What is it?

Archaeology, Collections, Preservation, Research, Uncategorized

Figure 1. This Bureau Bookcase, a rare example of English elite furniture in the American colonies, is believed to have been purchased by John Drayton, the original owner of Drayton Hall.

During the middle of the 18th century, furniture ornamented with brass, tortoiseshell, and exotic wood inlays was of the highest fashion in Europe and especially London, England. Influenced by the late 17th-century work of French cabinet maker Andre-Charles Boulee (1642-1732), a group of five British cabinet makers began creating equally lavish pieces in London

Figure 2. Brass furniture inlay from Drayton Hall archaeological investigations. While only a fragment, such artifacts provide invaluable information about 18th century material culture, fashion, and consumption patterns. Actual size: 2"

from the 1730’s; in 2009, material evidence of their creations was identified above and below ground at Drayton Hall.

Drayton Hall’s own bureau bookcase, for instance, is a rare example of English 18th-century elite furniture-richly ornamented with tortoiseshell and wood inlay details (Fig. 1). Additonal examples of English elite furniture are beginning to surface through archaeological work. As shown in Fig. 2, fragments of brass furniture inlay were uncovered in 2009 through excavations.

While the fragments are heavily corroded and twisted from the destruction of the furniture, a close inspection reveals intricate designs. The presence of such artifacts links John Drayton to contemporary English fashions and emphasizes the efforts he placed upon acquiring them for his home in the South Carolina Lowcountry.