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Tudor Furniture, English Tudor Style Furniture

The Tudor Era

The tudor period in English history begins with the ascent to the throne of King Henry VII in 1485, this event signifying the end of the Middle Ages in Britain and supposedly the historic beginning of the English Renaissance. The tudor era, for our purposes, continues through the reign of King Henry VIII and ends with the crowning of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558.

The tudor era of sixteenth century England saw many interesting developments in the arts, fashion, architecture, theater, and of course also in the realm of home decor and furniture to a certain extent.

Tudor Furniture Characteristics

Early tudor furniture, what there was of it, was little distinguished from the medieval furniture and gothic furniture periods preceding it. Ordinary, poor people had very little furniture possessions and even in the large houses of the wealthy there would only stand beds, benches, stools, tables, and chests. Chairs were reserved for the owner of homes when presiding over meals in the hall - their guests made do with stools, perhaps with cushions, as a small nod to comfort.

Furniture & Interiors

Such Tudor English furniture as existed in this era was made of oak, was imposing, heavy, strong, and uncomfortable. Tudor interiors, in contrast to the lack of grace and quantity in furniture, were often beautifully decorated with tapestries, embroidery, carpets, and fabrics.

Tudor Hutch Table
Tudor Hutch Table
With Gothic carving, used for placing jugs and cups on, an original cup board.

Housing Boom

The time of Henry the 8th onwards saw a boom in private housing construction, see Tudor houses, and this caused an increase in furniture production.

New Knowledge

At this time of King Henry Tudor furniture construction methods improved as well with more advanced joinery techniques putting an end to plank construction and allowing furniture to be moved around houses more easily.

New Ideas

Panelling for walls was a fashion of tudor times in fine homes. Chests were pushed up against panelled walls which perhaps gave rise to the idea of freestanding panelled settles, forerunners of settees and sofas.

Tudor Chest
Tudor Chest

From about 1530 tudor style furniture began to come under the influence of Italian Renaissance styles and this saw the use of more carving and ornamentation. Traditional gothic linenfold, Tudor Rose, and other designs derived from architecture saw themselves being mixed with Italianate garlands and profile heads in roundels. A more widespread impact of Renaissance ideas in furniture design did not take place until the Elizabethan age however.

Tudor Bed
Tudor Bed

More Old Than New

To summarise, the early tudor period in England before the Elizabethan age was, in matters of furniture and interior design, mostly part of the gothic tradition only changed somewhat by incipient continental ideas flowing across the channel in very small waves and by new wood crafting knowledge.

Antiques & Reproductions

Antiques of the tudor era are exceptionally rare and command hefty prices and are largely confined to museums. Some antique tudor furniture was built so massively that it is likely to stand for some time still however. Reproductions of tudor period furniture in revival spirit are made by specialist woodworkers mainly in England. Our tudor resources section may be of use in contacting some of them.

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