In October 2021 the RFS Council approved a project whereby the back numbers of the Newsletters (which contain much interesting material by way of research pieces, visit/event reports, book reviews, notices of publication, members’ correspondence and obituaries) should be reviewed, scanned and made available online. I am grateful to John Boram and Diana Halliwell for providing me with a complete collection of all Newsletters since 1985 (including the publications of the Regional Furniture Study Group which pre-dated the setting up of the Society).
The material will in future be published (as is the Society’s practice for the articles in the Journal), following a three year delay after print publication. The back archive between 1985 and Spring 2022 amounts to more than 900 research pieces and visit/event reports, about 100 book reviews and another 50-odd notices of publication and, alas, 43 obituaries. That amounts just under 1100 items, all of which have been indexed and scanned, of which around 920 are published today. The remaining 170-odd from the last 6 issues (Newsletters 71 to 76 inclusive) will be published in due course after the three year delay.
The research pieces and visit/event reports may be found here; the book reviews here; and the obituaries here.
I have prepared hyperlinked Excel spreadsheet indexes for all three categories which may be downloaded from links found on those pages. The Excel spreadsheets may be easier to navigate, particularly for the 900+ research pieces and visit/event reports. I have also prepared an Excel spreadsheet index for all the 320-odd articles which have been published in the Journal which may be found on a link on the Journal back issues page. All of these downloadable spreadsheets have links directly to the website. If you would like all 4 indexes in one spreadsheet, it is here. It is my intention to update these indexes every six months for the Newsletters and each year for the Journal.
My favourite item discovered during the scanning project? A pair of ophthalmic Windsor chairs, from West Suffolk Hospital, into the central sticks of which the patient’s head was wedged whilst the eye examination took place!
Julian Parker, Website Editor, 18 April 2022
P.S. Some of the originals have copy that is slightly smudged. Sometimes the paper is highly reflective. I hope all of the scans are legible but I am aware that some are less than perfect.
Members may be interested to know of the forthcoming two-day conference ‘Grinling Gibbons and the Story of Carving’ which will be held on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 June 2022. Details for booking may be found on the V&A website where a link to the draft programme may also be found.
Speakers currently scheduled include: Ada de Wit ,Curator of Works of Art and Sculpture at the Wallace Collection, London; David Luard of Luard Conservation; Alan Lamb, formerly of City and Guilds of London Art School, and Head of the Historic Carving Department; Dr Frances Sands, Curator of Drawings and Books at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; Dr Gordon Higgott, independent architectural historian; Dr Kira d’Alburquerque, Curator of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum; Dr Lee Prosser, curator – historic buildings at Historic Royal Palaces; Nick Humphrey, Curator of the Furniture Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum; Dr Jonathan Tavares, Curator, Applied Arts of Europe Department, Art Institute of Chicago; Lisa Ackerman, Associate Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago; Dr Tessa Murdoch FSA, independent scholar; Professor Lauren R. Cannady, University of Maryland; Wendy Frère, doctoral student, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)/Fondation Périer-D’Ieteren; Maria Cristina Gigli, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Firenze; and Sandra Rossi, Director, Painting Department and Wooden Sculpture Department, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Firenze.
RFS may be interested to learn that the National Museum of Ireland’s full collection of ‘Sligo’ chair or ‘Tuam’ chairs is on display for the first time. An online symposium has been organised at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 19th February 2022. Participants include Claudia Kinmonth, Laura Mays, Stephen Jackson and David Jones.
More information about the symposium may be found here. More information about the exhibition (including a short video) may be found here. RFS members who wish to register free for the symposium must book via Eventbrite.
We are delighted to invite RFS members to a unique preview of the newly refurbished Burrell Collection, Glasgow, due to reopen this March having been closed for many years. The re-ordered museum will create a much-improved display and interpretation of the collection of over 500 furniture items donated in 1944 by Glaswegian shipping magnate and collector Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance. The collection includes English, Welsh, Scottish and continental pieces. Laura, Ed and Lindsay’s talk will offer a behind-the-scenes exploration of the Burrell by curators and conservators, revealing the new methods of interpretation developed for the displays of furniture within the galleries.
This event is for RFS members. To receive the link to the Zoom meeting, please apply to email@example.com by 16:00 Sunday 6th February. This event will not be available on YouTube for future viewing.
Please note that we are now fully subscribed for the Ercol factory visit but are able to offer places to those wishing to join us for lunch and at the Wycombe Chair Museum and an afternoon devoted to their collection. The fee is the same (£20) since Ercol are kindly not charging us.
Members may wish to know that a tour of the Ercol factory, in Princes Risborough, organised by Jeremy Bate, will be advertised in the forthcoming RFS Newsletter. The factory also features in the BBC’s ‘Inside the Factory’ on BBC2 tomorrow evening, Saturday 15 January 2022 at 6 p.m. So if you want a sneak preview, it’s available via the BBC iPlayer here.
