Before the sale started the auctioneer pointed out to me this "table in need of some work” and suggested I might like to bid on it.
.... I didn’t need it, didn’t want it -- too big .... but I ended up buying it near the very end of the auction.
When on Wednesday I started taking the base apart to glue some loose bits, I found WRITING!
Scribbled in pencil: "Made by John Spier, 1836 Ayr"
Being interested in history and genealogy, this was exciting!
John must have been quite proud of his table, for besides hidden inside on the base where he wrote “John Spier Ayr 1836” (and another single faint word I cannot decipher),
inside the pedestal of the base he wrote on two of the four walls, “Made in 1836 at the time when the lightening hit the big steaple by John Spier Garden Street” ***
Using a mirror on a stick, my son helped me figure out the scribbling and then he went on-line and started finding information about the family and Garden Street .....
John’s father William was a cabinet-maker.
John’s brother Stewart, also studying cabinet-making, became an innovator of smoothing planes and built up a successful company.
The planes today are very collectable.
I am thinking that because John Spier(s) was just nearing age 18 in July 1836 (born July 26 1818) that his table was probably a work of apprenticeship.
It has a basic construction, compared to the fancier ones of the period, but contains a lot of ‘work’.
The frame which supports the top of two joined solid mahogany leaves has all been clad in mahogany veneer .... inside, bottom, as well as outside.
The screw holes were all plugged to appear hidden .... and this is on the underside where they wouldn't be obvious anyway.
The pedestal base is octagonal rather than turned round or made square.
.... To do these things would require learning and perfecting some useful skills.
The two large boards in the top are exceedingly fine ..... mirror image with an attractive grain.
These would have been planed smooth by hand .... no doubt all this planing to be done inspired his brother Stewart.
Unfortunately John passed away Oct 31,1840 aged only 22.
I haven’t learned the cause but many people succumbed to illness at a young age in those times.
I should like to think that John excelled in his craft and produced many other fine pieces in the 4 short years.
*** I found a reference to perhaps the same storm in an online reference of Ayr history:
“ On the 5th day of July 1836, a day which will long be remembered for the length and violence of the thunder storm which raged over all the lowlands of Scotland, the lightning struck upon the hill in two different places leaving zig-zag fissures extending seven or eight yards.”
But then this other reference is to the steeple and says Dec 1835 with repairs in summer of 1836:
“The spire is 226 feet in height, said to be about the highest in Scotland, and has a bell weighing 22 cwt, of a rich deep-toned sound, which can be heard at a great distance in calm weather. The spire is reckoned very handsome, and in good taste as to architectural decorations and proportions. Its appearance has a fine effect, and is a great ornament to the town. During the winter of 1835, it was struck by lightning, more than midway from the ground, in a frightful thunder storm, which happened in the dead of night, occasioning great alarm to the inhabitants. The bolt wrenched in an instant two of the large massy stones from their places, on one side of the building, driving one of them to a considerable distance, without, however, doing any material injury. The damage was repaired last summer, at a considerable expense, incurred chiefly by the difficult and complex construction of scaffolding for the purpose.”
I would enjoy hearing more about John and his family, about other SPIERS furniture, or just hearing from some of the SPIERS descendants of this family. Thanks from Paul
« Back to index