Cyprus gift to the... House of Commons

The Government of Cyprus has made a gift to the new House of Commons— opened a few days ago—of an oak writing table. Here ROGER SMITHELLS, former editor of Decoration (London), descrives it. Cyprus gift JN one of the Members’ Writing Rooms next to the Division Lobbies in the new House of Commons stands a fine oak writing table designed on simple, but traditional lines, with elegantly moulded legs and a soft brown leather top, Above the legs is a carved freze of a charming design which ts repeated on many pieces of furniture, both in the De- bating Chamber itself and in the rooms which surround it —— a regular pattern combining the sturdy branch and leat of the English oak tree. Qn one side of the table are carved the words: «The Gift of Cyprus». Another symbolic decorative detail is the neat tooling which outlines the leather panel set in the table. “Vhis is a small and simplitied Rose of England repeated re- sularly between two raised bands. The table has been made by a North London firm of cabinetmakers, J. L. (green and Vardy, Ltd.. which has executed work for Liverpoo! Cathedral, the Bodleian Library at Oxford and many important buildings in Britain. This firm has also been responsible for the elaborate panelling for the Debaung Chamber, and has made much of the furniture for the new House — all of it the work of skilled men who take immense pride in their craft. The managing director, Mer Ro 2B. Vardy, who is a South African, himself selected the wood from which the table has been made. From the forests of the Knglish counties ot Herefordshire and Shropshire, he chose beautiful ocak 200 or 300 years old, This was carefully seasoned at the Forest Products Research Laboratory ar Princes Risborough, in Buckinghamshire, of the Exterior to the... and then delivered to his factory, where he had gathered together skilled craftstnen from all over Britain. Many came out of retirement —- the oldest of them is 78 — to take part in the historic enterprise of carving and making furniture for the new House of Commons. One of the most unusual features of the presentation table is its colour. Normal- ly natural oak turns an unattractive yellow us the years go by. All the oak in the new House of Commons, however, has been treated with sulphate of iron, which wives it a soft, olive grey tone. Researchers discovered that the in): with which mediaeval monks wrote on parch- ment has never faded because it contained sulphate of iron, and they adap..i this ancient formula to the treatment of oak. Immediately after spraying, the wood A craftsman working on the Prime Minister's table. House of Commons turns a deep blue-black. But at the end ot three months it fades co the beautiful olive grey sheen which it retains tor ever. ‘This table, though simple. is splendidly solid, and has been made to withstand the wear of hundreds of years. Indeed, Mr. Vardy and his craftsmen have taken tm- mense pride in its workmanship, Vhey hope that in centuries to come visitors to the House of Commons will remark on the beauty and workmanship of English craftsmen in the 1950s — and will remember the contribution to the Mother of Parliaments of the αν island of Cyprus. * oe ἩἈ | N ADDITION to its present of a writing table. Cyprus is associated with every other part of the Common- new Louse of Commans. wealth in another impressive gift to the new House of Commors. This is a conference table designed for the Prime Minister's room. ‘Vhe top of the table, of light brown leather, is framed in a mosaic bordei made up of triangles of wood collected from every Dominion and Colony, — block οἱ contribution is a Plane. Cyprus's astern _ ‘Phe idea for this unique table was put forward by the architect, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, O.M. Although the new House will contain many gifts of furniture, wood and. silver from the Commonwealth, it was felt that there should be one single piece which would symbolise all the interwoven strands which make up its history and constitution. Altogether more than 200 woods were collected. different Territories rich in forests sent half a dozen samples from which a choice could be made others Jess amply endowed by nature could offer only one. | Zanzibar, for instance, sent clove wood. with the apology that it was not commonly used in cabinet-making, but it was all she had. Yer nothing could better represent the island] which sends its cloves all ονει the world. Vhe Falkland Islands are represented by Antarctic beech Somaliland, Kenya and “Fanganyika by cedarwood: Gibraltar by oak and olive. so that all who see the table will know the source of every one of these different woods, 2 chart is being drawa up, which will hang in the House of Commons and identify each wood and the territory fro. which it came,