Hans Piena, Conservator/Curator, Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (Holland Open Air Museum) 0:00 Introduction to the diary of Eimert Papenborg re-discovered 1969 and then 2013 1:13 Historical context – Beethoven; The Beagle; aftermath of Napoleon; England a world power 1:58 213 pages sometimes 3 times overwritten and parts in secret code and faded 2:29 8 years of research and deciphering leading to publication in 10 chapters ISBN:978-90-823607-5-2 3:19 Achterhoek region 3:44 local map of farm site near Zieuwent 4:29 Louis Apol c. 1880 Country Road 5:07 yearly floods; Drinking Cows Willem Roelofs 1884 5:39 Jan Holtrup c. 1940 Winter afternoon in the Achterhoek – low walled huts with rye straw roof 6:02 Oldest picture of the farm 6:22 Louis Apol Looking for wood 1873-75 in Winter 6:42 Papenborg’s oldest son and family – Catholic village in Protestant country – distinctive gold crosses worn by the women 7:33 pig meat and fat eaten never beef: cows were for butter 7:56 Herman Johannes van Der Weele 1852-1930 Ploughing with ox – oxen were the tractors 8:10 main crops potatoes and rye 8:31 8 old apple varieties 8:54 Papenborg fell in love with youngest daughter of richest local farmer 1851-52 – took nearly 9 years to get permission to marry 9:55 Albert Neuhuys 1844-1914 Changing diapers – interior of family house kettle over fire 10:28 Bernhardt Winter 1905-06 women flax processing, ladder back chairs 10:51 linen cabinet – linen was most valuable item in Papenborg’s inventory 11:46 H J ten Noever Bakker 1899 Pedlar with wicker back basket selling chickens and tobacco to woman who had the money 12:22 Otto van Tussenbroek 1905 Churning butter – thrice monthly market 5-8kg butter 18 km away – profitable for cash 13:16 House interior Hendrikus Johannes Melis 1860-1923 – 3 legged table, jointed stool, cradle, books, paintings, Bible 14:06 kettle wrongly restored, hand-blown glass bottle, clock c 1860, fire tongs, stoneware jug for lamp oil 15:06 isolated, no doctors nearby, recipes in diary for medicinal herbs, no fertilisers more diversity 15:57 Anton Mauve 1838-88 Chopping wood – wood for fire, utensils, furniture, carts, barns, houses – pit saw for boards 16:30 van Der Weele 1852-1930 Oxcart with wood 17:00 crops not enough to make ends meet – charcoal production 17:34 September 1848-67 charcoal burning – alder, birch, ash, poplar, oak – tree planting to re-grow 18:58 sold to foundry, 40 km away north 8 hours each way trip Foundry 1900 Herman Heijenbrock, chalk pastels on black paper 20:38 cradle from basketmaker 21:09 Dutch willow cradle 21:28 Tilt top 3 legged round table 1851 22:08 stone cobbled floor on parents’ farm 22:23 3 legged chair ex John Boram collection 3 legs for stability Papenborg adopted tiled floor in own house and 4 legged ladder back chairs 23:15 1853 oak bureau ordered, stained and coloured like mahogany retrieved from under tons of straw and thoroughly cleaned which unfortunately removed the finish and it was then waxed 25:29 1786 oak trunk descended from Eimert Papenborg’s parents 26:06 Hendrikus Papenborg, master carpenter & cabinet maker of Zieuwent 1863-1925 27:16 Floor plan with cabinet workshop amongst ox and pig stalls 28:17 Family descended cabinet on chest made by Hendrikus Papenborg with dove and serpent tableau. Panels replaced by glass and scraped but no longer authentic finish. 29:45 but Louis XVI brasses in the workshop 30:04 cabinet details showing paint remains in rebates and 3 dowels 31:01 Another cabinet by Hendrikus Papenborg, completely original, inscribed in pencil ‘Dit kambinet gemaakt in het jaar 1892 Zieuwent den 19 maart feestdag van de H. Joseph H Papenborg Timmerman te Zieuwent’ This cabinet was made in the year 1892 on 19 March, the feast day of St Joseph H. Papenborg, carpenter in Zieuwent. Rosewood imitation, with gold and silver carving suggesting brasses, mimicking Dutch 18th century cabinet e.g. 1750 Amsterdam and 140 years later Papenborg was imitating it. Anything to escape the rustic look! 33:50 onwards: questions and answers
Following his recent well-received on-line talk to the RFS: Witwerk – The History of Dutch Painted Furniture, Hans Piena, curator of the Open Air Museum at Arnhem (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum) will talk via Zoom about the diary he discovered some years ago in a safe on a farm, which he has just successfully published in Holland. It is the story of a lonely boy of two poor Dutch charcoal makers living in the middle of nowhere. He falls in love with the only daughter of the richest farmer in the village and after many years of courtship marries her and slowly climbs the ladder of society to become a council member and church minister. The diary, which took many specialists eight years to decipher, records not only every day’s purchases including the furniture he ordered, but also gives a good picture of his business contacts and even his coded musings on his love life. Finally we will learn about his son who became a furniture maker, some of whose pieces survive.
