Living Room Furniture
Chinese style—Sir William
Chambers—The Brothers Adams' work—Pergelesi, Cipriani, and Angelica
Kauffmann—Architects of the time—Wedgwood and Flaxman—Chippendale's Work and
his Contemporaries—Chair in the Barbers' Hall—Lock, Shearer, Hepplewhite,
Ince, Mayhew, Sheraton—Introduction of Satinwood and Mahogany—Gillows of
Lancaster and London—History of the Sideboard—The Dining Room—Furniture of
Soon after the second
half of the eighteenth century had set in, during the latter days of the
second George, and the early part of his successor's long reign, there is a
distinct change in the design of English decorative furniture.
Sir William Chambers, R.A., an architect, who
has left us Somerset House as a lasting monument of his talent, appears to
have been the first to impart to the interior decoration, of houses what was
termed "the Chinese style," after his visit to China, of which a notice was
made in the chapter on Eastern furniture: and as he was considered an
"oracle of taste" about this time, his influence was very powerful. Chair
backs consequently have the peculiar irregular lattice work which is seen in
the fretwork of Chinese and Japanese ornaments, and Pagodas, Chinamen and
monsters occur in his designs for cabinets. The overmantel which had
hitherto been designed with some architectural pretension, now gave way to
the larger mirrors which were introduced by the improved manufacture of
plate glass: and the chimney piece became lower. During his travels in
Italy, Chambers had found some Italian sculptors, and had brought them to
England, to carve in marble his designs; they were generally of a free
Italian character, with scrolls of foliage and figure ornaments: but being
of stone instead of woodwork, would scarcely belong to our subject, save to
indicate the change in fashion of the chimney piece, the vicissitudes of
which we have already noticed. Chimney pieces were now no longer specially
designed by architects, as part of the interior fittings, but were made and
sold with the grates, to suit the taste of the purchaser, often quite
irrespective of the rooms for which they were intended. It may be said that
Dignity gave way to Elegance.
Robert Adam, having returned from his travels
in France and Italy, had designed and built, in conjunction with his brother
James, Adelphi Terrace about 1769, and subsequently Portland Place, and
other streets and houses of a like character; the furniture being made,
under the direction of Robert, to suit the interiors. There is much interest
attaching to No. 25, Portland Place, because this was the house built,
decorated and furnished by Robert Adam for his own residence, and,
fortunately, the chief reception rooms remain to shew the style then in
vogue. The brothers Adam introduced into England the application of
composition ornaments to woodwork. Festoons of drapery, wreaths of flowers
caught up with rams' heads, or of husks tied with a knot of riband, and oval
pateroe to mark divisions in a frieze, or to emphasize a break in the
design, are ornaments characteristic of what was termed the Adams style.
Robert Adam published between 1778 and 1822
three magnificent volumes, "Works on Architecture." One of these was
dedicated to King George III., to whom he was appointed architect. Many of
his designs for furniture were carried out by Gillows; there is a good
collection of his original drawings in the Soane Museum, Lincoln's Inn
The decoration was generally in low relief,
with fluted pilasters, and sometimes a rather stiff Renaissance ornament
decorating the panel; the effect was neat and chaste, and a distinct change
from the rococo style which had preceded it.
The design of furniture was modified to
harmonize with such decoration. The sideboard had a straight and not
infrequently a serpentine-shaped front, with square tapering legs, and was
surmounted by a pair of urn-shaped knife cases, the wood used being almost
invariably mahogany, with the inlay generally of plain flutings relieved by
fans or oval pateroe in satin wood.
