Earlier in the week we shared a bit of history about the walnut tree for our Age of Walnut exhibition. We continue this history today looking at the emergence of walnut furniture in England leading up to this important era in English furniture design.
The earliest appearance of walnut furnishings in England occurred around 1600 in the form of panelling, and throughout the 17th century the timber became highly valued for its decorative appeal and strength. In 1613, Gervase Markham stated, ‘If you would chuse Timber for joined Tables, Cupboards, or Bedsteds, you shall then make a choise of the fairest Walnut-tree you can find, being old straight, unknotted, and of a high boale… the Walnut-tree is by many degrees the best of all other, for it is the smoothest graine, and to the eye the most beautiful.’
John Evelyn in Sylva (1664) lamented that walnut was not more widely available, noting ‘were the timber in greater plenty amongst us we should have far better utensils of all sorts for our Houses, as chairs, stools, Bedsteads, Tables, Wainscot, Cabinets etc., instead of the more vulgar beech… I say if we had more of this material we should find an incredible improvement in the most stable furniture of our houses.’
Next week, we will continue this history and share more highlights from the exhibition.