Chair of the Month for February is a Miniature Joined Rocking Chair

February’s chair of the month is a miniature joined rocking chair with a heart motif in the splat. The chair is about 10cm high (4”) and was made by local chair maker Stuart King. King gave this chair to Wycombe Museum as part of a group of four miniature chairs in 1977. 

Chairs, miniature and full sized, with and without hearts in the splat were sometimes made as love tokens for Valentine’s Day, and at other times of the year. 

Chair of the Month is a partnership between Wycombe Museum wycombemuseum.org.uk and the Regional Furniture Society regionalfurnituresociety.org

Newsletter Index Update

Following the publication of the most recent RFS Newsletter, number 78, I have updated the indexes to the Newsletter Research Articles, the Book Reviews and the Obituaries to include NL 78. I have also published 25 newsletter pieces, and 2 short notices from RFS Newsletter 72, (Spring 2020) on the relevant pages of the website. A spreadsheet containing the latest index to all parts may be downloaded here.

Julian Parker, Website Editor

21 January 2023

Chair of the Month for January is a wheelchair with a beech frame and caned seat and back, made in High Wycombe c. 1870

January’s Chair of the Month is a wheelchair with a beech frame and caned seat and back, made in High Wycombe in about the 1870s. It is not known which of the many local factories made this chair, but Glenisters certainly made caned wheelchairs and other local makers probably made similar chairs too.  J Mole of High Wycombe specialised in what they called ‘invalid chairs’, from 1918 until their closure in 1935. 

J Mole’s decision to specialise in furniture for disabled people might have been a response to an increased demand due to injuries in World War 1. In the years following World War 2, the Paralympics were established in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. The games were initially for injured service men and women. 

Wycombe Museum is exploring the local Paralympic story in Buckinghamshire in collaboration with local young people with disabilities, supported by a Together We Build grant from Bucks Culture. Together We Build is a partnership project centred on the story of the Paralympics.  

Chair of the Month is a partnership between Wycombe Museum wycombemuseum.org.uk and the Regional Furniture Society regionalfurnituresociety.org

Chair of the Month for December is a modern Windsor by Ercol of High Wycombe

December’s Chair of the Month is a modern Windsor by Ercol of High Wycombe. It was made as part of a contract for Wycombe High School when the school moved to the Marlow Hill site in 1956 . The design is part of Ercol’s Windsor Range, launched in 1950. Company founder Luciano Ercolani designed the range, collaborating with draughtmen, craftsmen and engineers, ensuring that each design was practical to produce in the factory. Like the traditional Windsor chairs that inspired the design, this Ercol Windsor is made from elm, beech and ash. 

Ercol were established in High Wycombe by Ercolani in 1920, initially as Furniture Industries Ltd, becoming Ercol in 1928. Ercol moved to the new Princes Risborough site in 2002.

This chair can be seen in the factory area of the chair galleries at Wycombe Museum. 

Chair of the Month is a partnership between Wycombe Museum wycombemuseum.org.uk and the Regional Furniture Society regionalfurnituresociety.org.

For your chance to win a set of Ercol nesting tables and other wonderful prizes donated by local businesses see Christmas Raffle Ticket | Wycombe Museum Official Site

Chair of the Month for November is a First World War stick back Windsor with elm seat and beech legs. Made by Elliott and Son of High Wycombe in 1917

The back of the seat is stamped ELLIOT AND SONS/ A.W.F. / E.S/ 1917 / G.R.V. chairs. It can be seen in the ‘A History of Wycombe in 10 Objects’ display at Wycombe Museum.

During World War 1, High Wycombe furniture factories diversified to make all kinds of wooden items for the military including tent pegs and wooden aircraft parts such as propellors. They also made furniture for the military, including this chair. Similar stamped chairs in Lincoln Cathedral are believed to have come from a military hospital. Elliott’s Factory ran from 1887-1978 and had premises in Shaftsbury Street and Desborough Road. 

Chair of the Month is a partnership between Wycombe Museum wycombemuseum.org.uk and the Regional Furniture Society regional furnituresociety.org

Further information ‘Hybrid Windsors for Military Use: An Adaptation by James Eliott & Sons, High Wycombe’ by Sarah Medlam, Regional Furniture, 2020

Newsletter Index Update

Following the publication of the most recent RFS Newsletter, number 77, I have updated the indexes to the Newsletter Research Articles, the Book Reviews and the Obituaries to include NL 77. I have also published 39 newsletter pieces, 3 reviews and 2 obituaries from RFS Newsletter 71, (Autumn 2019) on the relevant pages of the website. A spreadsheet containing the latest index to all parts may be downloaded here.

