoting the work of both furniture societies, he ends his article by challenging the FHS to revisit it’s original aims and appears to suggest the unification of the two societies. Do get a copy before it disappears from your newsagent’s shelves on Tuesday.