This post was originally published on internationalroutier.wordpress.com on November 30, 2011
17th century “Spanish” folding table in oak from Cotehele house.
This post takes the form of a photo essay, concentrating on the folding tables at Cotehele House in eastern Cornwall as exemplars of this type. There are seven extant folding tables at the house, all made in the early to mid seventeenth century by the resident MP from timber grown and felled on the estate. Three are currently on display, one each of oak, walnut and chestnut. Each is made differently and has a slightly different locking mechanism. As a cheap and easy to make table, they weren’t much valued and as a result, few survive.
The name “Spanish” comes from the alleged introduction of the type in to England by being found in the wrecks of the Armada, a quick tour of on-line antique shops shows the style to have continued in use in Spain until at least the mid-19th century.
This is the top of the walnut table. Note the double frame on the top and the diagonal brace keeping the legs in place.
Underneath the walnut table. The locking mechanism on this table still works
Close up of the trestle of the oak table. Visible at the top of the trestle is the prop that stops the legs opening out too far. The iron plates are on the opposite sides to the hinges and allow the hinges to be riveted rather than nailed in place.
The cross bracing under the oak table. The braces fit into the block under the table top and into diagonal cut-outs in the legs. A hinge can be seen on the inside of the trestle leg to the left of frame.
Lower end of the leg brace on the oak table. The mortice the brace plugs in to is reinforced with thin metal.
Hinges on the chestnut table.
Corner of the oak table showing the method of protecting the end grain of the boards.
Corner of the walnut table, the nail is a repair to the part the hinge is attached to.
During the first half of the seventeenth century, draw-leaf tables were replacing trestle tables in the upper-middle and upper class homes, the Spanish table presented a useful solution where a portable, easily stored table was needed, whether in a ship or in a house.
Photos by Glenda & Wayne Robinson