amy azzaritopast & present

past & present: trestle tables

by Amy Azzarito

With Thanksgiving right around the corner here in the States, this seemed the perfect time to take a look at the original table for feasting: the trestle table. The trestle table was the medieval dining table form — simply a loose board placed over trestle legs. Your average medieval castle didn’t have a room dedicated to dining; eating happened in the great hall or in a formal bedchamber, so it was imperative that the tables be easily and quickly set up and taken down. Dinner in a medieval castle would have been a little like that familiar Thanksgiving scramble for extra tables and chairs, except you had to be prepared to serve a house inhabited by hundreds and you never knew whether someone might show up with an extra 50 people.

Antique & Vintage Trestle Tables above: 1. Italian Baroque Trestle Table, Late 17th Century; 2. French Farm Trestle Table, c. 1900; 3. Italian Trestle Table, c. 1880; 4. Pine Trestle Table, c. 1970; 5. Late Regency Trestle Table; 6. Italian Baroque Trestle Table, c. 1850; 7. Antique Trestle Table, c. 1900

Image above: Collapsible trestle table with a silver top made in Spain around 1600 from The Rijks Museum.

If you think fork choices are overwhelming, consider the elaborate dining rituals in medieval times that would make even Emily Post nervous. The amount of food each person received was portioned according to rank. Most people had to eat four people to a portion, but if you were a bishop or an earl, you ate two to a plate and only the very great men would receive their own portions. At the conclusion of a meal, the table was cleared and even the trestle and board were removed while the diners sat and waited for their hands to be washed. Everything was removed and once the diners were left in an empty room, the musicians were brought in and dancing began!

Image above: Trestle table built by David Ellison of Lorimer Workshop in Sneak Peek: Jewels of New York.

The trestle table remained the most common table form until the 16th century, and I love spotting it in homes today! I’ve pulled together my trestle favorites and a few woodsy fall entertaining accessories to get you in the mood for feasting!

CLICK HERE for the fall entertaining roundup and a modern trestle table roundup after the jump!

Images above: 1. Birch Garland, $22; 2. Paus Breadboard, $47; 3. Harvest to Heat, $40; 4. Tectona Spoon, $18; 5. Owl Placecards, $12; 6. Cheese Board Dome, $49.95; 7. Hickory Vase, $60; 8. Salt and Pepper Logs, $15; 9. Branch Bit Stopper, $14

Images above: 1. Chianni Trestle Table, $799–999; 2. Trestle Natural Drop-Leaf Table, $199; 3. Modern Farmhouse Table, $1,998; 4. Elm and Iron Dining Table, $1,099.95; 5. Trestle Salvaged-Wood Dining Table, $2,395–$5,495

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