Pergolesi, Cipriani and Angelica Kaufmann had
been attracted to England by the promise of lucrative employment, and not
only decorated the panels of ceilings and walls which were enriched by
Adams' "compo'" (in reality a revival of the old Italian gesso work),
but also painted the ornamental cabinets, occasional tables, and chairs of
Fac-simile of Original Drawings by Robert Adam
Towards the end of the century, satin wood
was introduced into England from the East Indies; it became very
fashionable, and was a favourite ground-work for decoration, the medallions
of figure subjects, generally of cupids, wood-nymphs, or illustrations of
mythological fables on darker coloured wood, formed an effective relief to
the yellow satin wood. Sometimes the cabinet, writing table, or
spindle-legged occasional piece, was made entirely of this wood, having no
other decoration beyond the beautiful marking of carefully chosen veneers;
sometimes it was banded with tulipwood or harewood (a name given to sycamore
artificially stained), and at other times painted as just described. A very
beautiful example of this last named treatment is the dressing table in the
South Kensington Museum, which we give as an illustration, and which the
authorities should not, in the writer's opinion, have labelled
Besides Chambers, there were several other
architects who designed furniture about this time who have been almost
forgotten. Abraham Swan, some of whose designs for wooden chimney pieces in
the quasi-classic style are given, flourished about 1758. John Carter, who
published "Specimens of Ancient Sculpture and Painting"; Nicholas Revitt and
James Stewart, who jointly published "Antiquities of Athens" in 1762; J.C.
Kraft, who designed in the Adams' style; W. Thomas, M.S.A., and others, have
left us many drawings of interior decorations, chiefly chimney pieces and
the ornamental architraves of doors, all of them in low relief and of a
classical character, as was the fashion towards the end of the eighteenth
Josiah Wedgwood, too, turned his attention to
the production of plaques in relief, for adaptation to chimney pieces of
this character. In a letter written from London to Mr. Bentley, his partner,
at the works, he deplores the lack of encouragement in this direction which
he received from the architects of his day; he, however, persevered, and by
the aid of Flaxman's inimitable artistic skill as a modeller, made several
plaques of his beautiful Jasper ware, which were let in to the friezes of
chimney pieces, and also into other wood-work. There can be seen in the
South Kensington Museum a pair of pedestals of this period (1770-1790) so
It is now necessary to consider the work of a
group of English cabinet makers, who not only produced a great deal of
excellent furniture, but who also published a large number of designs drawn
with extreme care and a considerable degree of artistic skill.
The first of these and the best known was
Thomas Chippendale, who appears to have succeeded his father, a chair maker,
and to have carried on a large and successful business in St. Martin's Lane,
which was at this time an important Art centre, and close to the
newly-founded Royal Academy.
English Satinwood Dressing Table. With Painted
Decoration. End of XVIII. Century.
Chimneypiece and Overmantel. Designed by W.
Thomas, Architect. 1783. Very similar to Robert Adam's work.
Chippendale published "The Gentleman and
Cabinet Maker's Director," not, as stated in the introduction to the
catalogue to the South Kensington Museum, in 1769, but some years
previously, as is testified by a copy of the "third edition" of the work
which is in the writer's possession and bears date 1762, the first edition
having appeared in 1754. The title page of this edition is reproduced in
fac simile on page 178.
2), With ornament in the Chinese style, by Thomas Chippendale.
This valuable work of reference contains over
two hundred copperplate engravings of chairs, sofas, bedsteads, mirror
frames, girandoles, torchéres or lamp stands, dressing tables, cabinets,
chimney pieces, organs, jardiniéres, console tables, brackets, and other
useful and decorative articles, of which some examples are given. It will be
observed from these, that the designs of Chippendale are very different from
those popularly ascribed to him. Indeed, it would appear that this maker has
become better known than any other, from the fact of the designs in his book
being recently republished in various forms; his popularity has thus been
revived, while the names of his contemporaries are forgotten. For the last
fifteen or twenty years, therefore, during which time the fashion has
obtained of collecting the furniture of a bygone century, almost every
cabinet, table, or mirror-frame, presumably of English manufacture, which is
slightly removed from the ordinary type of domestic furniture, has been, for
want of a better title, called "Chippendale." As a matter of fact, he
appears to have adopted from Chambers the fanciful Chinese ornament, and the
rococo style of that time, which was superseded some five-and-twenty years
later by the quieter and more classic designs of Adam and his
Fac-Simile of the Title Page of Chippendale's
"Director." (Reduced by Photography.) The Original is in Folio Size.
