Rachel Sycamore, a furniture maker and restorer since 1995, now specialises in furniture restoration and conservation. In 2021, she completed a Masters by Research in Archaeology at the University of Worcester, researching medieval dug-out church chests in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Since then, she continues to record, research and conserve church chests around England.
Chests were amongst the most important and prevalent form of medieval furniture, with many surviving in parish churches today. Originally, they provided secure containers in which to store valuable church accoutrements. As part of her master’s degree, Rachel Sycamore recorded and photographed over 200 church chests throughout Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Her talk will explain the different types of church chest and discuss their construction, uses, ornament and care. She will reveal why they are significant archaeological artefacts and what they meant to the people who used and depended on them. She will also recount some of the extraordinary and amusing tales of their survival and her quests to record examples in unlikely places. As a furniture restorer and conservator, Rachel hopes to raise awareness of the importance and significance of church chests and ensure that they are cared for in a way that will preserve them for future generations.
Members’ attention is drawn to the programme for the next New Insights into C16th and C17th British Architecture Conference which will take place on Saturday 21 January 2023 at the Society of Antiquaries, London, which may be of interest. There are a few remaining tickets left.
Tickets are £56.00 including coffee, lunch and tea, and booking is via Eventbrite. Full details are also available on the website.
10:00 Introduction and welcome
Alice Blows: ‘One of those capacious and splendid mansions’: a reassessment of Mells Manor, Somerset
Nick Humphrey: ‘Assai Comodo Palazzo’ (‘A Very Commodious Mansion House’): Sir Paul Pindar’s House on Bishopsgate
Questions and discussion
12:00-12:30 12:30-13:00 13:00-13:15 13:15-14:00
Dr Patrick Kragelund: A Royal Visit to Stuart England in 1606 Rose Mitchell: Mystery Plans Investigated Questions and discussion Lunch
Rebecca Shields: On Her Own Terms: Hatton House and the Architectural Matronage of Elizabeth Hatton
Melanie Holcomb: House of Commerce or Urban Folly?: Henry Hamlin’s House in Tudor Exeter
Questions and discussion
Recovering Lost Buildings
Struan Bates: Who Built Hampstead Marshall (1662-1718)?
Dr Ann-Marie Akehurst: Pepys’ Stone Feast and the Cutting Ward at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, 1691
Questions and discussion
The conference is organised by Dr Olivia Horsfall Turner and Dr Jenny Saunt
The back of the seat is stamped ELLIOT AND SONS/ A.W.F. / E.S/ 1917 / G.R.V. chairs. It can be seen in the ‘A History of Wycombe in 10 Objects’ display at Wycombe Museum.
During World War 1, High Wycombe furniture factories diversified to make all kinds of wooden items for the military including tent pegs and wooden aircraft parts such as propellors. They also made furniture for the military, including this chair. Similar stamped chairs in Lincoln Cathedral are believed to have come from a military hospital. Elliott’s Factory ran from 1887-1978 and had premises in Shaftsbury Street and Desborough Road.
RFS Members are invited to an RFS/MESDA joint webinar via Zoom.
Join Daniel Ackermann, chief curator of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, live from the museum’s galleries in North Carolina as he talks about “Backcountry not Backwards: Working Wood in the Inland American South.”
Along America’s Atlantic coast European-born cabinetmakers often hewed close to their training as they competed with British-made imports. However, further inland, cabinetmakers created distinctive regional styles that reflected their diversity and that of their patrons. Often referred to in America as the “Backcountry,” the furniture made in the inland south was far from backwards.
Images (L-R): Chest of Drawers, Workshop of Gerrard Calvert, Mason County, Kentucky. 1795-1800 Cherry, light and dark wood inlays, poplar HOA: 42 3/8”; WOA: 41 ¾”; DOA: 21 3/8” The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem Museums & Gardens MESDA Purchase Fund (5691.1)
Ladder-back Side Chair, Walton County, Georgia. 1790-1820 Maple and split oat HOA: 36”; WOA: 18”; DOA: 14” The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem Museums & Gardens MESDA Purchase Fund (5560)
High Chest of Drawers, Joseph Ray and John Price, Augusta County, Virginia. 1765-1780 Walnut and yellow pine HOA: 90 1/2”; WOA: 44 1/2”; DOA: 24 1/2” Colonial Williamsburg Collection MESDA Purchase Fund (5749)
Members wishing to join the webinar can do so by emailing Jeremy Bate on email@example.com who will send you the Zoom invitation.
