Lecture – Sunday, 22 November 2020, 19:00 (GMT): Wilhemina Castelijns – Transforming a Town Hall into a Royal Palace: Empire Furniture in Amsterdam

We are again grateful to the Furniture History Society and British & Irish Furniture Makers Online for their kindness in inviting RFS members to the latest in their series of free online lectures.

Sunday, 22 November 2020, 19:00 (GMT): Wilhemina Castelijns – Transforming a Town Hall into a Royal Palace: Empire Furniture in Amsterdam.

The Dutch royal palaces contain one of the largest collections of Empire furniture outside of France. On his arrival in the Netherlands in 1806, the country’s first king Louis Napoleon chose Amsterdam as his new place of residence and started an enormous refurnishing campaign, turning the former town hall into a royal palace, decorated in the empire style that was fashionable at his brothers court. Although French tapissiers, bronziers, furniture- and clockmakers were asked to deliver some important new works, the King soon explicitly turned to Dutch craftsmen, ordering hundreds of pieces of furniture. This paper will give an overview of the resulting Empire collection in Amsterdam, the craftsmen that were involved in its creation and the (foreign) examples that influenced its design. Additionally, some examples of Empire furniture at the other palaces will be shown, providing a brief introduction of the empire style furniture ordered by subsequent monarchs.

Wilhemina received an MA in Fine and Decorative Art form Sotheby’s Institute of Art in 2016 and went on to work as Junior Curator of Furniture at the Rijksmuseum, where she assisted Reinier Baarsen with the exhibition ‘Kwab: Dutch Design in the Age of Rembrandt’. She then worked as curatorial intern at the Royal Collection Trust before moving back to the Netherlands where she is now working for the Royal Household as Keeper of the Royal Furniture.

Zoom joining instructions:

Time: Nov 22, 2020 07:00 PM London

Meeting ID: 974 9583 1151
Passcode: 475514

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 19.30, 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, please note that Zoom have increased their security and you may be required to install an update.
We hope to see many of you on Sunday, 22 November.
For any queries, please email events@furniturehistorysociety.org

Other notices:
Online Lecture
The Story of Matthew Boulton and Soho House

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 15.00 (GMT)
with Birmingham Museums
 The talk will be delivered by one of the Museum’s expert tour guides over Zoom and last for about one hour and 15 minutes. Click here for more information on the FHS website.

Soho House is an 18th century mansion and was the home of the great industrialist Matthew Boulton for over 40 years, it was the epicentre for many changes brought about through the Industrial Revolution. This talk will take you through this historical property’s wonderfully preserved rooms, and discover the objects and tales behind them. We’ll look at the people that lived here, and learn about Boulton’s life, legacy, and the birth of the industrial revolution in the heart of Handsworth.

Soho House was also the meeting place for the Lunar Society, where radical scientific and technological debates were the centre of discussion. We’ll also look at the members of the lunar society, a group of free thinking scientists and industrialists including Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt, and William Withering.

On 19 November 2020The Glass Society is hosting a free lecture by the stained glass conservation specialist Jonathan Cooke whose work recreating a lost William Collins window at the Soane Museum featured recently in Reconstructing Soane. Click here for  further details.

Lecture – Sunday, 1 November 2020, 19:00 – Dr Francesca Vanke – ‘A rich stone table inlaid’: the Paston collection and the re-discovery of the pietre dure table-top

We are again grateful to the Furniture History Society for their kindness in inviting RFS members to the latest in their series of free online lectures:

The Furniture History Society invites you to the latest in our series of free online lectures:

Dr Francesca Vanke

Senior Curator and Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art

(Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery)

‘A rich stone table inlaid’: the Paston collection and the re-discovery of the pietre dure table-top
Sunday, 1 November 2020, 19:00 (BST)
Pietre dure tabletop, circa 1625, with coats of arms, 1638

Francesca Vanke FSA is a Senior Curator and Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.  She gained her BA in classics from Oxford, and an MA in art conservation and a PhD in history from Camberwell College of Art.  Her academic speciality is the history of collecting and orientalism, but she researches a wide range of related subjects.  Her studies have most recently included seventeenth century art, material culture and alchemy, working towards exhibitions on Rembrandt, and The Paston Treasure, for Norwich Castle She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research.  

