Early English Oak

Many of the following articles, which focus on the basic forms of early English oak furniture, are drawn from our book, Living with Early Oak.

Backstools

Until the middle of the seventeenth century, a typical house would have had only two chairs, one each for the master and mistress. Everyone else sat on stools or benches (called "forms").

Benches

Benches, or forms (the two terms were used interchangeably in their day), were used for dining at the long "refectory" tables in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. Many of the "great rooms" or "halls" had benches built into the walls; moveable ones were used on the room side of the tables.

Bible Boxes

More boxes have survived from the seventeenth century than any other form of furniture. Contemporary inventories show that most households owned many of them. Like their larger cousin, the chest, they were very useful, and comparatively easy to make.

Coffers (or Chests)

Coffers, along with boxes (their smaller cousins), are the most frequently found examples of seventeenth-century furniture. They are a form of sixteenth-century furniture that the average collector can still find and afford.

Court Cupboards

In Elizabethan and Jacobean households, the court cupboard was one of the three most important pieces of furniture (the others were the tester bed and the great chair.) They were fashionable between about 1550 and 1675.

Gateleg Tables

The gateleg table is the first intimate dining table. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 brought many innovations in both lifestyle and forms of furniture: family dining, and the appropriate tables and chairs, was one of the most significant. Everyday dining moved out of the great hall into a smaller chamber and became an occasion for family and guests, not for the whole household and retinue.

Joint Stools

Joint stools were made in large quantities in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were the most common form of seating (chairs were status symbols, and were reserved for the head of the household), but also served as small tables and as footstools.

Linenfold Coffers

The linenfold coffer is one of the earliest forms of joined furniture and is of interest to collectors for both its carving and its construction. It offers a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of Tudor furniture. The Tudors were the English royal family during the sixteenth century, and their best known members were Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.