Anyone thinking of buying a generously sized, drop-leaf antique dining table in Lancashire should be aware it may have been laid for more than just family meals; in olden days, late family members may also have been laid out there, as such pieces were often pressed into service as wake tables when people passed on.
A Celtic death ceremony that primarily survived in Ireland, the original purpose of the wake was to keep watch over the deceased until they could be buried, to prevent their soul being stolen by evil spirits. The waking ceremony would take place in the parlour, and since a large space was needed where the coffin could easily be watched over, the dining table was a logical choice. In time, specifically built wake tables began to appear. Although they are rare, it is worth looking for these antique tables in Lancashire, owing to the large number of Irish immigrants who settled in the county in the wake of the Irish potato famine.
Many Irish families also settled in America, where a handsome Georgian mahogany gate-leg wake table recently realised $3,840 (£2,420). It was the top-selling lot in a snow-swept Connecticut sale that also saw good returns on Victorian dining chairs and other ‘brown’ furniture. Back in 2001, a similar table was valued at £8,000 – £10,000 on Antiques Roadshow. The episode was repeated in January.
In Preston, antique dining tables like these can be found by visiting a good antiques dealer – remembering that even the largest will generally only have been used by living bodies.
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