An Enlightenment Kaleidoscope Unveiled: Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz’s Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading

We have received another kind invitation from the Furniture History Society.  Members are invited to their Sunday online lecture:

“An Enlightenment Kaleidoscope Unveiled: Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz’s Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations

Simon Swynfen Jervis FSA

Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz’s Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations, published in the 1790s, was an unprecedented attempt to encapsulate the history and progress of interior decoration and architecture, not only from their origins in Ancient Egypt to their latest manifestations in modern England, but also on a universal stage, from Mexico to Tahiti. Remarkably Sir John Soane owned two of the 23 surviving copies of this extraordinarily rare and surprisingly unknown book. Soane was doubtless attracted by its 48 spectacular colour plates, representing 24 different tastes.

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Racknitz’s plate on the Mexican Taste

Racknitz’s book was translated from the German and edited for publication in 2019 for the Getty Research Institute by Simon Swynfen Jervis FSA, who was Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, before serving as the National Trust’s Director of Historic Buildings. He will give an illustrated lecture on this visually exciting book and its remarkable author.

Zoom lecture details:
Topic: FHS Events lecture 3: Simon Jervis Lecture Time: Jul 12, 2020 07:00 PM (BST) London

Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/96984331710?pwd=djg1SHk2RHpsVjI4MUZsU292R3BEUT09

Meeting ID: 969 8433 1710 Password: 236358

Attendees will be admitted from the waiting room from 18.45. Please make sure you are muted and your cameras are turned off. Please note that for security reasons we will lock the meeting at 19.20, so please make sure you have joined us by then.

The lecture will be followed by a round of Q & A. Please use the chat message box at the bottom of your zoom window.

If you are using Zoom software, Zoom have increased their security and you may be required to install an update.

The FHS has decided to invite the members of other like-minded societies around the world. If you are not yet a member but would like to join the society, please check out our website https://www.furniturehistorysociety.org for more information.

We hope to see many of you on Sunday, 12 July.”

The Welsh Stick Chair – a new book

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Regional Furniture Society members will be interested to learn that Tim and Betsan Bowen have just published The Welsh Stick Chair – a visual record (Pethe Press 2020). Welsh-speaking members and those learning Welsh will be delighted to discover that the volume is bilingual with the text in Welsh and English next to each other. The authors have used images of the chairs, stools and tables which they have photographed over many years as dealers in Welsh vernacular furniture. Their aim in producing this book is to extend the knowledge and appreciation of these important items of the Welsh folk art tradition. The book is available here. A review will appear in the Newsletter in due course.

Tobias Jellinek: Early British Chairs and Seats: 1500 – 1700

The Events Secretary has received this message from Ian Deakin who was looking forward to attending the cancelled West Yorkshire study day:

“Myself and my family are NHS employees currently working with the Covid19 crisis. I find it a great release for me to learn more about my passion for early oak furniture when I have time and start to visit collections again.  I have been looking for some time for Tobias Jellinek’s Early British Chairs and Seats 1500 -1700*. If you know of any member who is selling a copy or where it can be sourced at a ‘reasonable’ cost I would be very interested. There are copies available online (which don’t seem to sell) for very high prices at the moment.

 If you have a copy you are prepared to part with, please contact the Events Secretary who will forward your message to Ian.

*ISBN-13: 978-1851495818

 

 

Keeping Members informed and entertained during the current crisis

Unfortunately Society events have had to be postponed or cancelled because of coronavirus risk. Here is the updated calendar which makes for sad reading.

In order to keep us up-to-date and, I hope, entertained, I have started both an RFS Twitter feed (which updates onto the front page of this website) and an Instagram feed for which I cannot locate a widget to achieve the same.  At the moment I am posting pictures mostly from our magnificent back catalogue of articles, with links on the Twitter feed to the relevant article from which the picture has been chosen.  I am supplementing this material with occasional contributions from William Sergeant’s and my Lincolnshire Chair blog.

Interesting and beautiful contributions are also invited from anyone who would like to contribute: please send photograph(s) (and brief caption explaining what, where and when) to regionalfurnituresociety@gmail.com.

Julian Parker

Website Editor

in succession to:

Ananda Rutherford, to whom our very grateful thanks for her nine years as Website Editor, and my personal thanks for handing over the website to me smoothly, with kindness, and in excellent order. I will try to maintain her high standards!

Blair Castle – update – find a copy of Country Life!