Two Bookcases. Fac-Simile of a page in
Chippendale's "Director." (The original is folio size.)
Tea Caddy, Carved in the French style. (From
In the chapter on Louis XV. and Louis XVI.
furniture, it has been shewn how France went through a similar change about
this same period. In Chippendale's chairs and console tables, in his state
bedsteads and his lamp-stands, one can recognise the broken scrolls and
curved lines, so familiar in the bronze mountings of Caffieri. The influence
of the change which had occurred in France during the Louis Seize period is
equally evident in the Adams' treatment. It was helped forward by the
migration into this country of skilled workmen from France, during the
troubles of the revolution at the end of the century. Some of Chippendale's
designs bear such titles as "French chairs" or a "Bombé-fronted Commode."
These might have appeared as illustrations in a contemporary book on French
furniture, so identical are they in every detail with the carved woodwork of
Picau, of Cauner, or of Nilson, who designed the flamboyant frames of the
time of Louis XV. Others have more individuality. In his mirror frames he
introduced a peculiar bird with a long snipe-like beak, and rather
impossible wings, an imitation of rockwork and dripping water, Chinese
figures with pagodas and umbrellas; and sometimes the illustration of
Aesop's fables interspersed with scrolls and flowers. By dividing the glass
unequally, by the introduction into his design of bevelled pillars with
carved capitals and bases, he produced a quaint and pleasing effect, very
suitable to the rather effeminate fashion of his time, and in harmony with
three-cornered hats, wigs and patches, embroidered waistcoats, knee
breeches, silk stockings, and enamelled snuff-boxes. In some of the designs
there is a fanciful Gothic, to which he makes special allusion in his
preface, as likely to be considered by his critics as impracticable, but
which he undertakes to produce, if desired—
"Though some of the profession have been
diligent enough to represent them (espescially those after the Gothick and
Chinese manner) as so many specious drawings impossible to be worked off
by any mechanick whatsoever. I will not scruple to attribute this to
Malice, Ignorance, and Inability; and I am confident I can convince all
Noblemen, Gentlemen, or others who will honour me with their Commands,
that every design in the book can be improved, both as to Beauty and
Enrichment, in the execution of it, by
"Their most obedient servant,
A Bureau, From Chippendale's "Director."
The reader will notice that in the examples
selected from Chippendale's book there are none of those fretwork tables and
cabinets which are generally termed "Chippendale." We know, however, that
besides the designs which have just been described, and which were intended
for gilding, he also made mahogany furniture, and in the "Director" there
are drawings of chairs, washstands, writing-tables and cabinets of this
description. Fretwork is very rarely seen, but the carved ornament is
generally a foliated or curled endive scroll; sometimes the top of a cabinet
is finished in the form of a Chinese pagoda. Upon examining a piece of
furniture that may reasonably be ascribed to him, it will be found of
excellent workmanship, and the wood, always mahogany without any inlay, is
richly marked, shewing a careful selection of material.
A Design for a State Bed. Fac-simile of a Page
In Chippendale's "Director." (The original is folio size.)
"French" Commode and Lamp Stands. Designed by
T. Chippendale, and Published in His "Director."
Bed Pillars. Fac-simile of a Page in
Chippendale's "Director." (The original is folio size.)
Chimneypiece and Mirror. Designed By T.
Chippendale, and Published in His "Director."
Parlour Chairs by Chippendale.
The chairs of Chippendale and his school are
very characteristic. If the outline of the back of some of them be compared
with the stuffed back of the chair from Hardwick Hall (illustrated in Chap.
IV.) it will be seen that the same lines occur, but instead of the frame of
the back being covered with silk, tapestry, or other material—as in William
III.'s time—Chippendale's are cut open into fanciful patterns; and in his
more highly ornate work, the twisted ribands of his design are scarcely to
be reconciled with the use for which a dining room chair is intended. The
well-moulded sweep of his lines, however, counterbalances this defect to
some extent, and a good Chippendale mahogany chair will ever be an elegant
and graceful article of furniture.
