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History of the Sideboard

Although in deference to the prevailing taste for our National manufacture of the latter half of the last century, this chapter is somewhat long, on account of the endeavour to give more detailed information about English furniture of that period, still, in concluding it, a few remarks about the " Sideboard " may be allowed.

The changes in form and fashion of this important article of domestic furniture are interesting, and to explain them a slight retrospect is necessary. The word " Buffet," sometimes translated " Sideboard," which was used to describe continental pieces of furniture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, does not designate our Sideboard, which may be said to have been introduced by William III., and of which kind there is a fair specimen in the South Kensington Museum; an illustration of it has been given in the chapter dealing with that period.

The term " stately sideboard" occurs in Milton's " Paradise Regained," which was published in 1671, and Dryden, in his translation of " Juvenal," published in 1693, when contrasting the furniture of the classical period of which he was writing, with that of his own time, uses the following line: -

"No sideboards then with gilded plate were dressed."

The fashion in those days of having symmetrical doors in a room, that is, false doors to correspond with the door used for exit, which one still finds in many old houses in the neighbourhood of Portland Place, and particularly in the Palaces of St. James' and of Kensington, enabled our ancestors to have good cupboards for the storage of glass, crockery, and reserve wine. After the middle of the eighteenth century, however, these extra doors and the cupboard enclosed by them, gradually disappeared; and soon after the mahogany side table came into fashion, it became the custom to supplement this article of furniture by an independent pedestal cupboard on either side (instead of the cupboards alluded to), one for hot plates and the other for wine. Then, as the thin legs gave the table rather a lanky appearance, the garde de vin, or cellaret, was added in the form of an oval tub of mahogany, with bands of brass, sometimes raised on low feet with castors for convenience, which was used as a wine cooler. A pair of urn-shaped mahogany vases stood on the pedestals, and these contained - the one hot water for the servants' use in washing the knives, forks, and spoons, which being then much more valuable were limited in quantity, and the other held iced water for the guests' use. To understand this arrangement the reader is referred to the illustration on page 193.

A brass rail at the back of the side table, with ornamented pillars and branches for candles, was used, partly to enrich the furniture, and partly to form a support to the handsome pair of knife and spoon cases, which completed the garniture of a gentleman's sideboard of this period. It would therefore seem that the modern sideboard is the combination of these separate articles into one piece of furniture - at different times and in different fashions - first the pedestals joined to the table produced our " pedestal sideboard," then the mirror was joined to the back, the cellaret made part of the interior fittings, and the banishment of knife cases and urns to the realms of the curiosity hunter, or for conversion into spirit cases and stationery holders. The sarcophagus, often richly carved, of course succeeded the simple cellaret of Sheraton's period.

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