Dating antiques joinery
The Hungerford chapel at St Julian’s, Wellow near Bath gives a glimpse of how colourful churches once were.The rood screen, coffered ceiling and wall paintings are believed to date from c1443 when the chapel was furnished.Regions with different local economies and infrastructures developed at different rates.This resulted in the crudest forms of construction being used concurrently with more sophisticated techniques.The screen is delicately decorated with fine tracery, but the carving is rough compared to later work.Its colour scheme, which was restored in 1952 by W Caroe, is similar to an example in Exeter City Museum of the same period, and is likely to be a faithful copy.(Photo: Jonathan Taylor) Historic churches were once packed with fine wooden furniture, both free-standing and fixed.Although few early pieces have survived, churches provide a rich insight into the development of furniture construction since the Middle Ages.
The height and decoration of a piece of furniture was an index of its owner’s social standing.
As a result, decoration and structure developed throughout the Middle Ages, with form heavily outweighing function.
Rather than a steady refinement of principles and techniques, this has been an ad hoc process driven by a range of factors.
Providing a history of furniture from the rudimentary techniques of the medieval period to the more sophisticated methods of the 16th century is not straightforward.
Closely linked economic and cultural centres naturally developed more quickly and shared new fashions.In secular and ecclesiastical contexts alike, social factors were key: the upper echelons of society sought to assert their status, and the rich sought to display their wealth.