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 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.


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

FHS event: Furnishing Goldsmiths’ Hall by Michael Shrive 28 November 2021 at 7 p.m. 

RFS members are kindly invited by the FHS to ‘In the Richest and Most Costly Style’: Furnishing Goldsmiths’ Hall, 1834-5 by Michael  Shrive (Assistant Curator at Waddesdon Manor), Sunday, 28 November 2021, 19.00 (BST), 14.00 (ED).

Philip Hardwick (1792-1870), Design for the Court Drawing Room, West Elevation, c. 1830; pen-and-ink, pencil and watercolour on paper (Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths)
Home to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, the Goldsmiths’ Hall in the heart of the City of London was designed by Philip Hardwick (1792-1870) and opened to great acclaim in 1835. The third building of its kind on the site, Hardwick also designed many of the furnishings and employed Thomas and George Seddon and William and Charles Wilkinson to execute the work. Despite some wartime losses, much of the furniture survives in situ and remains in use to the present day.  It is also one of the best documented commissions of its time, supplemented by a comprehensive archive including estimate sketchbooks, scale drawings and a complete series of accounts. This lecture will highlight previously unpublished material relating to the commission.

Michael Shrive is Assistant Curator at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire (National Trust / Rothschild Collections) and currently sits on the Furniture History Society’s Events Committee. He recently contributed to the publications Jean-Henri Riesener: Cabinetmaker to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (2020) and Furniture History (2019). In 2016 he graduated with an MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors from the University of Buckingham and his dissertation topic was the furnishing of Goldsmiths’ Hall. Formerly he was Curatorial Intern of Decorative Arts at Royal Collection Trust and also worked on the National Trust’s Furniture Research and Cataloguing Project.
This lecture is free to members. Non-members wishing to attend can pay for £5 for tickets here.

Attendees will be admitted from a waiting room from 18.45. Please make sure you are muted and your camera turned off.  Please note that for security reasons we will lock the meeting at 19.20, so make sure you have joined us by then.
We hope to see many of you on Sunday, 28 November.

For any queries, please email
This event is sponsored by
The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

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 Places will be allocated in order of receipt.

From Tower House to Country House – The Art and Architecture of North-East Scotland, 12 to 18 June 2022


Now that’s a proper castle. Members may be interested in the next forthcoming tour from Wessex Fine Art Study Courses in June 2022, organised by Barbara Peacock.  Led by Dr David Jones, the tour will be based in Aberdeenshire and Moray.

A taster of the architectural delights: 

Foremost must be the great concentration of romantic turreted tower houses, dating from mediaeval times to the 16th century and known for their excitingly varied silhouettes and their rich Renaissance plasterwork and painted ceilings. Such are Crathes, Craigievar, Fyvie and Monymusk, built by the great Scottish lairds of the period. 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 restrained classical Palladian country house, with Adam Revival interiors furnished by the important Victorian firm of Wright and Mansfield.

The brochure and programme may be found here. Photographs and further details may be found here.

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.

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