The main purpose of the cupboard from medieval times to the 17th Century was for the display of silver or gilt plate or pewter. Literally a board on which to display cups, it was an open structure of two or three tiers. Frequent mention in 15th and 16th Century inventories of the term 'cup-board plate' reflects the close link between the furniture and the wares displayed upon it. William Harrison, who wrote his Description of England in 1577, noted in the houses of the nobility 'silver vessell, and so much other plate, as may furnish sundry cupboards, to the summe oftentimes of a thousand or two thousand pounds at the least' (R.W. Symonds, 'Court and Livery Cupboards, Their Design and Evolution', Antique Collector, June 1951, pp 126 - 132).