A friend in need …
There’s nothing for it … I just simply have to sit myself down and kick off one of my shoes.
Ouch! How come my foot is hurting so much?
The fact is, I’m on a visit to this lovely house out in the countryside to meet up with an old friend of mine over a few cups of tea. And, as it’s such a special occasion, I decided I should wear my brand new shoes. I realise now what a foolhardy decision that was. But I simply can’t resist the allure of black suede court shoes with a heel – especially when they’re new.
Ah well, at least there’s a nice old chair waiting patiently to come to my aid. Nothing too comfortable, I’ll admit, but just what’s needed when you want to sit down for a few minutes to take the weight off your feet.
Yet what a fascinating chair it is! A true classic – and in excellent condition. Made of oak and, at a guess, I’d say about 340 years old. (That sounds even more impressive, don’t you think, than saying it dates from sometime around the 1680s?)
The high panel-back would certainly have helped to keep any cold draughts at bay. And now, when I’ve pulled off my shoe and can take a look around, I see that the chair is one of a pair in the room. To all intents and purposes they appear identical and were probably made by some local cabinetmaker for the owner of a large manor house or the like. Might they originally have stood in the kitchen, do you think? Oak is a wonderful material for furniture: hard-wearing and resilient, although it can be awfully heavy to shift around. A chair may be easy enough to move, but an old oak table tends to stay put in the spot where it was first placed.
The decoration on the chairs – carved scrolls and volutes, and roundels patterned to resemble flowers – is further evidence of the chairs’ rural origins. Nothing too effusive, nothing extravagant. More on the sober side, you might say. At any rate, the two of them are now most definitely on my list of the most charming chairs I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And that’s not only because I was soon able to ease my foot back into my shoe again – thanks to a few minutes’ welcome rest on my little lifesaver.
I’ve just read in today’s newspaper that at least 30 % of the world’s 60,000 or so species of tree are threatened with extinction. This figure is taken from the State of the World’s Trees Report. Trees, including oaks, are rapidly being eradicated as forests are cleared to make way for farmland.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Note from Editor:
The stories and anecdotes shared on the blog are little chair gems discovered by antiques expert and author Gun Bjerkander Handberg. They are hopefully inspiring and give some understanding of the history of chairs and the stories behind their origins, craftsmen and owners.
You can find a selection of wonderful tales of chairs in three publications from the series Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs & the Tales They Tell, which relate to this blog and are written by Gun Bjerkander Handberg. All three books are now available online .