Recreation Gives a Glimpse of History; Furniture Is Crafted in Style of 17th Century

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Byline: Tony Henderson

HOW fashionable North East families lived some 400 years ago has been recreated within a historic city landmark.

History buffs visiting the 17th-Century Bessie Surtees House at Sandhill on Newcastle's Quayside can experience a vivid glimpse into the lives of yesteryear - thanks to a new installation of authentically-crafted furniture.

Craftsman John Apps has been commissioned by English Heritage to fashion a table, benches and carved armchair in the style of the period.

Now the oak furniture is on display inside one of three rooms, which open to the public to give people a feel for how the town's merchant families of the time would have lived.

The furniture, together with replica tablecloth, now sits alongside the room's oak-paneled fireplace, which is dated 1657, and an original merchant's chest.

The house has been leased by English Heritage for its regional office since 1989.

Dr Crosby Stevens, English Heritage art curator for the North, said: "We wanted to create the domestic space of these merchant families of the time.

"These were very wealthy merchants and shipping owners who would have been in touch with the broader, fashionable world of London and cities in northern Europe.

"So they would have wanted fashionable domestic goods for what was one of the grandest houses in Newcastle, which is now a rare survivor and a very special building."

The families would have employed the very best North East craftsmen to make their furniture and John Apps is their modern-day successor.

He has been a joiner and furniture maker all of his life and runs JRA Woodworking at Slingsby near York, specialising in restoration, conservation and architectural joinery. …