This event is for RFS members: if you would like to receive the link to the Zoom meeting, please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An index of almost 7,500 English regional chairmakers created by Bernard and Geraldine Cotton has been added to BIFMO, the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online database. The index was generated over the past 50 years as part of the Cotton’s monumental research into British traditions in regional furniture. Making this resource accessible online opens the way for further discoveries about the makers of the Windsor chairs and turned chairs which were integral to the daily lives of people from Cumbria to Cornwall over the last 300 years.
Dr Bernard Cotton’s seminal publication, The English Regional Chair (Antique Collectors’ Club, 1990, reprinted 1997) stands as the definitive study of the many and varied traditions developed by chairmakers in different parts of the country. The core of it is was to identify the names, dates and locations of makers themselves, the vast majority of whom will for ever remain anonymous. The Cottons formed a card index of some 15,000 names through painstaking research of local trade directories, census returns, newspapers and other documents, at a time when none of these were digitised and computers were hardly known. Data from the manuscript cards was recently scanned and then transcribed into an Excel spreadsheet; after many months of careful work this has now been successfully uploaded onto BIFMO as a major new resource, accessible to all. Funding for this work has been kindly provided by a generous donor and a grant from the Regional Furniture Society. It could not have been achieved without the support of the Furniture History Society, which created and manages the BIFMO site, and the largely voluntary commitment of Laurie Lindey, BIFMO Managing Editor.
Photographs of chairs made by these makers, who identified their work with their branded or stamped initials or name, or with a label, will be added to the entries over the next few weeks. Many will be of chairs in the Cotton Collection of over 200 English regional chairs which they donated to the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in 2002.
In parallel with this chairmaker index, work is progressing to transcribe a further index of English regional cabinet makers, turners and joiners which the Cottons developed as their research progressed. These were the makers of the press cupboards, dressers, chests, tables and beds, salt boxes and candle boxes, and all the many incidental and utilitarian household objects required for everyday use. The index comprises some 25,000 names and will in due course be added to BIFMO, providing a rich seam for ancestry research and local history.
The Cotton Archive of British Regional Furniture containing all of the material studied and collected during a lifetime of research, is now being catalogued prior to its being donated to the Museum of the Home. The first and most significant part of the archive, which covers all of the English regions, with Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, was transferred in October 2021. Digital recordings and transcripts of 12 interviews with Dr Cotton made as part of the cataloguing project, describing the vernacular furniture traditions of the English regions, are part of this first donation. Further material, including an extensive photographic archive and a series of fieldwork research notebooks will follow next year, as well as research files on Australia, America, Newfoundland and other countries where the British settled and influenced furniture.
In a statement, Dr Bernard (Bill) Cotton writes,
‘My ambition has been to identify the origins of furniture made for the homes of working people, and to record, where possible, the names of makers and the social context in which it was used. The transfer of our regional chairmakers index to BIFMO opens the potential for others to continue the research to which my wife, Geraldine and I have devoted much of our lives. We are grateful to all those who have made this possible and are excited by the prospect of new discoveries being made as a result.’
Liz Hancock, Chairman of the Regional Furniture Society says,
‘The regional chairmaker database is an important addition to BIFMO and represents a major contribution to furniture studies. On behalf of the Regional Furniture Society (RFS) I would like to congratulate all those involved in making this invaluable resource accessible online. Bernard and Geraldine Cotton were founder members of the RFS, established in 1984 with the aim of researching and recording the regional traditions of furniture making throughout Britain and Ireland. This includes the social and cultural context of furniture and its relation to vernacular architecture and interiors. The chairmaker database offers new opportunities in this developing field of research.’
Chairman of the Furniture History Society, Christopher Rowell writes:
‘The Furniture History Society is honoured to have been entrusted by Dr and Mrs Cotton with the fruits of their research which will greatly enrich BIFMO in the field of vernacular furniture studies. The Society is also grateful to the Regional Furniture Society and an anonymous donor for the grants to enable the digitisation of the material.’
And Sonia Solicari, Director, Museum of the Home, said:
“It’s exciting that the index to this incredible archive is being made accessible, enabling many more people to enjoy the rich history of these chairs. Bernard and Geraldine Cotton unearthed so many otherwise forgotten stories in their decades of research and collecting. I hope that the BIFMO database will enable more stories of everyday making and home life to be revealed and shared in the decades to come.”