It’s easy to see why antique dining tables in Lancashire are so sought after. From Bury black pudding to Lancashire hotpot, the county has a long tradition of hearty home-cooking and farmhouse fare. The cosy image of family mealtimes round the farmhouse table is still the norm in many areas, and the large number of older properties means there are plenty of dining rooms where even the largest antique dining table will fit with room to spare.
It was common for antique dining tables in Lancashire to be passed on from one generation to the next, and these often find their way into salerooms. The earliest surviving style is the trestle table, common in the great halls of the Middle Ages. Originals from this period are highly sought after and extremely rare. The top was formed from long wooden planks, often taking up the length of the hall, around which the lord, lady and entire company of the manor would be seated. Later, the planks and trestles would be dismantled, and the space used for dancing.
Trestle tables disappeared with the end of the feudal system, and most antique dining tables in Lancashire date from the 16th century or later. By this time, it was common for the master and his family to dine separately to the rest of the household, and solid tables evolved. Called refectory tables, these became popular across Europe. Many designs were based on the trestle style, and while some were quite plain others (particularly those from Italy) could be incredibly elaborate, with carved acanthus designs on trestle-style legs.
It’s worth looking for British refectory antique dining tables from Lancashire’s Tudor to Reformation periods. Made from oak, with large bulbous legs, they are quite rare as, owing to the damp conditions, the legs would rot. Therefore you should look at the legs closely, as these have often been replaced. Additionally, beware of late copies, made from reclaimed floorboards. The telltale signs will be filled-in nail holes, and dowels flush with the surface. In old antique dining tables, the dowels tend to stand proud of the surface, owing to shrinkage of the wood over the years.
Although they fell out of favour in homes, refectory tables endured as library tables, popular today in larger homes. The most expensive are inlaid with rare woods like burr walnut and rosewood, but simpler Victorian styles can be found for reasonable cost in antique shops. As with refectory tables, they should be formed from 2 or 3 planks of hard-wearing wood and show a rich patina with plenty of signs of use.
As more intimate styles of dining evolved, tables became adjustable. Gate-leg antique dining tables date from the mid-17th century, and vary varied from rectangular to fully circular in design, with flaps which could be lowered when not in use. Early gate-leg antique dining tables in Lancashire can be up to 8 feet in diameter. However, by the 18th century it was normal to use several small, rather than one large table, and so later examples tend to be smaller. These are probably the most collectable of all antique dining tables, fitting easily into modern homes.