23 June 2020
Visitor Assistant Andrew Smith takes a closer look at some of the furniture in the Kettle’s Yard House.
Maybe you’ve sat at the library table in the upper extension to read one of our art books, and then found yourself thinking about the history of the table itself. You probably were sitting side-saddle because it’s just about impossible to sit with your legs under the table. But you would have admired its substantial three-plank top and refectory style frame.
When Jim Ede first saw it, it was a sad and disregarded side table in the kitchen of Clare College. It had white painted wooden planks crudely nailed to both sides and it was due to be thrown out. Jim was told that if he could remove it, he was welcome to take it.
Jim had the white planks removed, and then, to hide the nail holes, the two outer planks were taken off, reversed and refitted. Finally, with just a thorough cleaning and a little wax polish, it was ready to serve in the library.
Closer inspection reveals it to be a typical late 17th century refectory table and it would originally have had matching benches on either side. When first made, it would have had ‘bun’ feet but at some stage these have been cut off, reducing the height by three or four inches. Furniture like this stood on stone floors that were frequently wet, so tended to rot from the bottom up.