Members may be interested to know that Lyon & Turnbull have a sale in London on 28 October which features furniture by Gerald Summers, founder of Makers of Simple Furniture in the 1930s. A piece by Martha Deese about the furniture may be found here. The furniture may be found here.
Following the publication of the most recent RFS Newsletter, number 77, I have updated the indexes to the Newsletter Research Articles, the Book Reviews and the Obituaries to include NL 77. I have also published 39 newsletter pieces, 3 reviews and 2 obituaries from RFS Newsletter 71, (Autumn 2019) on the relevant pages of the website. A spreadsheet containing the latest index to all parts may be downloaded here.
The 2023 RFS Conference is in the early stages of planning. We expect to be based at Bangor University, Caernarfonshire, commencing Wednesday evening 5 July 2023 and ending the Sunday morning 9 July 2023.
RFS members may be interested in the following Furniture History Society Zoom lecture by Tony Peart, whose fascinating house in Carlisle some RFS members visited during our Carlisle and the Borders conference in 2016.
A Sense of Proportion and Puritanical Love of Simplicity: The Furniture Designs of
C. F. A. Voysey
Sunday, 9 October 2022
19.00-20.15 (BST), 14.00-15.15 (EDT)
Supported by the The Voysey Society, in association with BIFMO
C. F. A. Voysey (1857-1941) was one of the leading architects of the Arts & Crafts Movement. He was of the generation that immediately followed
A. W. N. Pugin and E. W. Godwin and, like them, saw the architect’s role as not to simply design a building but also to design the objects and furnishings that would be found within it, from the paper on the walls to the cutlery on the table. Even before his architectural career was fully established, he was widely celebrated as the leading pattern designer of his generation and would go on to design metalware, lighting, sculpture, and ceramics.
Voysey had a long career as a furniture designer; his earliest design dating to the mid-1880s and his last to the mid-1930s but, as with his architecture, it took many years of trial and error for him to ‘find his feet’. By 1900 he had matured into a consummate designer of simple, austere, oak furniture and was creating the iconic pieces that would influence the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh and which, even today, remain highly valued in design collections worldwide.
Tony Peart is a Senior Lecturer in Illustration at The University of Cumbria and a Trustee of the C. F. A. Voysey Society (voyseysociety.org). He has researched and written about most aspects of Voysey’s decorative design and related nineteenth and early twentieth century decorative design. He is currently preparing a monograph on The Birmingham Guild of Handicraft and is in the early stages of researching British manufactured anthroposophical furniture.
FHS Members will be emailed the link one week before the lecture, non-members can pay £5 to attend via this link. using event code UMEHEH
The autumn events programme continues our exploration of modest homes whose surviving furnishings project a strong sense of their past owners. During the Lincoln conference we visited a small cottage at Navenby, which the village saved as a memorial to its long-time owner Mrs Smith. We continue the theme this autumn with a visit for a small group to David Parr’s house at Cambridge in November. Next April we expect to further this exploration at Hammersmith riverside, home of the Arts & Crafts movement.
Wednesday 28th September: a private visit to Westwood Manor and Great Chalfield Manor Wilts.
Apply by September 1st
‘When I have been asked to name the house which above all others has been sympathetically restored, furnished, and cherished, I never hesitate to quote Westwood. As a specimen of the smaller English country house it is perfection.’ James Lees-Milne.
