Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, cared for by the National Trust, boasts the finest monastic ruins in England. The immense wealth of this great Cistercian abbey was founded on the wool trade, and at Swanley Grange, the site of a medieval farm within the abbey grounds, schoolchildren and young visitors can learn 'hands-on' about 'all things wooly'
To enhance the facilities of the Swanley learning rooms and give them a more period feel, we were asked in late 2015 to provide late medieval-style working furniture.
Draw-knifing bench tops
Paul and apprentice assembling the benches
This included a set of six oak trestle tables and benches, which could be used both for art activities and for visiting children to eat their packed lunches.
Setting up a trestle table
The tables and benches
We also made six lockable 'six-plank' chests (three large and three smaller, in a variety of painted finishes) to contain art and demonstration equipment
Unpainted chest coming in
Painted chest and contents
and two strong demonstration tables, one in post and rail style and the other post and plank-end
Post and rail table in construction
Setting up the post and rail table
We likewise supplied authentic spinning equipment, including a 'great wheel' or 'walking wheel', the medieval predecessor of the later treadle wheels.
The great wheel
And we added drop-spindles and distaffs for spinning by hand; carders for aligning wool fibres before spinning; and coopered tubs and baskets for the wool. As well as two wall-hangings, in wool of course.
Small chest, coopered tubs, basket...and wool
All this was installed on-site in late February 2016, exact to date and budget as always, ready for the Easter rush of visitors. A few days later, the client wrote 'The furniture is absolutely fantastic and we are all thrilled with the transformation of the rooms.'