A rare 400-year-old table will be re-homed in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon after being saved from auction.
The museum has been successful in a bid to keep the Landkey Parish Table – a mid-17th century oak trestle table – in North Devon after a near-£10,000 bid from the Museums Association Beecroft Bequest.
The table, which is dated back to 1655 and is nearly 17ft long, will be put on display in the museum’s library, which is being converted into a public research area as part of its extension project.
It had been due to go up for auction by Bonhams and was expected to sell for between £5,000 and £8,000.
The Landkey Parish Table is believed to have been assembled inside the Landkey parish house, which is where it stayed for over 400 years.
It is one of only two parish room tables from the 16th or 17th century known in Devon. It is made from a single plank of oak, with fixed benches on either side.
One trestle-end is carved with the date 1655 flanked by the initials WL and TG, for William Lavercombe and Thomas Gould – the churchwardens in 1655.
The museum’s bid for funding was supported by the Regional Furniture Society, the Devonshire Association and local historians, who were all wanted the table to remain in the district following the Landkey United Charities decision to convert the under-used parish rooms into a dwelling.
Dr Todd Gray, author of Devon’s Ancient Bench Ends, said: “The table was secured for the people of North Devon by the museum manager, Alison Mills, who has worked tirelessly to ensure it stays where it belongs – in North Devon.
“The region has some of the most interesting early wooden carving in England and I hope all those who love North Devon appreciate that Ms Mills harnessed the expertise of specialists around the country in supporting this bid.
“This really has been a great coup for the people of North Devon!”
North Devon Council’s executive member for parks, leisure and culture, Councillor Brian Moores, said: “This is a unique and very significant piece of Devon furniture and I’m very pleased our museum team was able to raise the funds to keep it in North Devon.
“It will fit well in the museum library, where it can continue to be used and appreciated by local visitors to the museum.”