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In modern times, the term refectory furniture tends to be used to describe traditional wooden pub or restaurant furniture. Often in hardwood and either simple or ornate in design, these pieces are a sturdy, solid addition to any hospitality establishment.

The roots of refectory furniture

A refectory is a dining room, commonly found in monasteries, boarding schools and other academic establishments. Although it has its strongest ties to the medieval times, in the modern day it is often used to refer to a café open to the public that is attached to a cathedral or abbey. Some universities in the UK will refer to their dining halls as the refectory. So, what does this mean when it comes to furniture? Essentially refectory furniture is that which is used in these spaces, with long tables and classic solid wood pieces featuring most frequently.

Refectory tables

A refectory table is an elongated table which is based on a trestle style. This means they often feature multiple trestle supports with the tabletop placed over them. Originally refectory tables were used for dining in monasteries, before becoming popular as banqueting tables in castles and noble residences in the late middle ages.

Refectory tables can vary from nothing more than planks of wood places over trestles to ornate pieces made in solid oak or walnut. Throughout history the design of these pieces has varied depending on the styles of the time, however they have always remained a solid and durable piece due to the amount of use and wear they can receive.

The traditional pub table

The most common place you will see a traditional refectory table is in a pub or restaurant. The inset positioning of the table ends create little obstruction to diners, making them a comfortable and space efficient option. The refectory build style also means that are also stable and sturdy – perfect for seating larger groups.

Trent Furniture’s refectory tables

Trent Furniture offers a very traditional solid wood refectory style table in a range of finishes; walnut, dark oak and light oak. Coming in both rectangular and square options, it can seat different sizes of party and be used in different combinations to fit your space. We also offer traditional solid wood seating that matches our refectory tables beautifully, create a consistent style throughout your pub or restaurant. You can view our range of refectory furniture here or get in touch if you have any questions about our products and furnishing your space.

The pub furniture of today reflects many centuries of history. The British pub has origins that go back to Roman times, when people would drop into tabernae for rest, food and drink – usually in the form of wine. These evolved into ale-houses, reflecting the appetites of native Britons, and the pub was born (though it didn’t acquire that title until the 19th century, when “public house” was shortened to “pub”).

Over the centuries the pub has acquired the characteristics that have come to define this uniquely British institution: it is homely, comfortable and welcoming. Twinkling racks of glasses and bottles, glowing fireplaces, colourful beer taps and soft lighting contribute to the atmosphere: this is a place to escape the tribulations of the world outside.

When it comes to furniture, most pubs today echo and channel history in some way; it’s rare to find a pub that is furnished and decorated in an entirely contemporary style. The widespread use of old-world furnishings and fixtures, such as wood panelling and ornate mirrors, adds to the impression that the pub is a world-within-a-world. So what are the historical influences on today’s pub furniture?


1: Medieval

The reality for most medieval drinkers was hard and uncomfortable: rough benches, crude tables, or perhaps just barrel tops. Individual chairs were a luxury reserved only for the very wealthy. If a pub were to try to replicate this kind of environment, it would soon go out of business. But the simplicity of medieval furniture is still present in the solid benches and simple wooden tables widely used in pubs. Early pub tables were either boards placed across two barrels, or trestle tables that could be cleared away – a design that is still widely used today.


2: Tudor

The Tudor era saw the rise of more decorative furniture, and individual chairs became more widely used, often with ornate carvings; these elements can be seen in some pub furniture today. There was a flurry of pub-building across the UK in the 1920s and 30s, and many of these new pubs echoed the Tudor era with mock-Tudor exteriors and leaded lights. One piece of Tudor-era furniture has influenced today’s pub furniture perhaps more than any other: the settle. This wooden bench is normally placed up against a wall; sometimes it has a high wooden back. In Tudor times, the area beneath the seats might have been used as cupboard space. Trent Furniture’s Killarney settle (pictured below) echoes the classic settle and has the advantage of being moveable.

