Wednesday 23rd January 2019 - Della Bentham
A bed that is believed to have belonged to King Henry VII emerged at auction in 2010 and was snapped up by an antique bed expert, who has traced its history.
Image From: Edingburgh Live's Coverage
A bed believed to have once owned by King Henry VII has unknowingly been slept in by hotel guests and appeared in a Carry On film and Poirot! It’s a story that is almost hard to believe, a 15th Century relic surviving hundreds of years with its history almost lost and forgotten.
The bed was found abandoned in the car park of the Redland Hotel in Chester back in 2010, after the owner’s removed it from the hotel’s wood-panelled honeymoon suite which it had adorned for fifteen years.
Had guests of the honeymoon suite been unknowingly sleeping on the marital bed of King Henry VII for the small price of only £95 per night?
The bed was auctioned by Byrnes Auctioneers in 2010 when it’s service was no longer required by the hotel. Byrnes listed the bed as a “Victorian bed” which is where its current owner, antique bed specialist, Ian Coulson purchased it for £2,200.
Knowing he had something special in his possession, Mr Coulson undertook the task of uncovering the bed's history with the help of TV historian Jonathan Foyle and a team of experts.
It was evident that the bed was much older than Victorian. The deep oxidisation on the wood would have taken centuries to develop, and the tool marks on the wood were certainly from techniques and tools used long, long before the Victorian era.
Coulson enlisted the assistance of Mr Foyle, saying that he believed the bed to be Tudor. This was understandably met with scepticism, and thoughts that it could, in fact, be a replica.
The bed has a royal coat of arms on it, which made Foyle believe it was almost certainly a fake. But the more he looked at the details, the more he began to feel that there was a chance it was ‘the real deal’.
They began tracing the history of the bed from before its stint at the Redlands Hotel. The bed was bought to the hotel by the owner’s daughter who had purchased it from an antique dealer in Edinburgh. Mr Coulson tracked down the dealer, Mr Davidson who passed away three years ago.
Mr Davidson could recall the bed but not where it had been purchased from. He has sold antiques on an industrial scale.
It appears the bed may have featured on TV though. Antique restorer and historian Tim Garland spotted a bed which looked uncannily similar in Carry on Dick released in 1974. Syd James was lying on the bed. A Poirot show from the early 90’s also appears to have used the bed as a prop. In both instances, the headboard was obscured and cloth was draped over the footboard but using a blown up still Mr Garland could demonstrate that the carvings matched this bed 100%.
The carvings on the bed contain depictions of Adam and Eve as well as an English script alongside the royal coat of arms.
Scientific tests on the wood have been inconclusive. One said the wood was post-1756 and from the US, while another stated it was of European origin but could not be dated due to beetle damage.
They looked at the work of George Shaw who specialised in Gothic revival in the 19th Century, Mr Shaw had sold copies of this bed as ‘genuine antiques’ to unsuspecting English gentry back in the 1800’s. However, after looking at copies he found them to be much cruder and inferior to this bed in many ways. They were all fresher and more Victorian looking also. Upon visiting Mr Shaw’s house St Chads in Uppermill, Saddleworth a missing piece of the bed was found hanging above a doorway. The Uppermill Parish council voted to keep the panel where it was rather than reuniting the Royal Crest with the bed.
Mr Coulson told Edinburgh Live that he would like the bed to end up in a national collection in the UK so the public can view it.
"What has to be done is that, frankly, we ought to take it seriously and determine the right place that it should be displayed for the nation, it's amongst national treasures," Mr Foyle added.
It’s fascinating to think that this bed has probably been a part of so many people’s lives, being slept in by royalty, TV and movie stars and newlyweds, who knows everything it has seen in over half a Century.
"It's been lost in plain sight, really," Mr Foyle said. "Its survival is so improbable that I don't blame people for being sceptical."