RFS members may like to get hold of a copy of the March 11th issue of Country Life:  the magazine contains a fascinating article by former RFS journal editor David Jones which dovetails an article on the building history of the castle by Mary Miers in the same issue. Members may recall that David conducted a study day of the 18th and 19th century furniture at Blair Castle in Perthshire last year, and this article reveals his recent discoveries.

In the turbulent times of the Jacobite rebellion of  the 1740s the Duke of Atholl commenced a transformation of  the castle from an antiquated fortress to a sophisticated Highland palace. He employed an impressive role-call of London and Scottish furniture makers including Thomas Chippendale. His programme was continued by successive Dukes reflecting the changes of fashion yet with the unifying strand of using unusual native woods, mostly from the Atholl Estates.

The Plantagenet (a pun on the Latin name for broom : Planta Genista) bureau-bookcase by Perth maker George Sandeman  ‘achieves unique whimsical effects’ in the use of broom-wood veneers laid in a striped pattern on an oak carcass. (photo: Country Life)

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David suggests that  the imaginative patronage of furniture makers by successive Dukes of Atholl over the course of 100 years and their use of native timbers over mahogany is unparalleled in any other house.

Jeremy Bate

 

The Worshipful Company of Upholders’ Travel Bursary

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Applications are invited for The Worshipful Company of Upholders’ annual Travel Bursary (£1,000). The scheme is open to applicants who need to undertake travel with regard to any aspect of the trades currently represented by the Company, namely upholstery and soft furnishings, the funeral trade and the bedding industry. The focus of the travel could include: design, manufacture (craft or industrial), service improvement, history, exhibitions and conferences, teaching and training or the conservation of furniture textiles. Please note the deadline for 2020 applications is 31 March 2020. Full details can be found here.

Spring 2020 Newsletter

The Spring 2020 edition (No.72) of the RFS Newsletter is now available to members. In this issue Future Society Events including visits to Leeds and Lancaster, the Research in Progress meeting on medieval furniture and the annual conference in Lincoln are detailed. There are many interesting contributions to the Short Notes and Queries section, including an appeal for further information on spring locks in medieval chests, a note on new light on the Ordsall Hall, Salford, bed and a newly-identified chest of drawers by a mid-nineteenth century Weymouth cabinet maker. The most recent Letter from America highlights the range of symposia, exhibitions and conferences in the United States this year, while the update on British and Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO) describes new material recently published and encourages feedback and further contributions. Reports from the Oak House, West Bromwich and the week-long study tour to Ireland show the diversity of furniture and buildings visited by RFS members. Full details are in the Newsletter.

RFSNL 72 Cover

  • Letter from America – Daniel Ackermann
  • Spring locks in medieval chests– Chris Pickvance
  • New light on the Ordsall Hall bed
    – Adam Bowett
  • Gillows research material – Susan Stuart
  • Evolution of the rocking chair – John Boram
  • Judges’ Lodgings Museum, Lancaster – Lynda Jackson
  • The London Upholders’ Company and its place in furniture history – John Houston
  • A Weymouth cabinet maker, 1869 – Piers Keating
  • The Great Grenadier’s chair  – Linda Hall
  • A Welsh-American stick-back – Jeremy Bate
  • British and Irish Furniture Makers Online – Laurie Lindey

Additional reports:

  • Oak House
  • West Bromwich
  • Ireland Study Tour
SHORTNOTES Spring locks 1a Kent front

Lock on clamped oak chest in Kent, 1250-1350. Photograph Chris Pickvance

The Newsletter is published twice a year, and is one of the benefits of RFS membership. A full list of articles in previous editions can be found here: Newsletter research articles

Society Events for 2020 – UPDATED for cancellations and postponements

Regional Furniture Society 2020 events were open for booking, but some have had to be cancelled or postponed because of coronavirus risk

Forms are available on this website for members to print off (links to be found within individual events below). These forms will also be included in the Spring newsletter which is scheduled to arrive with members in February. All events have a finite number of places so to be sure of a place you may consider booking early.   The website will be updated when an event is fully subscribed or if an itinerary is substantially altered.

Some events may ask for a specific date on your cheque. We sometimes retain cheques for events and bank them together shortly before the event taking place. Cheques are only valid for six months, so please follow the instructions on dating and provide an individual cheque for each event.  If you do not possess a cheque book,  we may accept transfer of payment into  our bank account by agreement with the events organiser, but this needs to be arranged at least 2 months ahead of the event.

Leeds and West Yorkshire carved oak furniture of the 17th century.

Thursday 23th April 2020 – NOW CANCELLED because of coronavirus risk – to be rescheduled in Autumn 2020 or Spring 2021. No cheques have been banked.