For more details, including a short summary of this lecture and instructions for joining the meeting, please click here.

AGM Reminder

You will already have seen a post indicating that the AGM has had to be arranged as a Zoom meeting. It indicated that you should contact Jeremy Rycroft on justj2r2@gmail.com to obtain the code and password. This arrangement stops non-members accessing and interfering with the meeting. We need more members to join the AGM to reach our quorum. Please email Jeremy to get the meeting reference code and log on Saturday 24 October at 2:30 p.m., if you are able to. You will be sent a copy of the Agenda, last year’s AGM minutes and some guidance on using Zoom. If you have questions, please send these in in advance to Jeremy Rycroft too, if possible, so someone is ready to answer them.

Lecture: Sunday, 18 October 2020, 19:00 (BST) – Imported British Furniture for the South by Tom Savage – Director, External Affairs (Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library)

We are again grateful to the Furniture History Society for their kindness in inviting RFS members to the latest in their series of free online lectures:

Tom Savage
Director, External Affairs (Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library)

Imported British Furniture for the South

Sunday, 18 October 2020, 19:00 (BST)

Drayton Hall Desk and Bookcase, Britain, c. 1745-50; Drayton Hall Museum Collection (NT 98.6.3), courtesy of Drayton Hall, an historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, gift of Mr Charles H. Drayton III, and Mrs Martha Drayton Mood.
Photograph courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Tom Savage is the Director of External Affairs for Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. From 1998 to 2005, he was Senior Vice President and Director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art for North and South America where he directed The Sotheby’s American Arts Course. From 1981 until 1998, he was Curator and Director of Museums for Historic Charleston Foundation.
This lecture will look at surviving examples and contemporary documents to re-examine the place of British imported furniture in the regions of Tidewater Virginia and the Low Country of South Carolina. The influence of British imports on local production as well as the role of the factor will be discussed.

Zoom joining instructions:

Time: Oct 18, 2020 07:00 PM London
Meeting ID: 949 3045 0585
Passcode: 081319
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, 18 October.

The Churches Conservation Trust Online Lectures Series – October 2020

Members may be interested in this lecture series being given online by the Churches Conservation Trust. They are livestreamed via the CCT Facebook page.

Thursday 1st October, 1-2pm (GMT): Dr Gabriel Byng – Construction, Change and Crisis: Church building in the shadow of the Black Death

Thursday 8th October, 1-2pm (GMT): Prof. Paul Binski – A Tomb with a View: Medieval Death

Thursday 15th October, 1-2pm (GMT): Dr Cindy Wood – A Medieval Guide to Escaping Purgatory: The practices of the late Medieval Cult of the Dead

Thursday 22nd October, 1-2pm (GMT): Dr Francis Young- Macabre Church Lore: Ghosts, Witches and Monsters in England’s Churches and Churchyards

Thursday 29th October, 1-2pm (GMT): Suzie Lennox – Raiders of the Grave: Macabre tales of Bodysnatchers & what churches did to stop them

Many thanks to Roisin Astell for the text and links to the programme.

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


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.


Wessex Fine Art Study Courses: From Tower House to Country House: The Art and Architecture of North-East Scotland May 31-June 6, 2020

RFS members will be interested to hear about this course run by Wessex Fine Art Study Courses and led by Dr David JonesThe tour will be based in Aberdeenshire, a magnificent and unspoilt part of North-East Scotland.

