Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn branches out to look at the world of carved ornaments...
Did you know we’re coming into National Tree Week?
We’re lucky to have the wonderful forest garden here on site which is lovely to walk in at any time of year. However, if the winter weather is driving you indoors, ‘Treen’ is a huge collectable field (pardon the pun), and attractive way to enjoy the beauty of wood indoors.
Coming from Old English, ‘Treen’ simply means ‘made of tree’. Until pewter, silver and ceramics became common as tableware in the 17th century, the majority of households used carved wood implements.
Treen always refers to small wooden objects or functional household items; never heavy pieces like cupboards, chairs or furniture. So anything small, usually made for a purpose, can be classed as Treen: snuff boxes, needle cases, dishes, shoe horns, chopping boards…the list is endless.
Often overlooked in the past, Treen’s quality and collectability is now in no doubt, and it is considered by many as one of the most subtle and sophisticated areas of collecting. With few pieces even containing a maker’s mark, quality, detail and dating are everything.
While prices in the specialist Treen market have risen consistently over the past 30 years, it is still a good entry area for new collectors. Tactile to handle as well as beautiful to look at, there’s a wide variety and good scope for developing specialisms. There is much history and fascinating craft processes to discover.
Popular names are Tunbridge ware (from Kent) and Mauchline ware (from Ayrshire). These affordable collectables are trinkets made up of little pieces of wood with a transfer of the town on them.
Most Treen available today dates from the 19th century. Rare pieces usually date back no further than the 16th century, and can fetch thousands of pounds. With a little luck you can still pick up English pieces for as little as £25-£50. Looked after, these will continue to accrue value.
This nice example of decorative Treen is modern but uses wood carefully selected to match the colours and grain to individual pieces of fruit.
So whether you like your timber as towering trees or beautifully worked wood, relish the knowledge that over 13% of Britain is still woodland, and enjoy our National Tree Week!