RFS Events 2017: A Study Day in the Lake District, Tuesday 21st March 2017 – booking now!

The schedule for 2017 is now available on the Events page and the first RFS event of 2017 will be A Study Day in the Lake District held on Tuesday 21st March 2017. Booking for the Study Day is now open  – please apply by 1st March. 

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View of Town End Farmhouse by Jeremy Bate

Until the discovery of the Lake District by the Romantic Movement in the late 18th century, this was a remote corner of England with a unique furniture history. Our day starts at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside, founded in 1912 to preserve and share the cultural heritage of the Lake District.

The Armitt’s collection includes the Great House Press from Troutbeck dated 1634, which local RFS member and Lakes furniture specialist Frank Wood rescued, restored, and described in the 2014 journal. Frank, our guide for the day, hopes to borrow further interesting pieces from outlying sites for our benefit. The Armitt Museum also holds important collections of Beatrix Potter’s early natural history watercolours and paintings by Kurt Schwitters,.

After lunch nearby we will travel the short distance to Troutbeck, one of the least disturbed villages in the area – largely of 16th and 17th c buildings – for a private visit to Town End farmhouse (NT) the home of the Browne family for over 400 years. Town End retains its original plain oak furniture preserved and ‘improved’ by the last George Browne in the late nineteenth century and is the only accessible farmhouse in the Lake District with a quantity of original vernacular furniture. We hope  RFS members with specialist knowledge of Lake District furniture will be available to share their knowledge with us. We will end the day with tea at the Old Post Office in the village.

Maximum: 30 members  Cost: £50 including lunch and tea (no reduction for NT members). Download the Booking Form here.

Members may choose to stay over and visit the highly regarded Jerwood Centre at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere, Beatrix Potter’s cottage Hill Top at Sawry or Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House overlooking Windermere.

EDIT: Visit to The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is now fully booked

This visit is now fully booked.

New events and visits will be listed on the website in the New Year!

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We had planned a visit to the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry, whose history began in the reign of Elizabeth I, for next autumn. However, we have just heard that the company will shortly close the premises in east London that it has occupied since 1738. We have been offered this date in February instead.

Possibly England’s oldest limited company, the foundry’s bells have rung out around the world. They include Big Ben, the largest bell ever cast by the firm, as well as the 1752 Philadelphia Liberty Bell, the bells of the Armenian church in Chennai, south India, the Bell of Hope that commemorates victims of the 9/11 attack and innumerable bells in the village churches of England.

On our visit, guided by the managing director, we will discover the materials and techniques of casting bells in bronze and be surrounded by medieval examples undergoing restoration. We will also be able to handle the very popular handbells which the company export throughout the world.

Jeremy Bate, Membership Secretary

New events for Autumn 2016

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The programme and booking form for forthcoming RFS events are now available in the latest edition of the Newsletter and online on the Events page. The main Autumn event is a tour of the London Charterhouse. In addition, the Tools and Trades Society have invited RFS members to join them at a Technical Day at the Kelham Island Museum and Ken Hawley Collection Trust in Sheffield –  further details here.

Exhibition of Lincolnshire Chairs, 8th – 18th September 2016

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Members will be interested to hear about an exhibition of the largest collection of Lincolnshire windsor and rush-seated chairs to be held at Belton House this September. This will be a fascinating chance to learn about fine local chair-making and the best local craftsmanship, with several talks by William Sergeant from the Lincolnshire Chair Museum.

There will be free entrance on Saturday 10th September to coincide with the National Heritage Open Day.

RFS Events this Autumn

There are two new events on the schedule for this Autumn.

Treasures of the North West, Friday 16 October

Visits have been arranged to Browsholme Hall and Stonyhurst College, both Grade I listed halls dating predominantly from the Elizabethan era. An optional visit to another North West property will be arranged for the morning of Saturday 17th, if there is interest. The cost will be £35 to include coffee and light lunch; if there is sufficient interest an additional visit will be arranged to another local property on the Saturday morning.

For full details please see the full listing on the Events page

Christopher Gilbert Lecture, `Local sensibilities in bench end carving in Devon and the West Country, 1480 – 1650′, Dr Todd Gray MBE,  7 November 2015

Dr Todd Gray is Research Fellow at Exeter University;  his lecture explores the use of design, principally Gothic and Renaissance, by English and continental craftsmen amidst the changing religious considerations of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The lecture will be held at the Geffrye Museum London and the cost is £10 to members.

For full details please see the full listing on the Events page

Masterclasses in Sitting, High Wycombe, April 17th 2015

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RFS members are invited to attend a free series of presentations by manufacturers, designers and historians to discuss High Wycombe’s famous history of bodging and the Windsor Chair.

Masterclasses in Sitting is a commission for the new Wye Dene development in High Wycombe. Taking as the starting point High Wycombe’s rich history as the centre for furniture production, public works proposes a project which uses ‘sitting’ as a way of relating. Connecting the new Wye Dene estate with High Wycombe, its past and future.

The talks will take place on  17th April 2015, 6pm at the Wrights Meadow Centre, Wrights Meadow Road Wycombe Marsh, High Wycombe, HP11 1SQ . No RSVP is needed, the event is free.
About the Speakers:
Speakers on the evening will be furniture historian Dr Bernard ‘Bill’ Cotton, artist craftsman Stuart King and professor in furniture Jake Kaner. Each will be giving a short presentation on them will be reflecting on the Chair industry the Windsor Chair in particular. public works will use the opportunity to discuss the proposal for the forthcoming Chair arch for High Wycombe 
Dr Bernard ‘Bill’ Cotton is a furniture historian who has pioneered the study of vernacular furniture in both the UK and in Countries where the British settled. He has travelled widely, often with his wife Gerry, to record the regional traditions of furniture made for the homes of working people , over a forty year period. His extensive archive is a major resource of design and social history information and his collection of some four hundred English regional chairs is now gifted to the Geffrye museum. His published work includes ‘The English Regional Chair’ (ACC. 1990 ).   More recently he has completed his major work  ‘Scottish Vernacular Furniture’ (Thames and Hudson. 2008  ) which for the first time identifies the chair and other furniture designs made there.
He was co founder, with Christopher Gilbert, of the Regional Furniture Society and is presently the society’s Emeritus President.
Jake Kaner is professor in furniture at Bucks New University. He has been involved with documenting the furniture industry through the curation of the High Wycombe Furniture Archive. Funding awarded form the arts and humanities research council supported the digitisation project which captured 16,000 images and text from the archive. The material covers the High Wycombe manufacturers, Ercol, Gomme (G-Plan) and Skull. The website that disseminates the material has been highly successful receiving an average of 100,000 hits per month since its launch in 2009. Currently Jake is working to digitise the William Birch archive in partnership with the Wycombe Museum. This material illustrates design books for art furniture that was made for Liberty’s of London between 1890 and 1910. A further project involving the designs of Ib Kofod-Larsen, a Danish designer who worked for G-Plan in the 1960s, involves creating computer based models of furniture that was never put into production.  Jake is also a trustee for Wycombe Heritage and Arts Trust.
Stuart King was born in the Buckinghamshire village of Holmer Green in 1942, and played as a child in the local Beech woods. The countryside and the trades and traditions of those that shaped it over centuries have always fascinated him and influenced his work.
Stuart spent a lifetime researching, recording and collecting anything about the rural past and today is recognised as a well-known artist craftsman, demonstrator, international lecturer and photo-journalist. He is still actively recording traditional crafts, local landscape and history via photography and video and occasionally appears on TV.