Dictionary of English Pieces - Settles, Sideboards and Sidetables, Sofa Tables, Stands


A settle is a bench with arms and a back. Many of them had seats that were hinged to reveal lockers. They date back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but most surviving examples are of seventeenth-century make and are usually of oak. By about 1700 they were being made on legs and without lockers beneath the seats, and cannot be distinguished from settees.

Sideboards and Sidetables

The dresser, mentioned earlier, before it was fitted with shelves, was a sidetable. Early in the eighteeenth century these were highly carved and often gilt, had no drawers, and were topped with a slab of coloured or white marble. By 1760, they were of mahogany with a top of the same timber, and Chippendale prints designs for several of this type. It was Robert Adam who added a pair of pedestals, one at either end of the table, but it was nearly 1780 before the sideboard was given drawers and became the article recognized today. One of the drawers was usually fitted with divisions lined with lead or zinc to hold wine-bottles. Until about 1800 they were supported on square tapered legs, but later these were turned. Great care was lavished by their makers on sideboards, and the choicest figured woods were chosen for veneering and inlay. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century a further modification in design took place, and the sideboard comprised a pair of pedestals with a single drawer between, but unlike the earlier Adam type these were in one piece.

Sofa Tables

A sofa table is not unlike a Pembroke table, having similar folding flaps which are hinged and can be raised and held by concealed brackets. The flaps are, however, at the narrow ends of the top, and the supports of the table vary in design; they are never straight, as in the Pembroke. Those with supports in the form of a lyre are the most esteemed. The sofa table came into use about 1800, many were made of rare woods and were highly finished, and good examples fetch high prices.


A number of types of stands were made at all periods, and they include candle and lamp stands and urn stands. The first were made in pairs or sets, and varied in height from three to four feet. The urn stand was a small table on which a tea-urn was placed when tea was taken; tea being expensive and teapots therefore of small size, the latter needed refilling frequently. Thus, a kettle on a stand with a spirit-lamp beneath was a part of the tea service during the eighteenth century, and a small table on which it could stand was made for the purpose. Most have four legs, there is a low gallery or rim round the top, and a slide on which the teapot could rest while being filled. Circular-topped small tables on tripod bases were perhaps made for the same purpose, but nowadays are usually called wine tables.

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