One of the most graceful chairs of about the
middle of the century, in the style of Chippendale's best productions, is
the Master's Chair in the Hall of the Barbers' Company. Carved in rich
Spanish mahogany, and upholstered in morocco leather, the ornament consists
of scrolls and cornucopiæ, with flowers charmingly disposed, the arms and
motto of the Company being introduced. Unfortunately, there is no certain
record as to the designer and maker of this beautiful chair, and it is to be
regretted that the date (1865), the year when the Hall was redecorated,
should have been placed in prominent gold letters on this interesting relic
of a past century.
Clock Case, by Chippendale.
Apart from the several books of design
noticed in this chapter, there were published two editions of a work,
undated, containing many of the drawings found in Chippendale's book. This
book was entitled, "Upwards of One Hundred New and Genteel Designs, being
all the most approved patterns of household furniture in the French taste.
By a Society of Upholders and Cabinet makers." It is probable that
Chippendale was a member of this Society, and that some of the designs were
his, but that he severed himself from it and published his own book,
preferring to advance his individual reputation. The "sideboard" which one
so generally hears called "Chippendale" scarcely existed in his time. If it
did, it must have been quite at the end of his career. There were side
tables, sometimes called "Side-Boards," but they contained neither cellaret
nor cupboard: only a drawer for table linen.
The names of two designers and makers of
mahogany ornamental furniture, which deserve to be remembered equally with
Chippendale, are those of W. Ince and J. Mayhew, who were partners in
business in Broad Street, Golden Square, and contemporary with him. They
also published a book of designs which is alluded to by Thomas Sheraton in
the preface to his "Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book," published
in 1793. A few examples from Ince and Mayhew's "Cabinet Maker's Real Friend
and Companion" are given, from which it is evident that, without any
distinguishing brand, or without the identification of the furniture with
the designs, it is difficult to distinguish between the work of these
It is, however, noticeable after careful
comparison of the work of Chippendale with that of Ince and Mayhew, that the
furniture designed and made by the latter has many more of the
characteristic details and ornaments which are generally looked upon as
denoting the work of Chippendale; for instance, the fretwork ornaments
finished by the carver, and then applied to the plain mahogany, the
open-work scroll-shaped backs to encoignures or china shelves, and the
carved Chinaman with the pagoda. Some of the frames of chimney glasses and
pictures made by Ince and Mayhew are almost identical with those of
Other well known designers and manufacturers
of this time were Hepplewhite, who published a book of designs very similar
to those of his contemporaries, and Matthias Lock, some of whose original
drawings were on view in the Exhibition of 1862, and had interesting
memoranda attached, giving the names of his workmen and the wages paid: from
these it appears that five shillings a day was at that time sufficient
remuneration for a skilful wood carver.
Another good designer and maker of much
excellent furniture of this time was "Shearer," who has been unnoticed by
nearly all writers on the subject. In an old book of designs in the author's
possession, "Shearer delin" and "published according to Act of Parliament,
1788," appears underneath the representations of sideboards, tables,
bookcases, dressing tables, which are very similar in every way to those of
Sheraton, his contemporary.
A copy of Hepplewhite's book, in the author's
possession (published in 1789), contains 300 designs "of every article of
household furniture in the newest and most approved taste," and it is worth
while to quote from his preface to illustrate the high esteem in which
English cabinet work was held at this time.
China Shelves, Designed by W. Ince.
(Reproduced by Photography from an old Print in the Author's Possession.)
Girandoles and Pier Table, Designed by W.
Thomas, Architect, 1783. (Reproduced by Photography from an old Print in
the Author's possession.)
"English taste and workmanship have of late
years been much sought for by surrounding nations; and the mutability of all
things, but more especially of fashions, has rendered the labours of our
predecessors in this line of little use; nay, in this day can only tend to
mislead those foreigners who seek a knowledge of English taste in the
various articles of household furniture."
