Dead man’s chest (Object 97)

Oak cofferHere’s another “first generation heirloom” bought by my parents early in their marriage. Mum always said she bought it in a local antique shop for my Dad, James, because it was “Jacobean”. She referred to it as the “Jacobean chest”, and it was always one of my favourite pieces of furniture in the house. I loved the detail of the carved panels, and the dowling bolts holding it together from the days before the invention of screws. I am grateful to my brothers for letting me have it after our parents’ deaths, because I love it so much.

I use it, as my Mum did, to store linen. Inside the chest after her death I found this linen handkerchief embroidered with the letter “L”, presumably the Lane family insignia:

Lane linen handkerchief

Lane linen handkerchief

The handkerchief was hidden inside the inbuilt wooden box, which revealed further treasure:

Document.. in the form of a folded, yellowed piece of paper, which turned out to be a receipt from a local antiques store:

1954 receiptDated December 4th 1954, the receipt from Goodall & Co. in Chiswick is for an “Antique mahogany robe wardrobe including conversion to hanging” and an “Oak Dower Chest,” costing a total of £54. The name “Dower chest” comes from the word  “Dowry” and refers to a woman’s “bottom drawer” or “marriage chest”: a chest that would be filled with linen and other domestic goods prior to setting up her marital home.

43 years after its purchase, the chest was valued by the man from Sotheby’s along with all Mum’s other antiques. Note the contrast between the two sums!:


“An oak coffer, late 17th century…..£1,000.

Dad’s “Jacobean chest” is in fact “An oak coffer, late 17th century, the three-panel channel moulded lid over a nulled frieze and three lozenge carved panels”, and valued at a cool £1,000. Whatever its value may be now, it’s worth infinitely more than that to me.

The chest occupied various positions in its 50 years in our house. Mum took up upholstery after she retired, and turned it into a bay window seat with the addition of this padded cushion:

Chest with seatIn Mum’s final years, my old cat Holly kept her company (there’s a photo of them here), and spent many lazy hours lying on this sunny seat. In the four years it has sat in my own bay window, more cats have followed suit.

Chest with cat

Jimmi enjoys Mum’s windowseat


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in Furniture, Lane family, Our House, Parents and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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