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North Devon in 100 Objects: 20. The Landkey Parish Table

A long wooden parish table with wooden benches attached either side.

For 400 years representatives of Landkey parish would have sat and deliberated (uncomfortably) at this long table.  It is one of only two parish room tables from the 16th or 17th century known in Devon and is an exceptional example of the workmanship of West Country craftsmen.

The earliest long tables were boards placed loosely on trestles and the seats were long benches or, in higher status contexts, individual stools. By the seventeenth century joined refectory tables were adopted in large houses. The Landkey Table is an intermediate type which emerged in the sixteenth century in institutional contexts. It still has trestles, but the top is fixed and the benches are attached to the horizontal trestle supports, a very rare feature.

The table sat for over 400 years on the first floor of the Parish Rooms, next to Landkey Parish Church.  It must have been assembled inside, as it measures almost 17 feet long.  The top is made from a single huge plank of oak, from a tree which would already have been growing at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066.   One trestle-end is carved with the date 1655 flanked by the initials WL and TG.  We can match these to William Lavercombe and Thomas Gould who were Landkey churchwardens in 1655, so this appears to record a repair.

The Landkey parish table is a recent acquisition which, with the help of local enthusiasts, was saved from being auctioned in London.

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