Pub furniture example in the Tudor style as shown by Trent Furniture's Killarney settle

3: Rustic furniture

Many pubs aim to recreate the atmosphere and ambience of the countryside, with prints of hunting scenes, stuffed animals or specimens of fish in glass cases. Hunting horns and copper pans might be hung from the ceiling or walls. Simple wooden tables and perhaps buttoned leather chairs or deep sofas will add to this rustic scene. It’s seductive, but often entirely fake: most real country pubs will have few of these accoutrements, instead being simple places with an eclectic mix of old and new furniture, plain low ceilings whitewashed walls. Trent Furniture’s Farmhouse table would sit very comfortably here, as would the Windsor chair (see below).


4: The Windsor chair

Often found in rural or country-style pubs, these chairs are another classic English design, with origins going back more than 300 years. In the early 18th century, itinerant furniture makers would set up camp near towns and make the chairs from local wood. Developments in wood-bending facilitated design features such as the curved back. Today the Windsor chair is a familiar sight in English pubs: it’s solid and comfortable, especially with the addition of a cushion or two.


5: The bistro chair

This design classic dates back to France in the 19th century and the rising popularity of bistro dining among the lower classes. Chairs and tables were often placed outside, leading to demand for chairs that were sturdy but portable. A German-Austrian furniture maker, Michael Thonet, was working on new ways of making bentwood furniture, and created what became the bistro chair, with its curved back and slightly splayed legs. Mass production techniques made these chairs cheap and easy to assemble. Millions are still produced today, and they are widely used in cafés, restaurants and pubs around the world.

Pub furniture and decor in a Victorian pub

6: Victorian

Walk into any pub today, and the chances are that it will be heavily influenced by the Victorian era; many of today’s pubs were built in the 19th century and share similar characteristics: high, moulded ceilings and frosted glass. The furniture often matches this look: cast-iron chairs and tables, heavy wooden stools and dark polished wooden (or marble) table tops have their origins in the 18th and 19th centuries and are still made today. Cast iron furniture was first made in the early 18th century but it became hugely popular in the 19th century thanks to new developments in casting. Towns such as Coalbrookdale became centres of the iron casting industry, and the decorative, scrolled embellishments and lionpaw feet are typical of the era. Trent Furniture’s cast iron Girlshead table is a classic of its kind, based on original Victorian designs, and would look entirely at home in a Dickensian pub.


7: Art deco

Pubs that hope to create a cleaner, more modern look might look to the art deco designs of the 1920s and 30s for inspiration: curved steel, leather, chrome, glass and curved wood are typical deco materials. Poseur tables and bar stools in particular can carry strong echoes of the art deco era, with silver or black metallic legs and lacquered table tops, and leather or faux-leather seats. Some pubs built in the 1930s such as The Duke in London’s Bloomsbury (pictured below) have preserved their original interiors almost intact.

8: Midcentury

The period from the 1930s to the 1950s is increasingly seen as a golden age of furniture design, when British-based companies such as Ercol and Scandinavian designers such as Arne Jacobsen used elegant shapes and often natural materials such as blond wood to create furniture that was seen as accessible and democratic. It has perhaps influenced restaurant and café furniture more than pub furniture, but midcentury design can be seen in some bar stools and chairs.


9: The picnic table

And finally, this ubiquitous design – which can be found in almost every pub garden in the country – has fascinating origins. It started life as a portable, collapsible table designed in the early 19th century in the US. Americans were becoming increasingly mobile and they wanted to camp and picnic in the newly popular national parks: this table was ideal, being stable when erected but also portable. Unfortunately, as they moved around, the newly mobile park-lovers caused damage to trees and shrubs, and fire was also a risk. So it was proposed that heavier, anchored picnic tables would be provided at picnicking and camping sites along designated trails, encouraging campers and picnickers to stay within certain areas. And so, in America in the 1930s, the picnic table as we now know it was born – a design classic that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to when sitting at it.


If you would like to give your pub a traditional look your customers will love, check out our latest range of quality pub furniture.


