University Furniture

Blackstone ChairThe Hunterian cares for several iconic pieces of furniture which are fundamental to the history of the University of Glasgow. These include the Blackstone Chair. From the foundation of the University in 1451 until the middle of the 19th century all students were examined orally, seated upon the Black Stone, a slab of dolerite, now embedded in an 18th century oak chair. On the front of the chair are various brass plates: the largest show the arms of the University and of its constituent College. Above the former are the names of the founders, Pope Nicholas V, King James II of Scotland and Bishop Turnbull of Glasgow. The smaller plaques, to either side, record the names of the principal royal benefactors. On the back are carved the Royal Arms of Scotland, and the Royal Arms of England. Set into the top of the chair is an arrangement of bay leaves within which is a time-glass, filled with sand.

Recent research has shown that the Chair was made in 1775-6. As the examination began, the Bedellus (Head Janitor) bearing the University mace set the time-glass above the student's head, and after about 20 minutes, when all the sand had flowed through, banged the mace on the floor with a shout of “Fluxit” ("It has flowed through"). The examination was then concluded if the examiners were satisfied, or might continue if they were not. The Blackstone Chair continues in use for the Cowan Medal examination in the Classics Department and at honorary graduations.

Another extremely important piece of furniture is the Clerk’s Press which is the oldest surviving piece of university furniture and was acquired in 1634 to hold records of the University. Liz Hancock, History of Art, is currently recording the historical furniture on the University of Glasgow’s campus.