Saturday, February 01, 2020
The word refectory has a definition of 'a room used for communal meals in an educational or religious institutions' so basically, as we know it today, the dining room. So antique refectory tables are the early description of the dining table and the gathering places requiring such a table were pretty much the remit of a very few wealthy people that existed in large houses or institutes of religion, education or government. There are very few refectory tables surviving from the early period and most are quite small and narrow with stretchers running around the outside as people sat on benches rather than chairs. Most antique refectory tables available today, especially of the large sizes, will have been made in the Victorian period or early 1900s.
Of course also there are many sources today of reproduction ''antique Style' refectory tables coming in to the country from Poland, etc.. and there is even one company advertising everywhere that they sell 'reclaimed' sustainable timber constructed tables from teak, elm. etc. sourced from Monasteries and Temples! This is simply rubbish, the tables are made from fresh felled unsustainable forest timber in a third World factory and primitively stained with a tinted wax when they get here. Also there have been factories in France for a number of years now making 'antique French farmhouse tables' and there are companies purporting to be 'antique table' specialists whose near entire stock are these modern French reproductions/fakes.
After we lost the Colonies of the northern and western hemispheres, from where mahogany was coming back as ballast, the late Victorians where in some way forced to revert to the use of English oak making the fashionable extending or wind out dining table format that had been dominated by the use of mahogany for around 50 years prior. These very heavily built tables have beautifully figured medullary ray quarter sawn cut tops. However, this characteristic was not just for the aesthetic as timber stability was needed to keep the table tops flat and uniquely a quarter saw cut is straight through the growth ring and this ensures any expansion or contraction caused by atmospheric conditions only moves the timber laterally rather than cause cupping (warp). The table legs were turned now on template lathes and included carving, fluting and reeding details and although all unique commissions the period had its Arts & Crafts influences, Jacobean revival and companies such as Maple & Co defined designs also.
Offering very flexible seating via the extending mechanisms and extension leaves these late Victorian oak dining tables offer very ergonomic proposition within homes of today where regular meals may be for 6 folk but the table can extend to all sizes to fill a room or seat a dozen people or more for special occasions. Although the regular size we sell is 10ft to 12ft lengths these tables are in all sizes up to 26ft long. The natural lighter nature of oak also fits well with modern living with fresher lighter decor and lighting typically in houses and with the so many finish possibilities an antique oak table can be bleached, distressed or formally French polished to suit your taste.
Also very good news for the professional antiques market today and consumers is that no companies are making reproductions of Victorian oak extending dining tables because the cost of the complicated runner sytem construction and the cost of English oak cut quarter sawn itself ensures that it is simply too expensive to reproduce when compared to the genuine antique oak tables surviving today that can be restored and finished far more economically and therefore sold for incredibly good value prices.