For that all-important first impression, attractive table tops are a vital asset. No matter how good the food is at your restaurant, pub or café, customers can easily be put off by old, worn down tables that don’t reflect the overall aesthetic of the establishment. After a long summer that no doubt saw you bustling with customers, now is the perfect time to refresh these tables to ensure business stays booming well into the autumn and winter.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to buy all-new expensive tables; at Trent Furniture, our range of table tops offer a cost-effective solution to easily update your existing dining furniture. Designed specifically for contract use, our table tops meet all the necessary requirements for use within business premises, while our wide selection of styles, colours, and sizes means we can cater to all kinds of specific needs.

What to consider before buying your new table tops

As with most elements of your business, when choosing your new table tops it is important to not only think about how they will look but also how they will be used.

What size table tops do you need? Think about how many tables you want to fit into the intended space, and how many people you want to be able to seat. Depending on the size of your business, you may wish to have either a larger quantity of smaller tables or a small quantity of larger tables.

Who will be using your tables? Think about how your tables can be best suited to their intended users. For example, if your business caters largely to children and families, you may want to choose a table top more resistant to wear and tear, such as one with reinforced or rounded edges.

Our range of table tops

There's a wealth of choice available in our range of table tops. In this section, we look at the benefits of each table top on offer.

Solid wood table tops

Our solid wood table tops are made of durable, solid hardwood, with 28mm thickness and a large range of square, rectangular, and circular sizes. We have light oak, dark oak, and walnut finishes available, each with a clear acid-catalysed lacquer coating. These table tops are perfect for both modern and classic styles, providing a neutral base for any décor.

Veneer table tops

Our veneer table tops consist of 18mm thick particleboard with real oak veneer and hardwood edges, providing additional protection and blending seamlessly into the table’s surface. These tops are also veneered on the underside to avoid warping. With a range of sizes available, we supply veneer tops in dark oak, light oak, and walnut finishes, with a clear polyurethane lacquer coating.

The design of veneer table tops means they are a lightweight option, making them ideal for spaces where you may often be rearranging your furniture to adapt to different needs.

Laminate table tops

Our laminate table tops are made of a 27mm thick particleboard core, with a high-pressure laminate finish and black ABS plastic edging. These table tops are incredibly hard-wearing and reversible, making them long-lasting and great value for money, starting at just £26.90. Our laminate table tops are available in mahogany, walnut, light oak, and black, and are particularly suited for use in more contemporary spaces.

Melamine table tops

With a 21mm thick MDF centre covered with a melamine surface, melamine table tops are our most affordable option, starting at only £18.90 each. While cheaper than the other table tops, these are still extremely durable and attractive, available in both light and dark oak.

If you are planning on replacing your chairs as well as your tables, our light oak melamine table tops are an exact colour match to some of our wooden dining chairs, including the Remo and the Roma.

Solid oak table tops

Our solid oak table tops offer a more premium quality product than others in our collection, with a thickness of 38mm making these table tops incredibly durable and strong. These eco-friendly tops are available with either an unstained, raw finish or a light oak, dark oak, or walnut stain.

While these are the most expensive of our table tops, Trent Furniture are proud to offer the lowest UK price for solid oak tops.

American diner table tops

Our American diner table tops consist of a hard-wearing laminate surface with ribbed metal edging, available in both black and red, and a range of either square, circular, or rectangular sizes. These table tops match perfectly with our full American diner range, including booths, benches, and barstools, allowing you to create a fully authentic-looking American diner style restaurant.


With almost 60 years of experience, here at Trent Furniture we are committed to providing the best quality products possible, meaning our table tops are all made to the highest standard. Take a look at our full range of table tops here, and place your order today. To find out more about how we can help you update your table tops, give us a call on 01162 864911 or email

Cast iron has been used in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses for centuries and there’s good reason for it. From being incredibly hard wearing to eco-friendly and surprisingly affordable, we’ve put together some of the top reasons to consider using cast iron table bases in your establishment.

