I hate to do posts without pictures, but this one’s easier that way. I’ll do pictures in a separate post.
if you read Chris Schwarz’ blog, http://blog.lostartpress.com/ you’ve seen his posts about Randle Holme’s seating furniture, and today a discussion between Chris & Suzanne Ellison about stools in particular. Randle Holme’s work has always been one of my favorite resources when studying 17th-century stuff. Another is probate records, particularly the household inventories compiled at the time of a person’s death. One reason these are so helpful is that they are the work of many people, thus we get a wider snapshot than just Randle Holme’s ideas. When you study inventories from a wide geographic range, you get various uses of terms. Once you study New England records, they’re even more mixed up, because you have immigrants from all over England thrown together in a small area. The language gets funny.
here’s some terms I have noted about seating furniture. These go way beyond the limits of Chris’ “furniture of necessity” but are still worthwhile.
My comments in brackets.
Chris – note: “beere stoole” and “ale stole” –
This first set I compiled from J. H. Wilson, editor, Wymondham Inventories (Norwich: Centre of East Anglian Studies, date?)
Two little buffett stooles
Litle old stoole
Old close stoole
Three footed stole
Framed stooles [not sure how or if a “framed” stool is different from a “joyned” form…the form is long. Framed & joined are usually thought to mean the same thing, joined w mortise & tenons]
Cushion chayer with a back
Great back chayers
A forme of joyned worke
Plymouth Colony, (New England) :
1 old brodred stoole [I think “boarded” in this case, not “embroidered” – but might be…]
2 busted stools 1s6d
3 bossed stooles [I think this is an upholstered stool, trimmed w large headed tacks…]
a close stoole 8s [not just a stool or ease, but any stool w a compartment in its bottom]
a large stoole Covering and many borderings for stooles 10s,
2 wrought stooles [wrought is upholstered]
2 Cushen stooles
six buffitt stooles 10s
Essex County, Massachusetts:
3 Leather stooles 5s
a brewing stoole 1s6d [“brewing stool” which might clarify the English “beer” and “ale” stools above.]
6 cushion stooles & 2 chaires £2
6s a great stoole or table 3s
an old stoole table
4 Lowe cuchin stools
Back in England, from A. D. Dyer, editor, Probate Inventories of Worcester Tradesmen, 1545-1614 (Worcestershire: W. S. Manley & Son LTD, for the Worcestershire Historical Society, 1967)
Gyne/geynyd stoole [think phonetic, thus “joined”]
Small settell of waynscote with a bench
One bench with a back of waynscote
Waineskott benche [in all of these wainscot means either oak, or frame & panel work.]
Peter C. D. Brears, editor, Yorkshire Probate Inventories 1542-1689 (Yorkshire: Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1972)
Long furram [form?]
Seald/seeled cheare [this is “ceiled” a term meaning “joined” – joiners were sometimes called “ceilers”
Wanded chaire [willow/wicker]
Francis W. Steer, editor, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, (Colchester: Wiles & Son, Ltd., 1950)
great joyned chayer
Joyne inlaid Chaire
one Chaire with turn’d pins
Russia lather Chairs
blew cloth Chaires
chaires bottom’d with rushes
turkey worke stooles
bucket stools [seen paintings of chairs made from barrels. never seen an old one surviving]
Joyned stooles/ joint stooles
2 foote stooles
join’d stooles buffeded
one settle with 3 boxes in it
long bench joyning to the wainscot
Great Wicker Chair
low Wicker chair
Michael Reed, editor, The Ipswich Probate Inventories 1583-1631 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell Press for the Suffolk Records Society, 1981)
Frame for a stoole
Stole of easment – [this one’s clear – a chair w a chamber pot. a shitter]
Lowe ymbrydred stooles
Footestooles/ Ould footstooles
Two round stooles
Green frindged high stooles
Lyttle stoole with a green cover
Ould stooles covered with blue cloth
Three footed stooles
A brasse foot stoole
Small wyndd stooles
6 heigh stoles covered with lether
Old tressell stooles
Six wrought stooles
heigh stooles covered with lether
6 joyned stooles covered with scottish work
5 heigh buffet stoles
One high bench with a backe
Chayers litle and great
Wicker chaire with a back
Matted chayers [chairs w rush seats]
Six old segging chayers
18 chayers of seg cist 7s (?) [are these serge chairs? i.e. upholstered ?]
Wooden chayer – [Wooden? aren’t they all wooden? This means a wooden seat, not a woven seat.]
Three green turned chaires
Great turne chayer
One turnors chayre
Old turne chayer
hye turned chayer
hipp turned chayer (?) [I assume bad transcription]
one hopp chayer
Old backt chair
Joyned chaires great and small
A small Flanders chayer with a backe of green cloth
Great joyned chaire covered with lether
Lether backe chayers, 2 heygh and 2 lower
One chaire covered with scottish work
One great green frindged chaire
One high green chaire
One settworke chaire
chayers covered with greene kersye
1 couch as it standeth
9 thoughts on “16th & 17th century English terms for chairs”
Isn’t a “close stoole” or “close chair” a sort of hidey-cabinet for an indoor chamber pot?
not just that – close stool can be a stool w a box in it. chamber pot or no. All chamber pots are indoor pots. outdoors you don’t need the pot.
There might be another interpretation of ‘bossed’, althouhg this example is more recent.
I saw on Chris’s blog, Suzzanne used the term “Creepie” People used that term for some 3 leg stools I slapped together back when I was doing living history. I never questioned it. This term didn’t show on your list. Is it just a form of modern slang?
Never heard that term = I haven’t seen it in a 16th/17th century document. Doesn’t mean it’s not there, I just never saw it. & I read lots of those records; 25 years’ worth.
From the OED: (noted as Scottish and dialect)
a. A low stool. Also creepie-stool, creepy stool.
1661 Mercurius Caledonius To assemble all her Creels, Basquets, Creepies, Furmes.
a1756 Sc. Song, Logie o’ Buchan I sit on my creepie and spin at my wheel.
1859 E. C. Gaskell Haunted House: Ghost in Garden Room in All Year Round Extra Christmas No. 13 Dec. 34/2 He sat between his parents..and Bessy on the old creepie-stool.
1865 Reader 18 Nov. 579/3 Carrying her creepie in one hand and her milking-pail in the other.
1892 J. Barlow Irish Idylls vii. 178 Pat, set the ould creepy stool for Mrs. Doyne.
1903 W. B. Yeats Hour-glass (1904) 3 A creepy stool near it.
1922 J. Joyce Ulysses i. iii. [Proteus] 42 Fiacre and Scotus on their creepystools in heaven.
Wot? No litill crekett stole. (Brears op cit.)
Perhaps the “framed stool” is an attempt to distinguish an opened “joined” stool, from a close stool with ‘frame and panel’ (Just a thought) Also in the UK wainscot, further (according to Victor Chinnery – Oak furniture, a British Tradition) specifically implied to imported straight grained oak, as opposed to native grown varieties.