After languishing as an apple store for most of the 19th century Westwood was bought by Edgar Lister, a diplomat at the Ottoman court. The house contains much furniture in native hardwoods, musical instruments and tapestries collected by Lister from 1911 until his death in 1956. He restored the house and adorned the garden with topiary; he was also an expert in needlepoint and upholstered much of its furniture in Florentine work. We will lunch nearby either at The Courts garden, or at the famous George Inn, Norton St Philip before visiting Great Chalfield Manor in the afternoon. Fee £12 (which does not include refreshments) or entry to Gt Chalfield Manor (free to NT members)
Thursday 6th October: Visit to the Ercol factory and the workshop of a maritime woodcarver
Apply by September 1st. Maximum 10 visitors
Our Spring visit to the Ercol factory was oversubscribed, so Ercol have kindly agreed to a repeat tour of their factory at Princes Risborough. Here’s a 1935 clip from the Ercol YouTube channel of chairmaking in the Chilterns.
We will then travel 20 miles to lunch at Waterperry Gardens cafe (not included in fee) before visiting the on-site workshop of Andy Peters, a maritime woodcarver. Whilst Andy works on all aspects of carved maritime restoration, he is most famed for the restoration or making of replicas of ships’ figureheads – awarded ‘National Treasure’ by Country Life magazine. His projects including those of the Gotheborg, a replica of a Swedish East India Company ship from 1738, French frigate Hermione and the Cutty Sark. His work may be viewed at: www.maritimawoodcarving.co.uk
Princes Risborough is served by by rail from Marylebone station. Those travelling by train will be offered a lift to Waterperry and may be dropped at High Wycombe station at the end of the day.
The event is open to a maximum of ten visitors. Fee £20. If you wish to attend solely the morning or the afternoon event, please contact me.
Tuesday 18th October: The Burrell Collection, Glasgow
Apply by October 1st
A visit to the refurbished Burrell Collection in Glasgow hosted by the curatorial team responsible for the intelligent re-display of Sir William’s outstanding collection of early furniture. Refreshments not included but the Burrell cafe will be open throughout our visit. Fee £10.
Thursday November 10th: The David Parr House, and Saffron Walden Museum
Apply by September 15th
186 Gwydir Street, Cambridge was bought by David Parr in 1886. He was a working-class Victorian decorative artist who worked for the Cambridge firm of F R Leach & Sons on projects throughout the country. Parr learnt his many skills there, painting houses and churches with designs created by Bodley, Kempe and William Morris. Over 40 years, David Parr decorated his terraced home with the designs he worked on every day. The house became a pattern book of his work. After Parr’s death in 1927, his granddaughter Elsie came to live in the house to look after her grandmother and she stayed for the next 85 years. During her time in the house, Elsie married and raised two daughters but resisted any but the most essential alterations to her father’s creation, which remained unknown until her death .
We will lunch in the attractive town of Saffron Walden (not included in the fee) before a tour of the early furniture and carved woodwork at the Saffron Walden museum and museum stores led by the curator. Much of their inventory, including a fine collection of early ceramics was donated to the town by wealthy residents in the early 20th century.
The David Parr house is walkable from Cambridge station. Saffron Walden is reachable by train and bus from Cambridge, but rail travellers are likely to be be offered lifts. Return journey from Audley End station. Maximum 10 visitors. Fee £30.
Discover more about the only Spanish mediaeval artesonado ceiling in the UK: The British Academy Summer Showcase, June 17-18, London SW1Y 5AH. Made in the 1490s in Torrijos for Guitiérre de Cárdenas, chamberlain to Isabella the Catholic, and his wife Teresa Enríquez, the queen’s cousin, this 6m carved and gilded/painted ceiling is the focus of new research. It will be reconstructed and displayed at V&A East Storehouse, opening 2024.
Summer Showcase #8
How a wooden ceiling reveals mediaeval Spain’s diverse culture
The V&A’s Torrijos ceiling is one of four ceilings that came from a palace in the Spanish town of Torrijos. It was made in the 15th century for Christian patrons using Islamic craftsmanship, representing a moment when the Spanish noble elite chose to decorate their homes in a style that fused the cultures of the Iberian Peninsula. Beneath a scaled image of the ceiling, watch master woodcarver Naseer Yasna work with traditional Islamic techniques. Figure out how to fit together small-scale samples of ceiling sections, discover more about Islamic geometry and even have a go at decorating individual pieces to take home with you.