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Tea Table

Walker, Robert
Place Made:
King George County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, cherry
HOA: 28 1/2″; WOA: 30″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Tilt-top tea table: Has a tripod-base; without a turning (birdcage) top; the outer edges of top, pedestal, and legs are carved; long claw-and-ball feet; interconnecting C-scrolls and S-scrolls along with fans were carved in relief on top.

STYLE: The cutting pattern is identical to that used on two existing tea tables, one of which is in the collection of Stratford Hall, home of the Lee family, on the Northern Neck of Virginia. The elongated balls of the feet are cut square on the inside edges like others; however, the Stratford example is carved with webbing which this example does not have. The outside edges of the claws were built up of separate pieces attached with hide glue; one of six claws is complete. Such gluing up is standard London practice, but none of the others has this.

MAKER: This table was previously attributed to Williamsburg cabinetmaker Peter Scott, but now is attributed to Robert Walker. Robert Walker was the brother of William Walker, an architect and master builder, who worked for several landowners in the Northern neck of Virginia. Among them was John Mercer, a lawyer who employed William to construct his new house, Marlboro, on the banks of the Potomac, and in 1749, engaged Robert to provide furniture. Documentary evidence suggests that William Walker was in Virginia by 1730; Robert first appears in 1743. They settled in the Northern Neck and quickly became the builders and cabinetmakers of choice for the region’s leading families — the Carters, Fitzhughs, Lees, and Washingtons. William lived on the Potomac River, while Robert lived just a few miles away, in King George County, across from Port Royal, a thriving port town strategically positioned at the midpoint of the Rappahannock. A 1775 advertisement indicates that the Walkers were Scottish, originally from the parish of Dunottar, south of Aberdeen.

Sadly, the Walker account book does not give us the name of the carver who worked for the shop. He is described only as “his Carver,” a possessive term that suggests he was an indentured or perhaps even a convict servant who had trained in Britain as both an architectural and furniture carver; he then came to America and worked for the Walkers.

WOODS: mahogany top and legs, cherry pedestal and block with replaced cherry cleats.

The table descended to the donor from the family of Carter Braxton (1736-1797), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, of “Elsing Green” in King William County, Virginia. It was reported in 1776 that “the elegant house of CARTER BRAXTON esq…was unfortunately burnt down last Wednesday evening, with a great part of the valuable furniture.” (Virginia Gazette [Purdie], 20 Dec. 1776, supplement 1-2) It may have been that this tragedy caused the loss of the top cleats, and the damage to one leg, now repaired. (FLH ’90)

It now seems more likely that the table belonged to another ancestor, Charles Carter of Cleve (1707-1764) whose house was built by Robert Walker’s brother William in the late 1740’s. Cleve was located only a few miles from Robert Walker’s shop.

Credit Line:
Given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Worsham Dew by Mr and Mrs. J.T.Warmath