Chris Pickvance

We are very sorry to announce the death on 16 November 2021 of our former Chairman, Chris Pickvance, aged 77. Chris’s funeral will take place on 8 December 2021, at 2:40pm, at the Barham Crematorium, Canterbury Road (A260), Barham, Nr Canterbury, Kent CT4 6QU; 8.5 miles from Canterbury. It will be webcast, at the family’s request, so that people who cannot attend in person can follow it: the funeral will last 30-40 minutes. Members who wish to view the webcast are asked to email for the link.

Katy Pickvance would like to ask anyone who can, please, to donate in Chris’s name and memory to the Pilgrims Hospice, Canterbury  because it is an incredible place for ‘end of life care’, and needs help to continue its work.


Chris was really quite a private person and although many of us in the RFS spent many hours on
study trips and in meetings with him, few I think were able to get very close to him. His sudden and
tragic death from oesophagus cancer, which we learn from his family was only discovered in
September this year, has left us feeling deprived of someone who contributed enormously to the
Society, partly as Chairman over the last 10 years and perhaps more significantly as an expert in
medieval chests.

This particular line of research grew from a more general interest in medieval and Renaissance
furniture and woodwork both in Britain and on the Continent. He led two wonderful study trips to
France in 2005 and 2011, the first to Brittany and the second to Paris and Burgundy. Both were
made special by his knowledge of the places, furniture and scholars we would encounter.
His personal study of medieval chests led him to many discoveries about these often neglected
ancient relics, tucked away in the corners of churches. By careful observation of structural details,
decorative carving and the ironwork of locks and straps, coupled with dendrochronology and diligent
comparison with the work of scholars abroad, he has tentatively reached a new level of
understanding about their origins and their place in medieval society. As an academic, he was
comfortable with the processes of publishing in peer-reviewed journals and lecturing to
knowledgeable audiences. His central research on chests is published in two articles, the first,
‘”Kentish Gothic” or imported? Understanding a group of early fifteenth century tracery-carved
medieval chests in Kent and Norfolk’, Archaeologia Cantiana, vol. 138 (2017); and the second, ‘The
Canterbury group of arcaded gothic early medieval chests: a dendrochronological and comparative
study’, The Antiquaries Journal, vol. 98 (2018). He also published numerous articles and reports in
the RFS Newsletter, which give insights into his broad understanding of the diversity of regional
furniture. He was a keen advocate of the Society’s Research in Progress Days, and in 2018 organised
a memorable day of lectures on 16th century furniture. In March this year he organised ‘New
Thinking about Medieval Furniture’, an online conference presenting current research from a variety
of perspectives. The event was free and attracted many non-members across Europe and America.
Shortly before his death Chris made a very generous donation of £10,000 to the Society to fund
bursaries for research into medieval chests, thus ensuring that his studies will be continued by
others, and extended across a wider geographical range than he was able to cover. Increasing
people’s awareness of the significance of such objects is surely the best way to see that they are
properly taken care of and treasured in the way that they deserve.

Chris Pickvance at the RFS Lincoln Conference, June 2021

Chris was quietly unassuming, never one to step easily into the limelight, but he led the Society well
during his chairmanship, reinforcing its purposes in research and publishing, and overseeing a
tightening of policies and governance which will stand us in good stead for many years to come. He has left an indelible legacy, and we will always be grateful for that, and we will remember him fondly
both as a friend and fellow traveller in the study of regional furniture.

David Dewing
President, Regional Furniture Society