Blog - Building Beginnings

Dinner is served

It’s not uncommon nowadays to have a meal in a restaurant served on a chopping board, slate, or other recycled material of dubious provenance. Balanced on top might be flower pots, mini milk churns, tiny wire baskets, and other unlikely containers for food. Shovels, skateboards, and even shoes are not unheard of on the restaurant dining table. No wonder We Want Plates has such a following.

Dining was a lot simpler in the 17th century if probate inventories are anything to go by. Platters, plates and potingers were the order of the day, and they were very big on napery: napkins and tablecloths of varying materials depending on who was sitting at the table.

By the Victorian period, dining was considerably more elaborate with special dishes, plates and cutlery for different types of food. Tureens, dishes, sauce boats, and elaborate centrepieces occupied the middle of the table, with special containers for sweetmeats, sardines and salads. A bewildering array of cutlery and numerous glasses added to the crowded board.

Sale catalogues of the period describe other vessels now unfamiliar to most people: antique copper beer slippers, a burr oak teapoy with gadroon rim on barley twist pillar and triple scroll feet, and a gin cask decorated with antelopes.

Personally, I would have loved to have been summoned to the table by a ‘Glockenspiel five-bar brass dinner gong with echo tubes, mounted oak table stand, moulded borders, on spiral twist supports tied by plain T-stretchers and turned feet’. But spare a thought for the ‘downstairs folk’ who had to wash up all this stuff – which makes me wonder how you fit a skateboard in a dishwasher.

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