Gallery Direct donates 50 chairs to Rochester Cathedral

Home and outdoor furniture supplier Gallery Direct has donated 50 chairs to Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Cathedral is currently displaying the “Table for the Nation”, a 43-foot-long table, which was crafted from a 5,000 year-old Fenland Black Oak in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Accompanying the table is information regarding the history of black oak (or bog oak as it is sometimes called), and the 10-year project to create the table. But as well as allowing the public the opportunity to view and learn about this table, the cathedral and trustees of the Fenland Black Oak Charitable Trust want the table, which can seat up to 50 people, to be used.

With this in mind, Gallery Direct, who are based less than 20 miles from Rochester, offered to donate 50 beautiful chairs to the cathedral.

Peter Delaney, Director at Gallery Direct, commented: “We are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year and so when we heard the Jubilee Table was going to reside at Rochester Cathedral for a year, we felt there was a synergy to giving them 50 chairs to use with the table, as well as elsewhere in the cathedral. In addition, with the excitement around King Charles III’s Coronation, we wanted to offer seating fit for a ‘king’s banquet’.”

Read Gallery Direct’s 50th Anniversary feature here

In liaison with the cathedral, it was decided that the chairs would be the Hinks with bronze legs, upholstered in Enzo Carbon, Crib 5, fabric, to complement the ancient black oak table. The 50 chairs were hand-upholstered at Gallery’s Wiltshire manufacturing site at Westbury by their skilled team of crafts people and delivered to the cathedral in April.

The “Table for the Nation” is a unique and outstanding piece of furniture. The project was a wonderful collaboration between a team of dedicated master craftspeople, students and volunteers, headed up by Hamish Low, expert on the preservation of Black Oak and project leader, and lead designer Mauro Dell’Orco. 

The black oak tree from which it is crafted was discovered in Norfolk in 2012 where it had been preserved for 5,000 years. The incredible size of the tree meant a special sawmill had to be loaned and a bespoke saw bench constructed in the field to cut the tree into planks. The wood then had to be carefully dried, and with no kiln in the country big enough, the team had to build one. A charitable trust, the Fenland Black Oak CIO, was established to protect the planks.

In designing and crafting the table, unique ‘River Joints’ were created to reflect an important Fenland feature, as well as to use the shape and character of each individual plank, so the impressive scale of the tree can be appreciated at a glance. The two outer planks fold down, exposing the stunning River Joints and reducing the width of the table, so allowing it to be moved about the cathedral more easily. This historic table will be in Rochester Cathedral until 1 March 2024.

For more information, visit: www.rochestercathedral.org/fenland-black-oak-table

Images of the Fenland Black Oak table are with kind permission of the Fenland Black Oak CIO

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