Antique Dining Tables: from rustic charm to fine dining
Early examples of what has become the antique dining table go back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Eating was an extremely important part of Greek and Roman culture and tables were made of marble, wood or metal. The Romans also introduced a large semicircular table, called the mensa lunata.
The early antique dining table used in Britain was the trestle table. These were basically pieces of wood resting on trestles that could be used as storage and erected quickly for functions in the Great Hall. There are highly prized early examples of 16th century Italian walnut refectory tables still in existence which shows their earlier link to the trestle table, where three trestle supports are heavily carved with acanthus leaves on the feet.
Moving on from the Middle Ages, intimate dining away from the Great Hall became more popular. Rather than lengthy refectory tables, a smaller antique dining table of the period could be round, oak and of gateleg design. In the 18th century, ladies began withdrawing after dinner into what was then called the drawing room, and the dining room became very much a male preserve. Antique dining room tables began to reflect this more refined type of dining where mahogany was coming into widespread use. Initially antique dining tables of this period were supported on four heavy cabriole legs without stretchers. However cabinetry was becoming more sophisticated through the insertion of flaps, tripod pedestals and the facility to insert leaves to lengthen the table. By the end of the century large round antique dining tables were being made which allowed for beautiful finishes on large flat surfaces where marquetry, veneers and metal inlays created very elaborate designs. Old styles of refectory tables continued to be made but were consigned very much toward kitchen use rather than fine dining, although there are fine hand crafted Arts and Crafts examples.
At Christian Davies Antiques in Preston in Lancashire, near Cumbria, we are able to provide a good range of period and revival antique dining tables.