RFS/MESDA Webinar via Zoom: Backcountry not Backwards: Working Wood in the Inland American South – Daniel Ackermann Monday 14 November 2022, 7 p.m. UK, 2 p.m. EDT.

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 events.rfs@gmail.com who will send you the Zoom invitation.

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

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.

Visit to Ercol factory

Members may wish to know that a tour of the Ercol factory, in Princes Risborough, organised by Jeremy Bate, will be advertised in the forthcoming RFS Newsletter. The factory also features in the BBC’s ‘Inside the Factory’ on BBC2 tomorrow evening, Saturday 15 January 2022 at 6 p.m. So if you want a sneak preview, it’s available via the BBC iPlayer here.

The diary of Eimert Papenborg (1826-1899)

Members who missed Hans Piena’s talk about the diary of Eimert Papenborg may catch up on the RFS YouTube channel here.

I have indexed the talk as follows:

Hans Piena, Conservator/Curator, Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (Holland Open Air Museum) 0:00 Introduction to the diary of Eimert Papenborg re-discovered 1969 and then 2013 1:13 Historical context – Beethoven; The Beagle; aftermath of Napoleon; England a world power 1:58 213 pages sometimes 3 times overwritten and parts in secret code and faded 2:29 8 years of research and deciphering leading to publication in 10 chapters ISBN:978-90-823607-5-2 3:19 Achterhoek region 3:44 local map of farm site near Zieuwent 4:29 Louis Apol c. 1880 Country Road 5:07 yearly floods; Drinking Cows Willem Roelofs 1884 5:39 Jan Holtrup c. 1940 Winter afternoon in the Achterhoek – low walled huts with rye straw roof 6:02 Oldest picture of the farm 6:22 Louis Apol Looking for wood 1873-75 in Winter 6:42 Papenborg’s oldest son and family – Catholic village in Protestant country – distinctive gold crosses worn by the women 7:33 pig meat and fat eaten never beef: cows were for butter 7:56 Herman Johannes van Der Weele 1852-1930 Ploughing with ox – oxen were the tractors 8:10 main crops potatoes and rye 8:31 8 old apple varieties 8:54 Papenborg fell in love with youngest daughter of richest local farmer 1851-52 – took nearly 9 years to get permission to marry 9:55 Albert Neuhuys 1844-1914 Changing diapers – interior of family house kettle over fire 10:28 Bernhardt Winter 1905-06 women flax processing, ladder back chairs 10:51 linen cabinet – linen was most valuable item in Papenborg’s inventory 11:46 H J ten Noever Bakker 1899 Pedlar with wicker back basket selling chickens and tobacco to woman who had the money 12:22 Otto van Tussenbroek 1905 Churning butter – thrice monthly market 5-8kg butter 18 km away – profitable for cash 13:16 House interior Hendrikus Johannes Melis 1860-1923 – 3 legged table, jointed stool, cradle, books, paintings, Bible 14:06 kettle wrongly restored, hand-blown glass bottle, clock c 1860, fire tongs, stoneware jug for lamp oil 15:06 isolated, no doctors nearby, recipes in diary for medicinal herbs, no fertilisers more diversity 15:57 Anton Mauve 1838-88 Chopping wood – wood for fire, utensils, furniture, carts, barns, houses – pit saw for boards 16:30 van Der Weele 1852-1930 Oxcart with wood 17:00 crops not enough to make ends meet – charcoal production 17:34 September 1848-67 charcoal burning – alder, birch, ash, poplar, oak – tree planting to re-grow 18:58 sold to foundry, 40 km away north 8 hours each way trip Foundry 1900 Herman Heijenbrock, chalk pastels on black paper 20:38 cradle from basketmaker 21:09 Dutch willow cradle 21:28 Tilt top 3 legged round table 1851 22:08 stone cobbled floor on parents’ farm 22:23 3 legged chair ex John Boram collection 3 legs for stability Papenborg adopted tiled floor in own house and 4 legged ladder back chairs 23:15 1853 oak bureau ordered, stained and coloured like mahogany retrieved from under tons of straw and thoroughly cleaned which unfortunately removed the finish and it was then waxed 25:29 1786 oak trunk descended from Eimert Papenborg’s parents 26:06 Hendrikus Papenborg, master carpenter & cabinet maker of Zieuwent 1863-1925 27:16 Floor plan with cabinet workshop amongst ox and pig stalls 28:17 Family descended cabinet on chest made by Hendrikus Papenborg with dove and serpent tableau. Panels replaced by glass and scraped but no longer authentic finish. 29:45 but Louis XVI brasses in the workshop 30:04 cabinet details showing paint remains in rebates and 3 dowels 31:01 Another cabinet by Hendrikus Papenborg, completely original, inscribed in pencil ‘Dit kambinet gemaakt in het jaar 1892 Zieuwent den 19 maart feestdag van de H. Joseph H Papenborg Timmerman te Zieuwent’ This cabinet was made in the year 1892 on 19 March, the feast day of St Joseph H. Papenborg, carpenter in Zieuwent. Rosewood imitation, with gold and silver carving suggesting brasses, mimicking Dutch 18th century cabinet e.g. 1750 Amsterdam and 140 years later Papenborg was imitating it. Anything to escape the rustic look! 33:50 onwards: questions and answers

Julian Parker

Website Editor

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.

Visit to the Museum of the Home (Geffrye) London and a private viewing of the Cotton Collection of English Regional Chairs – Wednesday 24 November 2021


The Geffrye Museum has undergone a number of re-inventions over the 90 years since its foundation as a museum devoted to the furniture industry in what was then the most heavily populated and deprived district of London.

It has just emerged from a major expansion with a new name: The Museum of the Home, which reflects its evolution from a museum devoted to furniture, to a broader remit revealing the way we live, and to reflect what home means to people of different backgrounds, circumstances, and cultures.
 
On arrival visitors first explore the new subterranean rooms with arresting displays before ascending to the familiar run of period rooms on the ground floor which will be decorated for the Winter Festival as celebrated by different cultures in London – Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas Past.

An early curator of the Geffrye was Marjorie Quennell who believed that children would be inspired by learning our social history rather than the dates of monarchs and battles. Between 1918 and 1934 she published a series of books Everyday Things in England 1066-1900 illustrated by her architect husband. The series remained in print until 2000. There is a small display in the museum
about the Quennells whose illustrations perhaps influenced some of the delightful new murals on the ground floor of the museum. The museum is more than ever a great experience for children and adults alike.

We are invited to arrive from 11:00 with an un-guided tour of the public galleries. We may lunch across the courtyard at Molly’s Café housed in a former Victorian pub and regroup at 14:00 when The MoTH’s curator Louis Platman will present a ‘Round Britain” selection from the 40 chairs of the Cotton collection, many familiar from Bill Cotton’s books but out of sight for many years.

Windsor armchair by Marsh of Sleaford
Photo: © Dr B D Cotton

The visit is limited to just 10 RFS members since we will be entering non-public areas. There is no charge. Applications by email to Jeremy Bate either to his private email or to events.rfs@gmail.com. Places will be allocated in order of receipt.

Research in Progress: New Thinking about Medieval Furniture 13 March 2021 now on RFS YouTube Channel

The latest meeting in the series of Research in Progress took place on 13 March 2021 via Zoom. As with the previous two themed meetings, (Sixteenth-century Furniture and The Regional Chair), speakers presented current research from a variety of perspectives. The sessions may be viewed on the RFS YouTube channel.