The Chidren of the Chest The History of the Origin of the Design Period Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

Cupboards

Boxes have lids. Place a box on end and the lid becomes a door and the box a cupboard. Fix a door to a hole in a wall and one has a " built-in " cupboard. These can sometimes be found in old churches. In old farm-houses and inns there were similar cupboards in the thickness of the wall beside the fireplace in which spices, etc., were kept. Today it is a frequent custom to fit cupboards, wardrobes, bookcases, etc., into recesses. We have seen that the chest was sometimes raised from the floor and that it was then called a " hutch " (xxxi). Its lid could then serve the purpose of a " table," but when it was in use as a table the lid could not be raised, and so doors were necessary. The rabbit " hutch " in the backyard is most often a box with a door.

There are so many varieties of cupboards, and of combinations of the cupboard with the shelf, or of the cupboard and the drawer, that it is best to speak of them with regard to the main use to which they were put. They serve

  1. in connection with food and drink;
  2. in connection with clothes;
  3. in connection with books, documents or writing materials;
  4. for the safe keeping of valuables.

Dealing first with section i we can draw up a sort of family tree of the principal members of the family (see p. 20). The story in the tracing of the origins of the style known has Early American Colonial Furniture can be told very simply. From the rough board or plank the woodworker in the castle-yard could fashion a chest or a shelf upon which drinking horns and wooden bowls, etc., could be placed, and which became the cupboard or the table top. The chest, we have seen, became a " hutch " with doors instead of a lid (although often a chest raised upon legs or a stand is called a hutch). The hutch was lengthened upwards and a shelf or shelves placed in it. This was called an AUMBRY, and was the ancestor of all true cupboards.

In churches many aumbries were placed to act as "dole cup­boards" which contained the bread that was distributed to the poor. In domestic use the aumbries have an interesting story. In the great houses the important retainers and officials soon ceased to sleep in the Great Hall. They received separate rations of food, drink and candles in their private apartments. These rations were delivered to them nightly, and were called their "livery", from the French word " livrer", meaning "to deliver". Thus they were called livery servants, and their rations were placed in "livery cupboards" or "liveries", Both "dole cupboards" and "liveries" had pierced fronts in order that the food should keep fresh. The first of these were made before the use of joints was known and were spiked or pegged together, as were the early chests. The open­ings were cut through the solid wood and looked like little windows. As the stone mason and the woodworker grew further apart, the woodworker sought his own way of filling in the framework of his doors, and this he often did with rows of turned spindles which gave a cage-like effect to his food cupboards. These can still occasionally be seen in out-of-the-way farm-houses and are called "bread and cheese cupboards." These are the ancestors of our meat-safes, bread-bins, larders, etc.

Plate XIII - Hutches And Cupboards

Alm's Cupboard (St. Alban's Abbey)

Alm's Cupboard (St. Alban's Abbey)

The Ancestor of the Sideboard (Mediaeval)

The Ancestor of the Sideboard (Mediaeval)

Library Cupboard

Library Cupboard (Jacobean)

A Cupboard (Fifteenth Century)

A Cupboard (Fifteenth Century)

Children of the Chest

Children of the Chest

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