CILSS Antique Dining Tables and Dining Table History


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The earliest surviving type of dining table is the trestle table used in the middle Ages. Since the top was made from long wooden planks resting on trestles, such antique dining tables could be dismantled and moved to the side of the hall when space was needed for other activities. 

In medieval times, the assembled company ate together in the great hall, with the master and mistress of the house usually seated at a smaller table raised on a dais. By the mid-16th century, however, it had become more common for the master and his family to eat in a separate room, and more permanent tables evolved. The term refectory table has been applied to these early "solid" tables since the 19th century. Styles varied, but such tables were popular all over Europe. 

In the mid-17th century antique gate-leg dining tables, which had flaps that could be folded down when the table was not in use became popular for dining. Initially, these tables were often quite large - up to 8 feet in diameter - but as time went by and it became fashionable to use several small tables rather than one large one, they became smaller. 

The rectangular top of most antique refectory dining tables consists of two or three planks and should always have the good patina that comes age and use. Check that it is not a late copy made from old floorboards - there should be signs of filled-in holes if it is.

Any dowels in an old table should stand out from the surface, due to shrinkage over the centuries.  

Table legs should show the expected uneven wear, where the edges have been rounded and are no longer as sharp as when the table was first made.  I individual legs do not show the proper wear, they have likely been replaced -- devaluing the table.








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