The Chair, The Oak, The Fungi & The Tulip

Chair Chats with Giles Pearson

By Giles from Giles Pearson Antique Restoration

Giles is our resident Scottish vernacular furniture expert. Pop in and see him - he's always got a story to tell about his latest finds. Here's one of them..


The "Table Chair" or "Derby Chair" c1620, James 1st, or James IV  of Scotland.

This chair is significant for several reasons, constructed with Oak wood with pegged tenons throughout.
The term "Table Chair" was used, as this was one of the first designs with a "back", instead of benches and stools at the dinning table.
The term, "Derby Chair"  is derived from the Oak as used for construction, came from the Pennines in Derbyshire. The significance is that the timber came from a "pollarded" or "coppiced" tree that was old, short, dense, heavy and brown in colour, slow grown in a colder higher climate to that of Henry VIII, New Forrest in Hampshire.
Brown Oak, is caused by a fungus, "Fistulina Hepatica " that infects the roots of the Oak trees, and now we know, that Fungi is the way that trees communicate underground through their roots systems.
C17th or Jacobean Oak furniture is thereby considered to be genuine when it is dark in colour and very heavy, {Arthur Negus, c1970's}
Conversely, all the tall straight Oak was used for ship building in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Carrack Ships were the predecessor of the Galleon, prirmarally used for the keel , stern and bow. All together it took 2000 assorted trees to make one, yes1, Galleon,.
Incidentally, Legend has it that in 1580 Frances Drake was in Santa Dominica, and broke his rudder! Had a new one copied and made out of Mahogany!
Derby Chair with tulip close up Giles Pearson
This chair depicts carving on its back rails that illustrate a "Tulip", Why a 'Tulip"?
In 1580 Charles de L'Ecluse or Carolus Clusius, a pioneering French Botanist was responsible for introducing the Tulip Bulb, from Turkey, into Northern Europe.
What followed was "Tulip-mania", so that by 1620 one bulb would buy you a house in London! By 1637 it was all over , with the ensuing Tulip Crash, far too many successful  gardeners!
This chair has Tulips decorating its back panels that symbolically  reflect the wealth of the original owner, thereby giving it the date c1620.
This 400 year old chair speaks volumes about the natural outstanding quality of the Oak Tree, and one should consider that the tree the wood came from to make this chair was probably alive in the 13th/14th century!
Giles Pearson
mighty oak tree