In Week 14 I wrote about the Landkey Parish Table.
We managed to save this remarkable example of early Devon craftsmanship for North Devon by securing grant funding from the Beecroft Bequest. We agreed with the trustees of the Landkey United Charities to buy it in advance of a proposed auction at Bonhams in London. The table, which is 15 feet long, was brought back it a Luton Van, and was carefully stacked (flatpack) in the museum entrance hall. But it took us until Week 35 of the project to get it up the stairs!
After trying several removal companies and considering all kinds of possibilities, including taking out windows or hiring materials lifts, we were very relieved when Rose Removals of Lapford saved the day. Their men were courteous, quick and took great care in a very tricky manoeuvre.
Our next adventure with the table will be to put it back together in the Library, where it will be used as part of our research room with displays about the Literary and Scientific Institute and Victorian researchers. We will need some strong men then too!.
I was recently at Sampford Courtenay, which is the home of the other surviving Parish Table in Devon. Their table is bolted to the floor of the Church House – a building used by the community for gathering over the last 500 years. Church Houses are a very Devon thing – they often have outside steps leading up to a large first floor room, and they survive in places like Swimbridge, Braunton, South Tawton and Stoke at Hartland among many others. One of their uses was to brew the Church Ale, and some have become pubs.
At Sampford Courtenay there is a tradition that their table came from Kings College Cambridge, which was a significant landowner there. Although Oxford and Cambridge Colleges do have large dining halls with huge tables, it is very unlikely that such a massive piece of furniture would have been brought all the way from Cambridge – the table belongs with our, Landkey, table as a wonderful survival of the Devon woodworking tradition.
You can see that although the Sampford Courtenay table is perhaps even longer than the Landkey one, it is constructed quite differently, with the table top made up of several planks, instead of a single huge piece of oak. The benches are equally worn, but the table ad benches are fixed separately to the floor, whereas the Landkey table is like a picnic table with table and benches both slotted into wide bases.
We are looking forward to reopening so that more furniture experts can get a really good look at this remarkable object.