A massive late-17th century, oak trestle table with the 16ft 5 in top made from a single plank of timber, from the late J P Getty Collection, Sutton Place

September 18, 2019 2:01 pm Published by

The magnificent, plank top is made from a single plank of oak. It has one rounded corner and a few old patches in areas that have been affected by woodworm and where there were knots in the timber. The table stands on three, large and elegant, vase-shaped, trestle supports which have platform bases. The trestles are joined by a single stretcher. The colour and patina of the table are exceptional.

Genuine examples of long trestle tables are scarce. Although much earlier in date the two magnificent single plank trestle tables at Penshurst are similar in that the surface nd colour of the oak has the same grey patinated surface with all the signs of obvious antiquity. The early 17th century examples from Hatfield House are another example, although they are so exceptional in character and ornament that they cannot be regarded as either a direct comparison or typical of the time.

Tables of trestle construction, made from massive boards of oak or elm resting on a series of central supports, were the most common type of early dining table. The tops were detachable and the entire table was frequently removed after meals. Such tables ‘wth trestelys’ are often listed in inventories as early as the 15th century when tables of great length and solidity were required for banquets. Tudor inventories abound with references to ‘a table wth trestilles’ or ‘a table with a payer of trestilles’. Trestle tables continued to be popular in the 17th century probably because they were so readily removable when a room had to be cleared for dancing and other revels. In Romeo & Juliet, Capulet instructs the servants to clear the hall and ‘turn the tables up’ for dancing. Even as late as 1649 there was ‘a Long Table standing upon antique tressells’ among Charles I’s furniture at Greenwich.

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This post was written by joecollinson