It is amusing to think how soon the "mutabilities
of fashion" did for a time supersede many of his designs.
A selection of designs from his book is
given, and it will be useful to compare them with those of other
contemporary makers. From such a comparison it will be seen that in the
progress from the rococo of Chippendale to the more severe lines of
Sheraton, Hepplewhite forms a connecting link between the two.
(From "Hepplewhite's Guide".)
The names given to some of these designs
appear curious; for instance:
"Rudd's table or reflecting dressing table,"
so called from the first one having been invented for a popular character of
"Knife cases," for the reception of the
knives which were kept in them, and used to "garnish" the sideboards.
"Cabriole chair," implying a stuffed back,
and not having reference, as it does now, to the curved form of the leg.
"Bar backed sofa," being what we should now
term a three or four chair settee, i.e., like so many chairs joined and
having an arm at either end.
"Library case" instead of Bookcase.
"Confidante" and "Duchesse," which were sofas
of the time.
"Gouty stool," a stool having an adjustable
"Tea chest," "Urn stand," and other names
which have now disappeared from ordinary use in describing similar articles.
Ladies' Secretaires, Designed by W. Ince.
(Reproduced by Photography from an old Print in the Author's possession.)
Parlour Chairs, Designed by W. Ince.
Desk and Bookcase, Designed by W. Ince.
(Reproduced by Photography from an old Print in the Author's possession.)
China Cabinet, Designed by J. Mayhew.
(Reproduced from an old Print in the Author's possession).
"Dressing Chairs," Designed by J. Mayhew.
These shew the influence of Sir W. Chamber's Chinese style.
Hepplewhite had a specialité, to which
he alludes in his book, and of which he gives several designs. This was his
japanned or painted furniture: the wood was coated with a preparation after
the manner of Chinese or Japanese lacquer, and then decorated, generally
with gold on a black ground, the designs being in fruits and flowers: and
also medallions painted in the style of Cipriani and Angelica Kauffmann.
Subsequently, furniture of this character, instead of being japanned, was
only painted white. It is probable that many of the chairs of this time
which one sees, of wood of inferior quality, and with scarcely any ornament,
were originally decorated in the manner just described, and therefore the
"carving" of details would have been superfluous. Injury to the enamelling
by wear and tear was most likely the cause of their being stripped of their
rubbed and partly obliterated decorations, and they were then stained and
polished, presenting an appearance which is scarcely just to the designer
In some of Hepplewhite's chairs, too, as in
those of Sheraton, one may fancy one sees evidence of the squabbles of two
fashionable factions of this time, "the Court party" and the "Prince's
party," the latter having the well known Prince of Wales' plumes very
prominent, and forming the ornamental support of the back of the chair.
Another noticeable enrichment is the carving of wheat ears on the shield
shape backs of the chairs.
"The plan of a room shewing the proper
distribution of the furniture," appears on p. 193 to give an idea of the
fashion of the day; it is evident from the large looking glass which
overhangs the sideboard that the fashion had now set in to use these
mirrors. Some thirty or forty year later this mirror became part of the
sideboard, and in some large and pretentious designs which we have seen, the
sideboard itself was little better than a support for a huge glass in a
heavily carved frame.
The dining tables of this period deserve a
passing notice as a step in the development of that important member of our
"Lares and Penates." What was and is still called the "pillar and claw"
table, came into fashion towards the end of last century. It consisted of a
round or square top supported by an upright cylinder, which rested on a
plinth having three, or sometimes four, feet carved as claws. In order to
extend these tables for a larger number of guests, an arrangement was made
for placing several together. When apart, they served as pier or side
tables, and some of these—the two end ones, being semi-circular—may still be
found in some of our old inns.17
Designs of Furniture
Fac-simile of a Page in Hepplewhite's "Cabinet
Maker's Guide." Published In 1787.
