RFS Autumn 2022 Events

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.

Applications for all events using the booking form which can be printed from this website.

Jeremy Bate

The Only Spanish Mediaeval Artesonado Ceiling in the UK: 17 and 18 June at The British Academy

The Torrijos Ceiling

RFS members may be interested in the following.

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.

Opening hours:

Friday 17 June: 9am – 3pm

Researcher Late – Friday 17 June: 6 – 9pm

Saturday 18 June: 11am – 5pm

The British Academy

10-11 Carlton House Terrace

London SW1Y 5AH

Free entry: book now (or drop in on the day)

Regional Furniture Society – Notice of Annual General Meeting 2022

With a ‘normal’ Conference being held in June in Somerset, we are able to return to holding an AGM
‘in person’. However, some members who were unable to attend Conference welcomed the use of
Zoom AGMs, and so we plan to arrange for those wishing to attend via Zoom to be able to do so also.
This will depend on the Ibis Hotel Bridgwater’s equipment functioning properly.

The Annual General Meeting of the Regional Furniture Society will be held at the Ibis Hotel,
Bridgwater and by Zoom at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday 26 June.

Members who wish to take part in the AGM via Zoom should email the Secretary on:
justj2r2@gmail.com
The Secretary will then forward to those members the access code for the Zoom meeting and the
Agenda and the Minutes of the last AGM, the proposed amendments to the Constitution and the
Annual Report & Accounts for 2021. This will be done a week before the meeting.
The Annual Report and Accounts for 2021 are also available on the website; any member requiring a
paper version should send an A4 self-addressed envelope to the Secretary, requesting a copy.

Jeremy Rycroft
Secretary

The Chippendale Society – Annual Lecture

Forthcoming lecture which RFS members are very welcome to attend:

ANNUAL LECTURE 2022

Temple Newsam House, Leeds, Monday 23rd May, 2.00pm

Dr Kerry Bristol, Town versus Country. Rethinking Thomas Chippendales Nostell Account

Dr Bristol is Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds and historian/advisor to the National Trust at Nostell Priory.

All welcome, tickets for non-members available on the door, £10. 

The event will finish at approximately 3.00 pm.

Grinling Gibbons and the Story of Carving: Conference at the V&A, 24 and 25 June 2022

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.

Symposium: Our Irish Chair: Good Design Never Grows Old, 2:30 p.m. Saturday 19th February 2022

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.

A presentation of the Burrell Furniture Collection, re-opening March 2022 – Monday 7th February at 6:00 p.m – Laura Bauld, Burrell Project Curator, Ed Johnson, Curator of Mediaeval and Renaissance Art, and Lindsay Gordon, Furniture Conservator, Glasgow Museums 

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 events.rfs@gmail.com by 16:00 Sunday 6th February. This event will not be available on YouTube for future viewing. 

Spring Events and Annual Conference

The following events are now available for booking via the website or by application to events.rfs@gmail.com:

Visit to Ercol Factory, Princes Risborough, followed by the re-opened Wycombe Museum, Thursday 24th March 2022.

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. 

Leeds and West Yorkshire Carved Oak Furniture of the 17th century, Thursday 12th May 2022. UPDATE: Please note that this event is now fully booked

Somerset Annual Conference – Wednesday 22nd to Sunday 26th June 2022. UPDATE: Please note that the Annual Conference is now fully booked.

Please book by 1 March 2022.

Tuesday 4th January 2022 at 6:00 p.m. Het Dagboek 1826-1888  (The Diary  1826-1888) – Hans Piena

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. 

Hans Piena, Conservator, Nederlands Openluchtmuseum

This event is for RFS members: if you would like to receive the link to the Zoom meeting, please reply to events.rfs@gmail.com.

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 regionalfurnituresociety@gmail.com 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.

Obituary

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