Peter Brears has generously agreed to lead a one-day study tour of furniture of the  key houses and churches which featured in his recent article in our 2019 journal. 

Departing from Leeds station at 10:00 by coach, we will visit Shibden Hall, Halifax, and  lunch at the 17th c. Shibden Mill Inn set within a deep fold of the picturesque Shibden Valley.  We will then visit Oakwell Hall on the outskirts of Leeds, followed by St John’s church in the city centre, which we were unable to access on our Chippendale study day two years ago.  It is a short walk from St John’s to the station.

Trains from Kings Cross take about 2hr 15 mins.  Consider staying an extra day at one of the great range of hotels in Leeds and visiting Temple Newsam or Harewood House.

Cost: £60, including lunch.  Applications to be received by March 9th.

 Annual Conference, Lincoln

NOW POSTPONED from Monday 22nd – Friday 26th June 2020 provisionally to Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th June 2021

UPDATE: this event has, alas, had to be postponed because of the coronavirus risk: no cheques had been banked at the date of cancellation.

The text below is the original text relating to the now-postponed conference. It will be updated when the position becomes clearer.

 The date of this year’s conference has changed from the date posted in the RFS autumn Newsletter, and the Friday programme appearing in the Spring Newsletter has been amended since going to print.

 Lincoln is a city of two parts. The cathedral and castle share the heights and the commercial hub with an earlier history on the river below, linked by the aptly-named Steep Street.  It is a city enjoying a renaissance, peered by modern industry and two dynamic universities.  We will be staying in the high town at the Bishop Grosseteste University, specialising in mature student courses, where all rooms have small (4 foot) double beds which can be made up for single or double occupancy. Couples may decide to share a room or book two rooms.  There is ample car parking. Lincoln is served by a branch line from Newark North Gate station on the fast east coast route.   The university is a short taxi-ride from Lincoln station and buses connect it with the city centre.

 Monday 22nd June will find many delegates arriving at Lincoln and choosing to stay Monday night for an 8:30 start on Tuesday morning.  A package of: 2-course refectory supper, bed & breakfast may be booked on the application form.

 We have arranged an optional private visit on Monday afternoon to the  Elizabethan Doddington Hall, just to west of the city.  The house has remained in the same family for 400 years, and contains an interesting and varied collection of furniture and pictures imaginatively presented with the current owner’s contemporary ceramic collection. Whilst the house will not be open to the public on that day, two cafes and a restaurant will be available for us to lunch on arrival. (not included in the cost of the visit). Members arriving by train to Lincoln may take an affordable taxi to Doddington and will be offered lifts to the university at the end of our visit. This Monday event is priced separately on the booking form.

 Tuesday 23rd.  The start of the main conference, will be devoted to the city of Lincoln,  starting at the cathedral: considered by some, the finest gothic church in Europe.  We will visit the Wren Library containing 15th c. reading desks, where William Sergeant will introduce us to their collection of early forest chairs probably by Joseph Newton of Fenton alongside those from his own collection brought together for comparison for the first time.  Then the opportunity of a roof tour, taking in the bell-ringing chamber, the triforium, and the spectacular roof space retaining much of its original timber. 

The west front of the cathedral faces the castle, where we will visit the the old prison with its unique 19th c. chapel, designed to enable the prisoners to see the minister but not their fellow inmates, and the new subterranean space created for the Magna Carta. After lunch we will visit the Usher Gallery (currently under threat of closure) founded by jeweller and watchmaker James Usher (1845-1921) to study his collection of 18th. c. locally made clocks including some rare examples with wooden movements.  Fitter members may walk down Steep Street through the commercial centre and over the only surviving medieval bridge with shops on it, to St Mary’s Guildhall, one of the lost medieval palaces of England, with a  much older surprise recently exposed beneath the floor. Those choosing to remain in the upper city may  explore The Collection – a new museum of the county’s history in art and artefacts, well-placed opposite the Usher Gallery.

 Wednesday 24th:  north by coach to visit Gainsborough Old Hall, containing the largest collection of 17th. c. furniture in the county.  Then to Epworth church and rectory (birthplace of John Wesley) with its eclectic collection of chairs and after lunch, a private visit to Scawby Hall, home of the Nelthorpe family for over 400 years, guided by Kristin Nelthorpe.

 Thursday 25th:  we travel by coach to the attractive market town of Louth to view Sudbury’s hutch, given to the church in 1502. Then to a rare ‘mud and stud’ cottage near Horncastle, where owner Andrew, will demonstrate traditional thatching, while his wife, Ruth will guide us around their home containing furniture collected by Andrew’s mother from local farm sales. Then, pausing to picnic at the Tudor brick Tattershall Castle, we will travel south for a private visit to a 17th c. ‘artisan baroque’  manor house to study the owner’s collection of oak furniture.