Julian Parker, Website Editor

15 October 2022

Newsletter Archive now online

In October 2021 the RFS Council approved a project whereby the back numbers of the Newsletters (which contain much interesting material by way of research pieces, visit/event reports, book reviews, notices of publication, members’ correspondence and obituaries) should be reviewed, scanned and made available online. I am grateful to John Boram and Diana Halliwell for providing me with a complete collection of all Newsletters since 1985 (including the publications of the Regional Furniture Study Group which pre-dated the setting up of the Society).

The material will in future be published (as is the Society’s practice for the articles in the Journal), following a three year delay after print publication. The back archive between 1985 and Spring 2022 amounts to more than 900 research pieces and visit/event reports, about 100 book reviews and another 50-odd notices of publication and, alas, 43 obituaries. That amounts just under 1100 items, all of which have been indexed and scanned, of which around 920 are published today. The remaining 170-odd from the last 6 issues (Newsletters 71 to 76 inclusive) will be published in due course after the three year delay.

The research pieces and visit/event reports may be found here; the book reviews here; and the obituaries here.

I have prepared hyperlinked Excel spreadsheet indexes for all three categories which may be downloaded from links found on those pages. The Excel spreadsheets may be easier to navigate, particularly for the 900+ research pieces and visit/event reports. I have also prepared an Excel spreadsheet index for all the 320-odd articles which have been published in the Journal which may be found on a link on the Journal back issues page. All of these downloadable spreadsheets have links directly to the website. If you would like all 4 indexes in one spreadsheet, it is here. It is my intention to update these indexes every six months for the Newsletters and each year for the Journal.

My favourite item discovered during the scanning project? A pair of ophthalmic Windsor chairs, from West Suffolk Hospital, into the central sticks of which the patient’s head was wedged whilst the eye examination took place!

From Lionel Reynold’s note in NL 16 in 1992

Happy hunting!

Julian Parker, Website Editor, 18 April 2022

P.S. Some of the originals have copy that is slightly smudged. Sometimes the paper is highly reflective. I hope all of the scans are legible but I am aware that some are less than perfect.

English Regional Chair Makers Database now online

An index of almost 7,500 English regional chairmakers created by Bernard and Geraldine Cotton has been added to BIFMO, the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online database.  The index was generated over the past 50 years as part of the Cotton’s monumental research into British traditions in regional furniture.  Making this resource accessible online opens the way for further discoveries about the makers of the Windsor chairs and turned chairs which were integral to the daily lives of people from Cumbria to Cornwall over the last 300 years. 

Dr Bernard Cotton’s seminal publication, The English Regional Chair (Antique Collectors’ Club, 1990, reprinted 1997) stands as the definitive study of the many and varied traditions developed by chairmakers in different parts of the country.  The core of it is was to identify the names, dates and locations of makers themselves, the vast majority of whom will for ever remain anonymous.  The Cottons formed a card index of some 15,000 names through painstaking research of local trade directories, census returns, newspapers and other documents, at a time when none of these were digitised and computers were hardly known.  Data from the manuscript cards was recently scanned and then transcribed into an Excel spreadsheet; after many months of careful work this has now been successfully uploaded onto BIFMO as a major new resource, accessible to all.  Funding for this work has been kindly provided by a generous donor and a grant from the Regional Furniture Society.  It could not have been achieved without the support of the Furniture History Society, which created and manages the BIFMO site, and the largely voluntary commitment of Laurie Lindey, BIFMO Managing Editor. 

Photographs of chairs made by these makers, who identified their work with their branded or stamped initials or name, or with a label, will be added to the entries over the next few weeks.  Many will be of chairs in the Cotton Collection of over 200 English regional chairs which they donated to the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in 2002.

Mendlesham Armchair attributed to Richard Day Windsor armchair with three ripple splats on the back and a curved top rail, made from plum, yew and elm woods, possibly manufactured in Mendlesham, Suffolk by Richard Day, c. 1830. Museum no. 677/2005 Photograph credit, Museum of the Home

In parallel with this chairmaker index, work is progressing to transcribe a further index of English regional cabinet makers, turners and joiners which the Cottons developed as their research progressed.  These were the makers of the press cupboards, dressers, chests, tables and beds, salt boxes and candle boxes, and all the many incidental and utilitarian household objects required for everyday use.  The index comprises some 25,000 names and will in due course be added to BIFMO, providing a rich seam for ancestry research and local history.