It was not until 1800 that Richard Gillow, of
the well-known firm in Oxford Street, invented and patented the convenient
telescopic contrivance which, with slight improvements, has given us the
table of the present day. The term still used by auctioneers in describing a
modern extending table as "a set of dining tables," is, probably, a survival
of the older method of providing for a dinner party. Gillow's patent is
described as "an improvement in the method of constructing dining and other
tables calculated to reduce the number of legs, pillars and claws, and to
facilitate and render easy, their enlargement and reduction."
Inlaid Tea Caddy and Top of Pier Tables. (From
As an interesting link between the present
and the past it may be useful here to introduce a slight notice of this
well-known firm of furniture manufacturers, for which the writer is indebted
to Mr. Clarke, one of the present partners of Gillows. "We have an unbroken
record of books dating from 1724, but we existed long anterior to this: all
records were destroyed during the Scottish Rebellion in 1745." The house
originated in Lancaster, which was then the chief port in the north,
Liverpool not being in existence at the time, and Gillows exported furniture
largely to the West Indies, importing rum as payment, for which privilege
they held a special charter. The house opened in London in 1765, and for
some time the Lancaster books bore the heading and inscription, "Adventure
to London." On the architect's plans for the premises now so well-known in
Oxford Street, occur these words, "This is the way to Uxbridge." Mr.
Clarke's information may be supplemented by adding that from Dr. Gillow,
whom the writer had the pleasure of meeting some years ago, and was the
thirteenth child of the Richard Gillow before mentioned; he learnt that this
same Richard Gillow retired in 1830, and died as late as 1866 at the age of
90. Dowbiggin, founder of the firm of Holland and Sons, was an apprentice to
Mahogany may be said to have come into
general use subsequent to 1720, and its introduction is asserted to have
been due to the tenacity of purpose of a Dr. Gibbon, whose wife wanted a
candle box, an article of common domestic use of the time. The Doctor, who
had laid by in the garden of his house in King Street, Covent Garden, some
planks sent to him by his brother, a West Indian captain, asked the joiner
to use a part of the wood for this purpose; it was found too tough and hard
for the tools of the period, but the Doctor was not to be thwarted, and
insisted on harder-tempered tools being found, and the task completed; the
result was the production of a candle box which was admired by every one. He
then ordered a bureau of the same material, and when it was finished invited
his friends to see the new work; amongst others, the Duchess of Buckingham
begged a small piece of the precious wood, and it soon became the fashion.
On account of its toughness, and peculiarity of grain, it was capable of
treatment impossible with oak, and the high polish it took by oil and
rubbing (not French polish, a later invention), caused it to come into great
request. The term "putting one's knees under a friend's mahogany," probably
dates from about this time.
Kneehole Table, by Sheraton.
Thomas Sheraton, who commenced work some 20
years later than Chippendale, and continued it until the early part of the
nineteenth century, accomplished much excellent work in English furniture.
The fashion had now changed; instead of the
rococo or rock work (literally rock-scroll) and shell (rocquaille et
cocquaille) ornament, which had gone out, a simpler and more severe
taste had come in. In Sheraton's cabinets, chairs, writing tables, and
occasional pieces we have therefore no longer the cabriole leg or the carved
ornament; but, as in the case of the brothers Adam, and the furniture
designed by them for such houses as those in Portland Place, we have now
square tapering legs, severe lines, and quiet ornament. Sheraton trusted
almost entirely for decoration to his marqueterie. Some of this is very
delicate and of excellent workmanship. He introduced occasionally animals
with foliated extremities into his scrolls, and he also inlaid marqueterie
trophies of musical instruments; but as a rule the decoration was in wreaths
of flowers, husks, or drapery, in strict adherence to the fashion of the
decorations to which allusion has been made. A characteristic feature of his
cabinets was the swan-necked pediment surmounting the cornice, being a
revival of an ornament fashionable during Queen Anne's reign. It was then
chiefly found in stone, marble, or cut brickwork, but subsequently became
prevalent in inlaid woodwork.
