11538 A RECTANGULAR OAK SIDE TABLE WITH UNUSUAL CONICAL “LIGHTHOUSE” FORM LEGS English. Second Quarter of the nineteenth century.
Of oak, veneered and solid. The rectangular top with molded edge rests upon a frieze containing a pair of drawers. The front legs of conical form with turned capitals and bases. The rear supports of rectangular pilaster form with molded plinths. Minor repairs.
Burnham Yacht Club
This table, until recently, formed part of the contents of the Burnham Yacht Club.
The front legs were designed in a fashion to resemble the conical light houses that came into fashion in the early eighteenth century and were once a feature of particularly hazardous stretches of coastline, before the advent of modern navigation technology.
As the construction of the table predates the institution of Burnham Yacht Club, it is possible that it may have been gifted to the club by a member with links to the navy. Furniture that directly evokes maritime forms is very rare and that which does exist is often of oak or made from reclaimed timber of notable vessels such as an armchair made with timbers from Admiral Nelson’s H.M.S. Victory commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar for the Second Earl of Spencer at Althorp and a desk for Kaiser Wilhelm II made by Waring and Gillow, also from Victory timbers, as well as a center table in the Carlton Hobbs collection incorporating specimens of oak taken from the 18th and 19th century British sea vessels the H.M.S. Royal George, H.M.S. Boyne, H.M.S Temeraire, and Steam ships belonging to the Steam Navigation Company.
Oak dominated as the preferred shipbuilding material for its weight and durability, resistance to decay, and strength in tension; it was especially ideal for ‘compass timber,’ where the wood is cut on a curve rather than straight, as the branches of an oak grow more or less horizontally from the trunk.1 “There was no finer material in Britain for the construction of ships’ hulls than English oak, and there was no finer oak in the entire country…than that found in the south-east.”2
Mainly due to Britain’s naval dominance during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, such furniture seems to be particular to the UK.
- Burton, Anthony. The Rise and Fall of British Shipbuilding. Stroud: The History Press, 2013.
- Willis, Sam. The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship That Inspired J.m.w. Turner’s Most Beloved Painting. , 2012.