I recently attended an enjoyable and highly informative Furniture History Society visit to Montacute. The visits that the Furniture History Society arrange are always led by an acknowledged expert in a particular field and at Montacute it was Victor Chinnery sharing his expertise with us.

Montacute is unusual for a National Trust house because when it was taken over it was unfurnished. The current furniture came from a variety of sources and is of varying quality- the perfect basis for a study collection.

On each visit I have attended with the Furniture History Society I have left with some new nuggets of information. On this occasion it was a discussion of Nonsuch Chests so called because their decoration is reminiscent of Henry VIII's palace. These chests were all created in Southwark by Cologne emigres who gathered there because they were not governed by the London City Guilds. We also discussed how German hinges were tinned and embossed. Tinning made iron hinges have the appearance of silver.

The highlight of the visit was probably the George II suite of gilded furniture made for Chichley in about 1725. These chairs are veneered in walnut with parcel gilding similar to chairs made for Houghton by Thomas Roberts. The special feature of these chairs is their needlework upholstery display scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. This needlework has retained much of its original vibrant colour due to it being protected by covers for much of its history.

The Furniture History society arranges several similar visits to some of England's best houses each year and is well worth joining.


November 30, 2009 — Peter Alexander