© 2015 Giles Pearson Antique Country Furntiture & Restoration. 

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Cane Seating:

The East India introduced cane seat furniture into the UK shortly after 1660. The cane, provided by the class of palms known as rattans came from the Malay Peninsula.

Not only did the great fire of London 1666 wipe out the plague it destroyed the capitals furniture.  Cane-work was relatively quick to produce compared to upholstery, as fabrics had to be hand embroidered. The need for new chairs caused the surge in demand for cane seating and the industry flourished thereafter. So quick was the shift in demand that the upholstery trade petitioned parliament in 1690 to invoke a tax on cane-work!

The early cane work had a large mesh, the style became finer towards the end of the 17th century,  the close mesh was popular up until the late 18thc.  As the craft developed the designs became more complex. Panels of cane work, oval, or rectangular in shape, were introduced as decorative elements in chair-backs with caned seats to match. Gradually, cane work became used in other domestic furniture; bed heads, framed in mahogany and walnut, bed ends and dressing room  screens,

Cane work was used in anything where lightness, elasticity, cleanness and durability, ought to be combined.

Rush Seating:

Rushes, bulrush {scirpus lacustris) is a native perennial which grows in silty lakes, rivers and ponds throughout Britain. This abundant plant has a wide range of uses from baskets to mats. The weaving of rushes has been practised for many centuries throughout the world.

 In the UK there is evidence that rushes have been used since the middle ages for stool tops and chair seating, basket-work and floor matting.

Today even on the isle of man, the great Sea God, "Mananan", is celebrated at the Tyne Wald,  {I.O.M parliament }, by strewing rushes collected from all parts of the island to represent the people at Parliament.

In the 19th C, Lancashire was the home of the "rush-cart"., where almost every village had one, and a man dressed as a "green imp" sat upon the rush- cart, suggesting an ancient ritual association with rushes!

During the 18th and 19thccenturies, the rushed seats were frequently painted, and in  "the cabinet dictionary 1803", Sheraton gives detailed instructions as follows :

"Rush bottom chairs ought always to have their seats primed with common white lead , ground up in linseed oil and diluted with spirits of turpentine. the first priming preserves the rushes and hardens them."
three coats of this primer were generally given to provide even uniformity over the weave."

Rushes are harvested in June or July, dried outside, and are best kept in " bolts" {bundles of rush}, in a dry airy place. they provide very durable natural material that gives much pleasure when worked.