The Corbet Bed thumbnail 1
The Corbet Bed thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On display at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

The Corbet Bed

1593 (made)
Place of origin

On loan to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, Shropshire

Object details

Object type
TitleThe Corbet Bed (popular title)
Materials and techniques
carved walnut inlaid with holly and bog oak
Brief description
bedstead of walnut inlaid with holly and bog oak and inscribed 'R.C.', England, 1593
Physical description
Bedstead, walnut inlaid with holly and bog oak. The carved and inlaid head-board of architectural character has pilasters, brackets, and inlaid sunk panels; the panelled tester with elaborately carved and moulded cornice is supported by two bulbous, gadrooned and fluted bed posts with square bases and large Ionic capitals. These stand clear of the bedstock, the frame of which has vertical holes for the bed-staves used to retain the bedclothes in position. The frieze of the head board is inlaid with the initials R. C., and the date 1593.

The bed is displayed (2010 onwards) with a set of six curtains, a counterpane with the Corbet arms, and three embroidered lower valances made 1997-2010 by a team involving 170 Shropshire people, some working as far away as New Zealand. The curtains and counterpane were inspired by hangings that survive at Hardwick Hall. The valances with Shropshire scenes were inspired by the Bradford table carpet, (V&A: T.134-1928) embroidered 1600-15.

The designs for the embroidered floral slips were created by Margaret Owen with reference to embroideries in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Traquair House, Hardwick Hall, Blickling Hall and Parham House. Designs were drawn on graph paper with felt tip pens, and kits made up using Madeira silks and canvas (18 hole per inch). The cotton-backed, silk plain-cut velvet was attached to beech wood frames which could be worked on by up to 10 people. The cut-out slips were then attached to the silk using a grid pattern, overseen by Margaret Owen.

More information can be seen in the publication The Corbet Bed Project, available (2022) from Shrewsbury Museum.
  • Height: 88in
  • Length: 95in
  • Width: 68in
  • Including columns length: 2460mm
  • Excluding bed posts length: 2100mm
  • To top of column height: 1950mm
  • Base of column to top of tester height: 2330mm
  • Including bed posts width: 1730mm
  • Excluding bed posts width: 1450mm
  • Headboard width: 1580mm
Original measurements taken from John Hungerford Pollen, Ancient and Modern Furniture and Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum, (South Kensington Museum, London, 1876)
Production typeUnique
Marks and inscriptions
  • R.C. (This possibly refers to Reynold Corbet, Justice of the Common Pleas for Elizabeth I)
  • 1593 (Probable year of manufacture)
Gallery label
BED ENGLISH; 1593 Walnut inlaid with holly and bog oak The headboard, tester, and bed posts are elaborately carved. The frieze of the headboard is inlaid with the date 1593 and the initials R.C. carved on the headboard and inlaid on the frieze of the tester are crows, the punning crest of the family of Corbet of Moreton Corbet Castle, near Shrewsbury, whose property the bed originally was.(pre October 2000)
Object history
This bedstead was formerly the property of the family of Corbet, of Moreton Corbet Castle, near Shrewsbury. The back, in addition to the initials R.C., has carved upon its console brackets a figure of a crow or corbeau, the Corbet crest, which is also inlaid in bog oak upon three sides of the cornice of the tester.

Purchased by the Museum in 1867 from William Chaffers, a prominent London-based collector, dealer of curiosities and the author of several books on antiques. The price was £50 (RP 17135/66).
A memo dated June 26th 1866 by J.C. Robinson notes:
"The carved oak bedstead, sent on loan or on approval by Mr Chaffers, might be left at present on the former footing. The slender balance of the current year grant will be required for objects of more importance, or which more urgently call for immediate consideration. Its purchase might perhaps be taken into account at a more favourable time but Mr Chaffers should be plainly given to understand that the museum in [indeciph.] it on loan, is not in any way pledged to its ultimate purchase."

At some time after 1929 it was displayed with the crewel work hangings (museum no. T.13-1929). Black and white photographs of this set-up are on VADAR, under the number of the hangings.

On long-term loan to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery since 1982. Displayed at Rowley's House, Shrewsbury, 1982-2013. Moved to new premises in the Old Music Hall, Shrewsbury in September 2013.
Subject depicted
On loan to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, Shropshire
Bibliographic references
  • H. Avray Tipping, 'English Walnut Tree Furniture of Elizabeth's Reign', Country Life, Nov. 12 1921, pp.623-6
  • Pollen, John Hungerford. 'Ancient and Modern C. London: Published for the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, by Chapman & Hall, 1874.
  • Foley, Edwin, The Book of Decorative Furniture, 2 vols, London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1919, vol.I, p. 100, illustrated with a line drawing, without commentary.
  • The Corbet Bed Project - A story signed in Silk. The Corbet Bed and the creation of its 'historic' hangings (2017, The Corbet Bed Embroiderers' Trust)
  • Cescinsky, Herbert and Ernest Gribble, Early English Furniture and Woodwork. II vols. London: Waverley Books, 1922, vol. I, p. 355, fig. 386 and pp. 368-9
  • Susannah Glynn, 'The Fabric of History', Country Life, 15 April 2009, p. 74.
  • Esther, Singleton, The Furniture of our Forefathers. New York, Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913, photograph as frontispiece.
  • Ralph Edwards, 'Beds II - steps in the evolution of the Tudor bed'. Country Life, 15 April1922, pp. 512-515, illustrated as fig. 7, p. 515.
Accession number

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Record createdMay 1, 2001
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