Chairs, by Sheraton.
Sheraton was apparently a man very well
educated for his time, whether self taught or not one cannot say; but that
he was an excellent draughtsman, and had a complete knowledge of geometry,
is evident from the wonderful drawings in his book, and the careful though
rather verbose directions he gives for perspective drawing. Many of his
numerous designs for furniture and ornamental items, are drawn to a scale
with the geometrical nicety of an engineer's or architect's plan: he has
drawn in elevation, plan, and minute detail, each of the five architectural
Chair Backs, from Sheraton's "Cabinet Maker."
The selection made here from his designs for
the purposes of illustration, is not taken from his later work, which
properly belongs to a future chapter, when we come to consider the influence
of the French Revolution, and the translation of the "Empire" style to
England. Sheraton published "The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing
Book" in 1793, and the list of subscribers whose names and addresses are
given, throws much light on the subject of the furniture of his time.18
Amongst these are many of his aristocratic patrons and no less than 450
names and addresses of cabinet makers, chair makers and carvers, exclusive
of harpsichord manufacturers, musical instrument makers, upholsterers, and
other kindred trades. Included with these we find the names of firms who,
from the appointments they held, it may be inferred, had a high reputation
for good work and a leading position in the trade, but who, perhaps from the
absence of a taste for "getting into print" and from the lack of any brand
or mark by which their work can be identified, have passed into oblivion
while their contemporaries are still famous. The following names taken from
this list are probably those of men who had for many years conducted well
known and old established businesses, but would now be but poor ones to
"conjure" with, while those of Chippendale, Sheraton, or Hepplewhite, are a
ready passport for a doubtful specimen. For instance:—France, Cabinet Maker
to His Majesty, St. Martin's Lane; Charles Elliott, Upholder to His Majesty
and Cabinet Maker to the Duke of York, Bond Street; Campbell and Sons,
Cabinet Makers to the Prince of Wales, Mary-le-bone Street, London. Besides
those who held Royal appointments, there were other manufacturers of
decorative furniture—Thomas Johnson, Copeland, Robert Davy, a French carver
named Nicholas Collet, who settled in England, and many others.
In Mr. J.H. Pollen's larger work on furniture
and woodwork, which includes a catalogue of the different examples in the
South Kensington Museum, there is a list of the various artists and
craftsmen who have been identified with the production of artistic furniture
either as designers or manufacturers, and the writer has found this of
considerable service. In the Appendix to this work, this list has been
reproduced, with the addition of several names (particularly those of the
French school) omitted by Mr. Pollen, and it will, it is hoped, prove a
useful reference to the reader.
Although this chapter is somewhat long, on
account of the endeavour to give more detailed information about English
furniture of the latter half of last century, than of some other periods, in
consequence of the prevailing taste for our National manufacture of this
time, still, in concluding it, a few remarks about the "Sideboard" may be
The changes in form and fashion of this
important article of domestic furniture are interesting, and to explain them
a slight retrospect is necessary. The word "Buffet," sometimes translated
"Sideboard," which was used to describe continental pieces of furniture of
the 15th and 16th centuries, does not designate our Sideboard, which may be
said to have been introduced by William III.; and of which kind there is a
fair specimen in the South Kensington Museum; an illustration of it has been
given in the chapter dealing with that period.
The term "stately sideboard" occurs in
Milton's "Paradise Regained," which was published in 1671, and Dryden, in
his translation of Juvenal, published in 1693, when contrasting the
furniture of the classical period of which he was writing with that of his
own time, uses the following line:—
"No sideboards then with gilded plate were
The fashion in those days of having
symmetrical doors in a room, that is, false doors to correspond with the
door used for exit, which one still finds in many old houses in the
neighbourhood of Portland Place, and particularly in the palaces of St.