 The huge county of Lincolnshire has a glut of fascinating churches, some with carved screens and many retaining their  distinctive medieval chests with spectacular Gothic tracery. On Wednesday and Thursday we will endeavour to fit in brief stops to explore a number of these churches, and a real surprise: a Gothic church furnished in the finest mahogany.

 On Friday morning 26th,  after breakfast we will depart the university by our own transport to Navenby  ( 20mins. south of Lincoln), to visit the unmodernised cottage occupied by  Mrs. Smith until her death at 102 years, which has just reopened following conservation of the roof.

 Friday afternoon 26th, an optional  visit, for a limited number, to  a guided tour of a fascinating collection of family portraits in Fulbeck spanning 400 years ,a few miles south of Navenby.   Friday Lunch is not included but there are pubs serving food in Navenby and Fulbeck.

 Those members departing by train, who wish to attend one or both of the Friday events will be offered lifts and delivered late morning or late afternoon to Newark station, convenient for onward travel. Please indicate on the booking form if you would like a lift.

 The Furniture Surgery and AGM will take place on Wednesday or Thursday evenings after dinner.

 Costs:   Main conference, including bed, breakfast, all meals except some coffee and tea breaks, admissions and coach travel on two days from Tuesday morning 23rd June to Friday 26th June, departing after lunch : residential, single occupancy £480, double occupancy  £420 per person,  non-residential £310.

 Additional costs:   Monday 22nd June. Refectory two course supper, bed & breakfast; single occupancy: £83, double occupancy: £65 per person  

Monday 22nd June: guided visit to Doddington Hall:  £13

Friday 26th June: p.m. visit to a private portrait collection: £10

Lancaster

Friday 2nd October 2020: Update: not yet postponed or cancelled; update will be posted as soon as a decision is made.

 Celebrating the reprieve of Lancaster’s fine selection of museums from threatened closure, and the town’s celebrated connection with  the Gillow family we will be visiting The Judges’ Lodgings, The City Museum, Lancaster Castle, including the Grand Jury room not usually shown, and Lancaster Priory – all within a compact radius, and visit the Maritime Museum down on the river. There will be the opportunity to lunch as a group in one of several new restaurant/cafes springing up in the town – to be selected shortly before the event.  Those planning a longer stay, may like to plan to stay at the Art Deco Midland Hotel at nearby Morecambe.

 Cost of the day £25, not including lunch.  Please note the instruction on the booking form for dating your cheque.

 

Regional Furniture journal, volume 33, 2019

RF 2019 COVER

A quick reminder that volume 33, the 2019 edition, of the Regional Furniture Journal is currently available to all members.  

This year’s contents: Volume 33 – 2019

  • Leeds and West Yorkshire Carved Oak Furniture of the Seventeenth Century, Peter Brears
  • HUBBARD GRANTHAM and I HUBBARD GRANTHAM: a Late Georgian Windsor Chairmakers’ Whodunnit, William Sergeant and Julian Parker
  • The Great Chair of Sir Ralph Warburton, 1603, Adam Bowett
  • Current Developments in the Scientific Dating of Wood, Martin Bridge
  • Triangular Gothic Stools: a Further note, Christopher Pickvance

In keeping with our policy of providing free and open access to back issues, the 2016 Journal is now available online here, on our Journal web page.

Autumn 2019 Newsletter

RFSNL 71 coverIn this issue there are varied contributions to the short notes and queries section, ranging from an appeal for help in the search for John Lombe’s Piedmont chest, thought to have been used to carry designs and models of silk-throwing equipment key to the foundation of the mill in Derby c. 1717, to the discovery of a chair that is the missing link in how Windsor chair making began in Grantham in 1800. A note on John Erhart Rose, a nineteenth-century cabinetmaker in Virginia, and a Letter from America bring news of current furniture research in the United States. Reports from the annual conference in Shropshire show the richness of furniture and buildings visited. Hans Piena from the Netherlands Open Air Museum at Arnhem gave the Christopher Gilbert Memorial Lecture, examining the history of the Dutch ladder-back chair. Full details are in the Newsletter.

CONF Saturday Christopher Gilbert Lecture 1

left to right: thirteenth-century chair, excavated from a site near Rotterdam; a reproduction of what the original would have looked like. Collection of the Netherlands Open Air Museum, Arnhem