Cast iron tables are hard-wearing and easily maintained

Cast iron table bases last a very, very long time, in fact there are still perfectly good examples of original Victorian castings being used in pubs and restaurants today! This long-wearing nature makes them ideal as a bar or restaurant table base as they can withstand lots of foot traffic and being moved around for functions and layout changes. They can even be used outside, with their weight making them ideal for use in windy conditions.

Maintaining and cleaning cast iron furniture is very simple, in fact you should only need to dust and wipe down your table bases with a damp cloth to keep them looking great.

Iron is a great eco material

Because of the longevity of a cast iron table base, many owners keep theirs for many years, meaning less waste is generated. When it does finally come time to replace these bases, iron is easy to recycle and can be melted down and made into new products.

They are the ideal table base for heavy tops

Cast iron table bases are naturally heavy and give great stability, making them the perfect choice if you need to support a heavy tabletop. These heavier tabletops often come in materials like granite, marble or metal and need something to support their weight effectively. If you’re unsure if a table base is suitable for a heavy top, get in touch with the experts at Trent Furniture who will be happy to help advise on the right base.

They are easily customisable

With such a long lifespan it’s good to know that cast iron table bases are easy to customise to fit in with any change in décor or purpose. The easiest and most cost-effective way to update them is by switching the top. You can even paint them to make a change from the traditional black to fit with the colour scheme of your space.

Metal table bases are surprisingly affordable

Despite having the features of an investment piece of furniture, cast iron bases area budget-friendly option, with simple pedestal designs complete with tabletop, starting at as little as around £40. If you have a tabletop already, Trent Furniture sells table bases separately too so you can reduce the cost even further.

Cast iron table bases look fantastic

We couldn’t end this article without mentioning one of the biggest selling points for cast iron table bases; how good they look!

Round pub table with cast iron table base

Cast iron has a certain elegance and traditional feel to it, no matter how much or little decoration features in the design. Even better, these bases look great paired with almost any style of chair whether wood, metal or plastic.

There is a lot of choice available when it comes to matching your table base to the style and décor of your establishment. Trent Furniture offers a range of intricate and decorative bases inspired by Victorian and Art Deco design, as well as a selection of more modern styles. We also offer a large range of different sizes – including coffee, dining, poseur and pedestal table bases.

You can view our full range of cast iron table bases here or get in touch to discuss how Trent Furniture can help you outfit your business.

Every week in pubs across the UK, customers sit down to observe a time-honoured ritual in which brows furrow, fingernails are chewed, adrenaline flows, tempers fray, defeat is bitter and victory tastes sweet: the pub quiz. For several decades this event has been a fixture of British life, and it remains as popular as ever.

So if you run a pub and have yet to venture into the world of the pub quiz, you might be pleasantly surprised by how straightforward it can be to run one - and by the upturn in your takings on quiz nights. Many pub landlords say that a pub quiz is much more profitable than, say, showing football on big screens: customers will come in to watch a big football match (which costs the pub a lot of money to show) and nurse a pint for two hours. Pub quizzers, on the other hand, like to drink.

The British have always loved quizzes: quiz shows have been a staple of radio and television since the birth of the media - the BBC’s Round Britain Quiz has been running since 1947. Our love affair with the pub quiz goes back to the 1970s, when a British company, Burns & Porter, seized on our appetite for quizzes and developed a nationwide business selling pub quiz questions and formats. Then in the early 1980s the board game Trivial Pursuit took off, further cementing our passion for general knowledge and obscure factoids. “Trivia” became an issue of vital importance. And the pub quiz has made its way on to television in the form of Al Murray’ Great British Pub Quiz, a series with celebrity guests show on the Quest channel.

How to run a pub quiz

If you’re new to the game, here are some tips and suggestions. The first is the most obvious: make it regular. If your customers know that, say, Thursday night is quiz night, they will be able to plan their visit and get their teams together and book a table. Once you’ve settled on a regular night, publicise it with posters, chalk boards and social media - your pub’s Facebook page can announce the event in advance, reveal who this week’s quiz will be hosted by, give the starting and finishing times, and so on.