James' and of Kensington, enabled our ancestors to have good cupboards for
the storage of glass, crockery, and reserve wine. After the middle of the
eighteenth century, however, these extra doors and the enclosed cupboard
gradually disappeared, and soon after the mahogany side table came into
fashion it became the custom to supplement this article of furniture by a
pedestal cupboard on either side (instead of the cupboards alluded to), one
for hot plates and the other for wine. Then, as the thin legs gave the table
rather a lanky appearance, the garde de vin, or cellaret, was added
in the form of an oval tub of mahogany with bands of brass, sometimes raised
on low feet with castors for convenience, which was used as a wine cooler. A
pair of urn-shaped mahogany vases stood on the pedestals, and these
contained—the one hot water for the servants' use in washing the knives,
forks and spoons, which being then much more valuable were limited in
quantity, and the other held iced water for the guests' use.
A brass rail at the back of the side table
with ornamental pillars and branches for candles was used, partly to enrich
the furniture, and partly to form a support to the handsome pair of knife
and spoon cases, which completed the garniture of a gentleman's sideboard of
The full page illustrations will give the
reader a good idea of this arrangement, and it would seem that the modern
sideboard is the combination of these separate articles into one piece of
furniture—at different times and in different fashions—first the pedestals
joined to the table produced our "pedestal sideboard," then the mirror was
joined to the back, the cellarette made part of the interior fittings, and
the banishment of knife cases and urns to the realms of the curiosity
hunter, or for conversion into spirit cases and stationery holders. The
sarcophagus, often richly carved, of course succeeded the simpler cellaret
of Sheraton's period.
Before we dismiss the furniture of the
"dining room" of this period, it may interest some of our readers to know
that until the first edition of "Johnson's Dictionary" was published in
1755, the term was not to be found in the vocabularies of our language
designating its present use. In Barrat's "Alvearic," published in 1580, "parloir,"
or "parler," was described as "a place to sup in." Later, "Minsheu's Guide
unto Tongues," in 1617, gave it as "an inner room to dine or to suppe in,"
but Johnson's definition is "a room in houses on the first floor, elegantly
furnished for reception or entertainment."
To the latter part of the eighteenth
century—the English furniture of which time has been discussed in this
Chapter—belong the quaint little "urn stands" which were made to hold the
urn with boiling water, while the tea pot was placed on the little slide
which is drawn out from underneath the table top. In those days tea was an
expensive luxury, and the urn stand, of which there is an illustration,
inlaid in the fashion of the time, is a dainty relic of the past, together
with the old mahogany or marqueterie tea caddy, which was sometimes the
object of considerable skill and care. One of these designed by Chippendale
is illustrated on p. 179, and another by Hepplewhite will be found on p.
194. They were fitted with two and sometimes three bottles or tea-pays of
silver or Battersea enamel, to hold the black and green teas, and when
really good examples of these daintily-fitted tea caddies are offered for
sale, they bring large sums.
A Sideboard in Mahogany with Inlay of
Satinwood. In the Style of Robert Adam.
The "wine table" of this time deserves a
word. These are now somewhat rare, and are only to be found in a few old
houses, and in some of the Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. These were
found with revolving tops, which had circles turned out to a slight depth
for each glass to stand in, and they were sometimes shaped like the half of
a flat ring. These latter were for placing in front of the fire, when the
outer side of the table formed a convivial circle, round which the sitters
gathered after they had left the dinner table.
One of these old tables is still to be seen
in the Hall of Gray's Inn, and the writer was told that its fellow was
broken and had been "sent away." They are nearly always of good rich
mahogany, and have legs more or less ornamental according to circumstances.
A distinguishing feature of English furniture
of the last century was the partiality for secret drawers and contrivances
for hiding away papers or valued articles; and in old secretaires and
writing tables we find a great many ingenious designs which remind us of the
days when there were but few banks, and people kept money and deeds in their
Carved Jardiniere, by Chippendale.
A China Cabinet, and a Bookcase With
Secretaire. Designed by T. Sheraton, and published in his "Cabinet Maker
and Upholsterer's Drawing Book," 1793.
Living Room Furniture