11 Apr 2021
July 4, 2012 - Filed under: Antique Cabinets — Richard

Six of the famous Lewis Chessmen are being returned to their native island and will go on permanent display at Lews Castle, once the home of Lancashire industrialist Lord Leverhulme until he bequeathed it to the Stornoway people in 1923.

In Lancashire, antique cabinets are ideal for storing and displaying chess sets. Chess has its origins in 7th Century Persia, but by mediaeval times it had crossed to Europe, becoming highly popular with the nobility. At this time the game had yet to be standardised and while the “army “ still included rooks, pawns, knights, kings, queens and bishops, the elaborately carved pieces were very different to those we use today.

Thought to be the most entire set of mediaeval chess pieces in existence, the Lewis Chessmen were discovered in 1831, in the Isle of Lewis’ Uig Bay. Dating from the late 12th Century and Norwegian in origin, they were possibly buried by a trader for safekeeping, as the intricately carved walrus tusk and whale tooth ivory pieces come from four different sets. There are 93 pieces in total, 11 at the National Museum of Scotland and the rest in the British Museum, which recently announced it was to offer six pieces for permanent loan to a new museum opening at Lews Castle in 2014. This Victorian Gothic edifice was famously the home of Lord Leverhulme, co-founder of the Lever Brothers empire, who moved to the island from Bolton in 1918, later bequeathing the castle to its people.

Copies of the Lewis Chessmen are widely available, and look almost as beautiful as the real thing when displayed in an antique cabinet or antique bookcase, both of which Lancashire antique dealers sell.

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