The area is renowned for its great concentration of romantic turreted tower houses, with their rich Renaissance plasterwork and painted ceilings. We shall be seeing Crathes, Craigevar, Fyvie and Monymusk, all with interesting furniture. The tower theme continues into the early 18th– century with the dramatic Baroque splendour of William Adam’s Duff House, and in the 19th century is revived in the castellated Gothic of Gillespie Graham’s Drumtochty Castle and Archibald Simpson’s superbly sited Castle Forbes. By contrast, William Adam’s Haddo House (1732) is a classical Palladian country house, with Adam Revival interiors furnished by Wright and Mansfeld. At Kemnay House the original 18th-century furniture survives together with the related furniture bills, whilst Fyvie holds a magnificent collection of Old Master paintings and works of art.

In Scotland few mediaeval churches survived the Reformation, but one of the most fascinating is the ancient collegiate church at Cullen in Morayshire, with interesting furnishings. Important historic gardens to be visited include the rare Renaissance garden of Edzell, the restored Victorian gardens of Haddo and the outstanding early 20th-century gardens of Crathes.

The tour will be based at the Macdonald Pittodrie House Hotel****, near Inverurie, one of Scotland’s most historic hotels, and situated about 20 miles from Aberdeen, with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.

The 7-day tour will cost £2195 per person in a twin-bedded or double room, £350 single supplement. This will include accommodation B/B/Dfor 6 nights, most lunches, all coach transport, entrance fees and gratuities, and detailed course notes.

For the full programme and booking form see www.wfasc.co.uk



The Cabinetmaker’s Account by Jay Robert Stiefel

The Cabinetmaker's Account: John Head's Record of Craft & Commerce in Colonial Philadelphia, 1718-1753, by Jay Robert Stiefel

The Cabinetmaker’s Account: John Head’s Record of Craft & Commerce in Colonial Philadelphia, 1718-1753, by Jay Robert Stiefel

Suffolk-born joiner John Head immigrated to Philadelphia in 1717 and became one of its most successful artisans and merchants. However, Head’s prominence had been lost to history until Jay Stiefel’s discovery of his account book at the American Philosophical Society Library. Head’s account book is the earliest and most complete to have survived from any cabinetmaker working in British North America or in Great Britain and offers a 35-year ‘moving picture’ of an 18th century cabinetmaker’s daily life.

Historian, lawyer, and collector Jay Robert Stiefel is an authority on the crafts and commerce of Colonial Philadelphia and the institutions founded by Franklin for the welfare of its tradesmen. He studied history at the University of Pennsylvania and Christ Church, Oxford. Stiefel’s writings and lectures on social history have restored to the historical record many early craftsmen, artists, and merchants whose prominence had been obscured by the passage of time.

Jay introduced his new book at three venues (these lectures have now all taken place):

Tuesday April 30th at 5:00 p.m. Christ Church, Oxford. Free, but booking required via the Christ Church website.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019, 6.00pm – 8.00pm Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF Cost: £28 – see the Furniture History Society website.

Thursday, May 9th. 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Lyon & Turnbull, Broughton St. Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 557 8844 for details.

£4 Million Restoration: Historic House Rescue

Tomorrow, Wednesday 16th January at 9pm, More 4 is broadcasting  the first of two programmes called the £4 Million Restoration, which may be of interest to members. It documents the restoration of a Landmark Trust farmhouse in the Black Mountains, dating from c 1400. A new dating technique has been used which is claimed to work on timber previously undateable by conventional methods.

Further information is available in this article in The Guardian: newspaper: Welsh farmstead is rare medieval hall house, experts confirm and the programme details can be found here: Historic House Rescue.

Monty Don’s Real Craft


You may have caught the first episode of a new series, Monty Don’s Real Craft on More4 earlier this week, in which “Monty Don helps gifted amateurs revive crafts of the past as they compete to win a prized commission from a prestige buyer.”   Episode 2, to be shown on More4 on  Monday 21st April at 9pm, is called ‘Wood’  and involves three amateur furniture-makers competing “for the chance to work with one of the UK’s most respected furniture companies.” It will definitely be worth a watch as some of the programme was filmed earlier this year with Dr Bill Cotton at his home in Cirencester.