17th century Oak Coffer with two drawers below - Possibly from the workshop of Humphrey Beckham, Salisbury. Coat of Arms of the Speke Family, Somerset. The family were originally from Normandy settling in England after the Norman Invasion. Richard L'Espec was born in 1110 in Devon. The estate was called Heywood - the site of Eggesford House today. Walter Espec died in 1153 and was the Sheriff of Yorkshire.
Sir George Speke had a tie to Yorkshire in that he married the widow of Richard Mallet of Currypool who was related to Richard Scrope of Upsall Castle, Yorkshire.His son George Speke was a supported of Prince Rupert at Bridgewater and was taken to The Tower of London, only being released on his payment of £2390 in 1646.
The precise date of this coffer is difficult to establish.
The top rail is carved with leaves depicted in a naturalistic way and is almost identical to that found on the frieze of a table dated circa 1675 - illustrated in Anthony Wells-Cole’s article from the Furniture History Volume XII 1976 Fig 10c Oak Furniture in Dorset.
The carving of the double headed eagle on the front three panels is similar to that which can be found on an armchair on the front cover of ‘Oak Furniture – The British Tradition’ by Victor Chinnery – This chair was carved by Humphrey Beckham (1588-1671) and dated 1622 – the back panel bearing the arms of the City of New Sarum (Salisbury) which includes the double headed eagle. It is known that carvers from the workshop in Salisbury crossed the borders to Dorset to work at Chantmarle House– see above.
The deep carving to the two drawer fronts is similar to that found on a joined stool with drawer circa 1630 (Page 229 Fig 3:113 Salisbury.
A joint stool (dated circa 1630) with a carved frieze rail of scrolling forms Page 152 Fig.2:215 bears a resemblance to the carved rail below the three panelled front.