If you don’t have the resources to host a pub quiz, there are plenty of specialist companies such as Question One that can be hired in to do it for you. They will supply questions, printed sheets for picture rounds, quiz hosts and even amplification equipment if required.

If you are happy to host your own quiz but require fresh questions every week, companies such as Redtooth will provide these at a modest cost. The costs can be partly covered by an entrance fee for each team (normally this is around £1-£2 per person), but your higher takings should more than make up for any extra expenditure.

If you decide to host your own quiz, it’s important to ask the questions slowly and clearly, and to repeat them. Be prepared to repeat them again if someone hasn’t heard them properly. Try to make it funny and relaxed. Music rounds and picture rounds help to keep things fresh and lively. Avoid using multiple-choice questions: people like to show off that they know the answer. If the answer is a number - say, “How many bones are there in the human body*” - you could accept answers within certain parameters.

Quiz leagues, too, operate in most parts of the country and can add interest and an extra competitive edge to your quiz nights.

Flexible pub furniture

It’s likely that you will need to re-arrange your pub furniture for a pub quiz. If you allow a maximum team size of, say, six people, this will mean grouping tables and chairs together or shifting them accommodate this. A flexible arrangement of chairs and tables that can be moved around and shunted together will make this easier.

How to prevent cheating at your pub quiz

The mobile phone has become the scourge of the quiz night, with a wealth of information available within seconds. The best policy is to politely but firmly announce before the quiz begins that all use of mobile phones is off-limits and that anyone seen using one will be assumed to be cheating and be disqualified from that round. This can be done in a friendly and humorous way, but the message should be clear: no phones. The answer papers for each round can be collected after the round has finished, to avoid contestants using breaks in the quiz to amend or add answers after a “trip to the loo”. If a team is spotted cheating, a quiet word rather than public humiliation is often more effective at ensuring that they comply.

Another solution is to use questions that rely on lateral thinking and cleverness rather than general knowledge: questions that ask, “What’s the connection between…”, or “What’s the odd one out?”, for instance. Some quiz hosts have even devised entire quizzes which they claim are “Google-proof”, though this is perhaps a bit of a stretch: quizzers are usually keen to show off their knowledge of geography, sport or music and might feel put off by this approach.

Other cheat-prevention methods include speed-quizzing - questions are asked quickly to prevent Googling, and answers are entered instantly on a digital device.

The charity quiz

As the festive season approaches, and people’s thoughts turn towards charity and giving, you could hold a pub quiz in aid of a chosen charity. Many charities such as Shelter and the British Heart Foundation have online resources, including downloadable questions and publicity posters, to help your quiz. You could include questions which are “themed” around your chosen charity. Customers are prepared to pay higher quiz fees if it’s for charity, and of course collecting buckets can be passed around.

Winners and losers

Finally, quizzers love nothing more than to know better than the quiz host, so you should also be prepared to fend off challenges to your answers. It might be advisable at the outset to stipulate that “the quiz host is always right”.

A few years ago a libel case arose from a pub quiz: in a Bedfordshire quiz, there was an argument about the answer to one question (it was about the hosts of the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?). The quiz master was shown to be mistaken and acknowledged his error but he was nevertheless accused publicly by one of the competitors of being a “cheat”. The row escalated and the quiz master ended up with £5,000 award for libel damages.

It’s unlikely, though, that any argument is likely to escalate this far: quizzers are a competitive bunch, but they are likely to accept defeat with good grace.

Which brings us to prizes. Usually, these are not life-changing sums of money: a few pounds for first, second and third places, or you could award vouchers for food or drinks, redeemable at the bar. For quizzers, though, the actual prize will be less important than the taste of victory.

* A typical human body has 206 bones.


Enjoyed this article? Why not take a look at our other guides for pub landlords? Learn how to make your pub the perfect wedding venue, or the benefits of introducing afternoon tea for your pub. Whatever your plans, make sure you're kitted out with our quality pub furniture - it's what the punters deserve!

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