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Good Old English Oak

Just as the days of William and Mary, and Queen Anne became known as "The Age of Walnut " in the furniture trade, so oakógood old English oakócut from the heart of the tree from the branches down to the rootsócontinued to be used in Tudor days as it had been in early times, and became the Age of Oak, that is to say, the oak so beautifully carved and wrought so decoratively in architectural wood-work, like the panels of the linen-fold.

When bluff King Hal reigned the makers of furniture used the best possible oak for panelling, for chairs and benches, and for tables and four-post bedsteads, as their ancestors had chosen the best English oak for beams and architectural work in the days before much furniture was made. In early Tudor times, and even more so in late Tudor or Elizabethan days, the wood-carver was of paramount importance. The furniture, roughly cut and none too well smoothed, although strong and very substantial, needed the embellishment of the chisel and the carving tool to give it that imposing grandeur which makes " old oak " so attractive to the collector and the connoisseur.

Reference has been made to the strength and beauty of oak furniture in mediaeval days, and in those later times when the Continental Renaissance was making itself felt in England. Now the admirers of old English furniture are invited to study some of the characteristics of Tudor oak, which will help them to identify any family relics they may possess. As this period is the one par excellence when oak shone (literally as well as figuratively) and its rich brown colour and its markings enhanced its beauty, it is easy to understand that its use was general, and that Tudor architects made use of it to add to the appearance of what up till then were plain looking Tudor buildings. Such houses must not be confused with the mediaeval castles and strong-holds which remained until after the Civil War. They were the houses and manors contemporary with the later castles, but not intended as places of defence, many of them being merely moated for protection. It is the old moated granges of the Tudor, and still more so of the late Tudor or Elizabethan period, that furnish object lessons of the caskets which once contained the richly carved oak furniture which home connoisseurs treasure.

As it has already been suggested, the wood-work of the builder and the craftsmanship of those men who gave us decorated furniture cannot well be separated, and in discussing the style of the furniture of any one period it is almost necessary to consider the house in which it was used, and for which it was eminently suited ó this affinity between the two was especially close during the Tudor period and the years which followed immediately afterwards.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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