The Dauntesey family of Agecroft Hall were wealthy landowners and, as such, they could afford many of the comforts of home that the ordinary citizen could not. One thing all social classes had in common, however, was the need for large hearths to keep their rooms and themselves warm. Agecroft hall originally had 11 chimneys in England. Today we have seven hearths at the house here in Richmond.
How do you keep warm in the winter? Is your home well heated? Do you have a fireplace? Do you wear fuzzy pajamas and thick socks? These are all common ways to keep out a chill. In Tudor times, people did the same types of things to stay warm. Since large hearths and fireplaces heated spaces in Tudor homes, people could stay close to the fires for warmth. Imagine if you had a specially-designed chair to sit in by the fire that helped to keep you feeling toasty.
The chair you see below is called a "draught chair" and sits in Agecroft's Great Parlor. Notice it is nice and close to the fire. When you feel a cool breeze coming in through a window or door, that is called a “draft” or a “draught”. A drought chair, then, is a chair that helps to keep you protected from a cold draft. Look at the back of this chair. It is curved inward toward the front of the seat. These vertical panels help to surround the body to keep out any cold air.
The chair here at Agecroft Hall dates to 1575. It is made of oak, and the armrests are finely carved with acanthus leaves. We think there was originally an arched board spanning the face of the upper section for greater protection from the cold air and possibly for added decoration. A door originally covered the face of the chair below the plank seat and the opening was possibly used for a brazier - a pot filled with hot coals for warming, or for a chamber pot.
The curved wood construction, decoration and attention to detail, as well as the velvet cushion on the seat, all speak to the wealth of the Dauntesey family.
We have another draught chair here at Agecroft Hall that is much different than the one by the hearth in the Dauntesey’s Great Parlor. This chair is located in our reproduction Tudor kitchen and would have been used by the kitchen servants. You can probably see differences in the two draught chairs right away.
Though also made of oak, this chair is more rough in its construction than the chair in the Great Parlor. The slats on the back of the chair are less evenly cut and don’t even touch each other in several places. The sides of the chair are less protective, and the seat has no comfortable cushion.
In comparison to the larger rooms of the manor house, the smaller space of the kitchen would have been easily warmed by the constant daily cooking, maybe even hot. This drought chair, then, probably got more use as a percing spot than as a place needed to keep warm.