Those who have visited some of the old Tudor and Elizabethan houses in Cheshire, Lancashire, and other counties where black and white houses of that period are still standing, will understand the connection, and enthusiastic collectors of old oak long for one of those Tudor manor houses, many of which have been converted into farmhouses, and, sad to relate, in many instances allowed to fall into decay. Perhaps one of the best known black and white timbered houses is Old Moreton Hall, in Cheshire, one of the show places visited by Americans and others who are anxious to learn what the moated granges of England were like in the sixteenth century. When wandering through the now deserted ballroom of that grand old pile, and when treading the creaking boards of similar relics of long ago, we can realise how Tudor England looked, and understand how well the oak furniture of that day suited the decoratively carved buildings, as well as the purposes of its sturdy owners.
English oak presented to the wood-carvers an ideal material upon which to operate, and as its colour darkened with age and exposure and shone with the polish of honest labour, its beauty increased. Such old oak has come down to us in varied conditions. Sometimes the collector acquires it almost new, after the necessary cleaning process it has undergone, or when many layers of Georgian and Victorian paint have been removed. At others it is almost black (sometimes suspiciously so, having been assisted at some period by a darkening process), and although connoisseurs prefer the rich golden brown or brown-black they do not object to the " colour of age" and the polish imparted by frequent rubbing.
The lasting qualities of wainscot oak are due to the lavish hand of the wood - cutter who picked the very best timber, and that marked as indicating it was indeed "heart of oak." The timber was not sawn, it was then customary to rive it. Sometimes panelling was inlaid and even carved, and the furniture often built to fit recesses was en suite. The way in which furniture and panelling were made to harmonise, probably under the supervision of one man, is seen in the magnificent relic of early Tudor days from Sizergh Castle, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington. It consists of an entire room brought from the old castle in Westmorland, and reconstructed. The ceiling is a fine piece of Tudor plastering ; the walls are of panelled oak, inlaid with holly and bog oak. The white and black upon the brown oak, although darkened by age and frequent polishing, produces a marvellous effect. This room — a bedroom — is approached by a curiously contrived entrance which is recessed into the room. There is also a deep window seat, and the entire wood-work is covered over with a design characteristic of early Tudor decoration, the inlays being cleverly effected and some portions carved. In connection with the exhibit there is the great State bed belonging to the room, its frame-work inlaid with the same woods to match. The massive grandeur of this piece must be seen to be fully appreciated. No doubt chairs and tables and other objects of furniture were at one time used in conjunction with the bedstead, and presented a grand object lesson of the close connection between the furniture maker and the architectural wood-worker.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )