Box House Antiques

Antique Chests – a brief history

Any medieval household  in England would have possessed at least one antique chest. Large houses would have had many. They were used mainly for storage of linen, clothes and documents. Some functioned as strong boxes to store valuables. Sometimes they featured iron carrying handles so that they could easily be taken on journeys . They would have had secure iron locks.
Some chests were constructed wholly in iron with complex, engraved locking mechanisms. All antique chests from this period had rising tops.

See an ‘armada’ chest here

You are unlikely encounter antique chests for sale earlier Ca. 1550.  You may find earlier examples in a museum collection. As a starting point see a ‘boarded chest’ of Ca. 1500 in the V & A collection.

Initially these ‘boarded chests’ were of simple plank construction using oak or elm woods. They became more ornate and occasionally partially iron bound. Sometimes they were dated and even painted. Most with dates however you should consider as spurious.

In the early 17th century chests first acquired horizontal working drawers and it is from this period onward that the chest as we know it developed.

In the 17th century some chests were raised on low stands. Later they developed into many styles from the austere simplicity of the Cromwellian period to the flamboyancy of Charles 11’s reign. Finally in the 18th century we see the development of costly and extravagant chests.