The Cotton Archive of British Regional Furniture containing all of the material studied and collected during a lifetime of research, is now being catalogued prior to its being donated to the Museum of the Home.  The first and most significant part of the archive, which covers all of the English regions, with Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, was transferred in October 2021.  Digital recordings and transcripts of 12 interviews with Dr Cotton made as part of the cataloguing project, describing the vernacular furniture traditions of the English regions, are part of this first donation.  Further material, including an extensive photographic archive and a series of fieldwork research notebooks will follow next year, as well as research files on Australia, America, Newfoundland and other countries where the British settled and influenced furniture.

In a statement, Dr Bernard (Bill) Cotton writes, 

‘My ambition has been to identify the origins of furniture made for the homes of working people, and to record, where possible, the names of makers and the social context in which it was used.  The transfer of our regional chairmakers index to BIFMO opens the potential for others to continue the research to which my wife, Geraldine and I have devoted much of our lives. We are grateful to all those who have made this possible and are excited by the prospect of new discoveries being made as a result.’ 

Liz Hancock, Chairman of the Regional Furniture Society says,  

‘The regional chairmaker database is an important addition to BIFMO and represents a major contribution to furniture studies.  On behalf of the Regional Furniture Society (RFS) I would like to congratulate all those involved in making this invaluable resource accessible online.  Bernard and Geraldine Cotton were founder members of the RFS, established in 1984 with the aim of researching and recording the regional traditions of furniture making throughout Britain and Ireland. This includes the social and cultural context of furniture and its relation to vernacular architecture and interiors. The chairmaker database offers new opportunities in this developing field of research.’ 

Chairman of the Furniture History Society, Christopher Rowell writes: 

‘The Furniture History Society is honoured to have been entrusted by Dr and Mrs Cotton with the fruits of their research which will greatly enrich BIFMO in the field of vernacular furniture studies. The Society is also grateful to the Regional Furniture Society and an anonymous donor for the grants to enable the digitisation of the material.’

And Sonia Solicari, Director, Museum of the Home, said:

“It’s exciting that the index to this incredible archive is being made accessible, enabling many more people to enjoy the rich history of these chairs. Bernard and Geraldine Cotton unearthed so many otherwise forgotten stories in their decades of research and collecting. I hope that the BIFMO database will enable more stories of everyday making and home life to be revealed and shared in the decades to come.”

Any enquiries, please contact Laurie Lindey, BIFMO Managing Editor,  lindey.laurie1987@gmail.com

Regional Furniture Society

Furniture History Society 

BIFMO (British and Irish Furniture Makers Online):

Museum of the Home

Centre for the Studies of Home

Windsor Armchair attributed to Jack Goodchild High-back double-bow Windsor armchair with cabriole shaped front legs and a Chippendale-inspired pierced central splat, made from yew with an elm seat, probably manufactured by Jack Goodchild in Naphill, Buckinghamshire, c.1885-1950 Museum no. 543/2005 Photograph credit, Museum of the Home
Ladderback Armchair attributed to Philip Clissett Ladder-back armchair with five graduated ladders in the back, made of ash with a rush seat. Attributed to Philip Clissett, a chairmaker active in Bosbury, Herefordshire between 1841 and 1881. Museum no. 517/2005 Photograph credit, Museum of the Home

Breton chests and carving

A yew ‘garlands’ chest front, dated 1664, South-western Brittany
Photo credit: CEFA Auctions

For members interested in regional furniture outside the UK, a scanned version of a long out of print booklet on Breton chests and carved panels published in 1976 is now available

Written by Marguerite Le Roux-Paugam, Les coffres paysans du Leon et de Haute Cornouaille (XVIe et XVIIe siecles) is a study of fifty dated chests from western (or Lower) Brittany. A few of them date from 1550-1600, but the numbers peak in 1630-70 and decline thereafter. She argues that this trend matches the evolution of the area’s prosperity. She shows that there were two sizes of chest; clothes chests of 100-170 cm in width and grain chests of 180-215 cm. Selly Manor Museum, Bournville has an example of each.

These chests have a distinctive style of decoration in that Gothic tracery retained its popularity in Brittany until the 1660s and was combined with renaissance motifs such as  interlace. Other motifs include the lively humans and animals also found on carved woodwork in Breton churches. Intact sixteenth and seventeenth century chests are rare but chest fronts and loose panels have made their way to the UK. 

The decoration of chests varies within Lower Brittany. The title of the booklet refers to chests in the extreme north-western part of Brittany but the images include chests from south western Brittany, where ‘garlands’ chests are most common. The best collection of Breton chests is at the Departmental museum at Quimper. Enter ‘coffre’

Chris Pickvance