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Some Curious Pieces

Some of the food lockers, as they were called, which were used during the Middle Ages and through Tudor days, have perforated doors—mostly Gothic in design—which were originally lined with cloth to keep out the dust, although the material would admit a certain amount of ventilation.

The old custom of giving away bread to the poor on certain days in churches and other ecclesiastical establishments gave rise to their frequent use in churches ; the dole cupboard or almery, as it was called, had a some-what open front, so that the contents would be visible. Indeed a rail or a very open trellis alone prevented access to the contents. There are several fine examples of dole cupboards in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in several instances they can be seen in the churches and buildings for which they were originally made. Indeed, the ancient custom has not yet quite died out, for there are existing bequests under which the trustees continue periodical gifts of bread to the poor, and in some few instances use ancient dole cupboards. There are no less than three almeries in a Norman recess in the south transept of St Alban's Abbey. They are used every Sunday, the ancient dole having been distributed weekly in St Alban's Abbey for upwards of three centuries. These shallow little receptacles are quite small, holding about a dozen loaves each ; one of the cupboards is of somewhat later date than the others, indicating by its decoration the style of the period of Charles I., when brackets and strap ornaments were in vogue. It has been pointed out that court cupboards as distinct from any other form were originally short cupboards, the name being derived from the French word court, short, thus distinguishing them from standing cupboards of the dressoir type. They were originally in two divisions, the upper being recessed and covered with a cornice which was supported by a turned column standing on the lower division. In later years the support became a pendant drop, frequently of acorn shape.

There is one other piece of furniture which should be noted in Tudor antiques, and that is the armoire, which was originally made to protect armour from dust and rust. When armour became obsolete the armoire became a cupboard in which to hang dress equipments. In it we have the early wardrobe.

Fig. 11 represents an oak hutch or store cupboard, such as those already referred to. It is a very fine piece in excellent preservation, and together with Fig. 12 was lately in the possession of Mr Phillips, of Hitchin. This latter example, Fig. 12, is a Tudor store cupboard with well-carved ornament, the chief characteristics being the beautiful linen-fold of the door panels.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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