ENGLISH OAK REFRACTORY or LONG TABLE, three (3) plank top, turned legs, “H” stretcher, England, 17th century
beautiful original finish with excellent patination
29.75” H x 89.75” L x 32.25” W
label on frame (see image)
Wells, Maine 04090
Fine English Antiques
"The Farm Antiques of Wells, Maine has been providing discriminating buyers superb antiques from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries since 1967.”
What exactly is a Refectory Table?
by Nicholas Berry, Bespoke Reproduction Early Oak Furniture Specialist
The term "refectory table", "oak refectory table", etc. is a modern description of a style of table that was previously referred to in early inventories as a “long table” (see Nomenclature below). Whether it's the scholarly and historically correct description or our current more widely known classification, the form of the design is much the same: A sub frame consisting of four legs in each corner (and at intervals along the length for longer tables) joined by rails around the top of the legs, an arrangement of stretchers at the bottom, over which sits the table top.
The legs, rails and stretchers are connected together using mortise and tenon joints and this method of frame joinery remains largely unchanged since its development in the fifteenth century.
We have relatively recently adopted the word “refectory”, when describing this type of table, or its variants, thanks mainly to the quaint 19th / early 20th century obsession of linking almost any piece of early oak furniture with the “monastic romance” of pre-dissolution Britain. Even today, there's a lot of nonsense talked about this subject which, unfortunately, helps to keep the myth alive. Even Wikipedia leans toward this trend. In fact there is no evidence to attribute any such surviving table to a monastic refectory, although inventories do refer to more secular origins such as colleges. This style of table (four or more legs joined by rails and stretchers, with a fixed planked top i.e. "joined long table"), can be assigned more accurately to domestic households during the latter half of the sixteenth century, and onwards, rather than monasteries, abbeys, priories and such like.