An Unusual Metamorphic Art & Crafts Style Folding Tea Table / Fire Screen
Made by a Blind WW1 Veteran with the St Dunstan’s charity
Oak Flats & Lever-Action Frame
85 cm high x 51 cm wide x 36 cm deep
A very historic, useful and innovative metamorphic tea table / fire screen in the Arts and Crafts Style. The oak flats and frame change shape via a lever-action, morphing from a tea-table, with two horizontal 'dumb-waiter' style shelves to a vertical firescreen (or simply to fold away for neat storage). An ivorine plaque to the bottom with the text:
“This Article was made by a St Dunstan’s War Blinded Soldier”
St Dunstan’s’ was founded in 1915 during the Great War by the newspaper magnate Sir Arthur Pearson as the “Blinded Soldiers & Sailors Care Committee”. Sir Arthur, who himself was blind, was concerned about the growing number of veterans returning from the front having lost their sight. The charity became known as "St Dunstan's" because it occupied "St Dunstan's Lodge" in Regent's Park, a grand London villa in extensive grounds which had been lent to the organisation by the American philanthropist Otto Kahn.
The organisation aimed to help and train veterans to meet the challenges of being blind and to regain their independence through the learning of braille and other new skills such as carpentry, leather work and weaving: eventually rehabilitating them back to their own homes and into a trade. Lord Fraser of Lonsdale (1897-1974), who had been completely blinded during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was one such veteran; he went on to become an MP, the chairman of St Dunstan's and a Governor of the BBC.
Items such as this metamorphic table/fire screen were made by St Dunstan’s residents to help develop their handicraft abilities and dexterity and also to raise important funds. The organisation's products such as picture-frames, trays, corner cupboards and ornamental tables were already being advertised in publications by 1917.
For an oak serving tray made by blind veterans with a similar ornate edge moulding but with brass handles cast with a torchère logo and the word "St Dunstan's" see Science Museum Collection [2019-363].
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