Traditional Painted Pine Naval Seaman’s Chest
This magnificent early 19th century Naval Seaman’s Chest dating to circa 1830-50 is a really superb historic piece that sparks tremendous interest and may evoke memories of that most famous of mysterious sea chests belonging to Pirate, Billy Bones, who was First Mate to Captain Flint, and appears at the very start of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - or perhaps for others it will evoke Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean! Whatever the thoughts it is also a perfect reminder of our naval triumphs such as The Battle of Trafalgar.
This particularly fabulous solid pine sea chest is the epitome of a chest from this time and has a richly patinated exterior with red pinstripe coachline carrying the name of “M Kingwell”. It is well made in the traditional manner1 from solid pine with dovetail construction, has its original decorative braided coir rope carrying handles, known as beckets, and it still has the original iron lock plate in place. When the lid is lifted it reveals an interior offering voluminous storage painted in a traditional ochre/mustard seed colour and a candle till with lid which functions as a support for the open lid. When men went off to sea these chests contained all their worldly possessions including clothing, tools, keepsakes and entertainment items such as books or cards that they would need for the coming years at sea. These chests were stored in the crew’s quarters and also served as seating.
This wonderful Sea Chest really has got everything you could possibly wish for as a decorative and useful piece of storage and would work well as a coffee table, toy or blanket chest at the end of a bed or whatever purpose you ultimately choose to use it for.
1A Seaman's Chest or Sea Chest was typically approximately 40" in length, 20" in width and 20" high and made of pine wood, with the exception of some of the more expensive personal sea chests. Early 19th century chests used "6-plank" construction meaning all four sides, top lid and bottom were all made from single planks of wood, with dovetailed joints securing the four sides. Most seaman's chests were only decorated with a coat of paint and the owner's name, although some had intricate paintings or carvings carried out either by the owner or a fellow crew member.
These chests were sometimes mounted on two parallel wooden beams, similar to runners, which helped to prevent damage from sliding as well as serving as insulating them from moisture on the deck of the ship. Traditionally the sides of the chests were not vertical, but rather slanted inwards slightly, as this lowers the centre of gravity making the chests less likely to tip over. The chests were always equipped with a lock as well as handles on either side, known as beckets. These handles were made of cordage and were often woven into decorative patterns by sailors as a way of showcasing their seamanship. Almost all chests contained at least one small compartment attached to the right-hand side, usually used as candle tills, though some had compartments extending across the entire length of the interior.
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