Research in Progress

Research in Progress 2019: The Regional Chair

The 2019 RFS Research in Progress meeting will be held at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn, London, on the 9 March.

This year the event will focus on the regionality of chair making, with five papers spanning the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Speakers will examine a variety of idiosyncratic forms, the materials used, the makers, and their customers. Traditions commence as novelties and in many cases new research is establishing the precise origins of previously identified geographical groups. The papers will draw on a variety of research methods including fieldwork, archival sources and scientific analysis.


The caqueteuse form in 17th century Scotland – Stephen Jackson
The caqueteuse form is strongly associated with Scotland and is generally considered to have been imported from France in the 16th century. However, the form was not unique to France and Scotland, and nor did it adhere to a clear formula in construction, proportion and decoration. This paper will question the circumstances of its arrival and attempt to document its evolution through the period.

Chair-making in 18th century Wakefield – Andrew Cox-Whittaker
Wakefield in the 18th Century was the metropolitan centre of the West Riding of Yorkshire, a relatively small town but one of incredible importance. Frequented by huge numbers of the gentry and middling classes, the production of furniture made in the town was to be distributed through this network to houses throughout Yorkshire and beyond. This talk looks at the tracing and recognising of Wakefield made furniture, the influence of pattern books on its design and how the series of interchanging business partnerships of the furniture trade in the town (which were to develop from the 1770s) were to change. Using archival research, early photographs and analysis of materials, we will look to see if diagnostic features can be discovered in Wakefield made chairs or whether as a whole it is simply a ‘northern’ style.

The rush-seated chair in the North West – Simon Feingold
This paper will introduce some of the most common designs found in the North West. The industrial revolution caused an influx of people into the area. The wide variety of designs found in the region often share several common features, and hopefully these will be shown to be useful in determining, or at least helping to justify, a regional provenance. An argument will be made for some possible reasons why there is such a diverse variety of designs. An attempt will also be made to discuss the differences found between the vernacular, or rather locally made chairs, and those best considered as cabinet maker’s chairs.

Making Windsor chairs in Grantham: the first fifteen years – William Sergeant
All previous authors writing on Lincolnshire Windsor chairs state that the tradition started in the Thames Valley and spread north. The speaker’s recent research can find no evidence to support that claim; indeed he has shown that the earliest recorded Windsor chair maker in the world came from a remote village in Lincolnshire. This talk will reveal how the start of the tradition in Grantham was mainly due to one lady who employed several journeymen and had four children to support.

In search of the elusive Mendlesham chair and other East Anglian Windsor chairs – Robert Williams
Drawing on documentary evidence, this paper will examine how these chairs received their name, establish who made them and their geographical extent, and ask how they were originally used.


Stephen Jackson is Senior Curator, Furniture and Woodwork, at National Museums Scotland. His published research has addressed diverse subjects including vernacular interiors, emigrant cabinet makers in America, issues in conservation, and the patrons of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His acquisitions for the National Museums range from the Venetian Baroque to Scottish Modernism, names such as Chippendale, Pugin and Cottier, and, all importantly, anonymous vernacular items.

Andrew Cox-Whittaker is a second generation antiques dealer.  He has worked with Wilkinson’s auctioneers for nearly twenty years and with T L Phelps Fine Furniture Restoration for the last fourteen.  He currently sits on the executive committee of the Chippendale Society as website editor and acting honorary conservator. He has a keen interest in regional furniture studies and has recently become an Attingham alumni.  His research into Wakefield furniture has been supported with a Regional Furniture Society bursary.

Simon Feingold read chemistry and materials science at Manchester Metropolitan University and, following an apprenticeship with a professional antique restorer, established his own workshop. This eventually specialised in regional furniture conservation with an emphasis on historic finish preservation. Clients include local museums and collectors. He has continued his studies at West Dean College, the Rijksmuseum, and with Adam Bowett and Gudrun Leitz. He is an active member of the RFS and has been a keen student of North West furniture for nearly thirty years.

William Sergeant graduated from Newcastle University with an engineering degree in 1975. Several years later he returned to the family farm from where, over the last twenty years, he has been ideally placed to collect and research vernacular furniture. He is the proprietor of the Lincolnshire Chair Museum, posting images and some of his research on the FLICKR photo-sharing website. His article ‘Joseph Newton, Windsor chair maker of Fenton, Lincolnshire’ appeared in Regional Furniture, XXXII, 2018. Twitter: @willsergeant

Robert Williams, although originally trained as an antique dealer in Cambridge, has worked as a furniture conservator and restorer since 1980. His initial research was into furniture making in Cambridge, some of which was published as ‘A Cambridge Family of Furniture Makers and the Furnishing of the Masters’ Lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge’, Furniture History, XII, 1976. This research has broadened out to cover East Anglia. This has included being a regional co-ordinator for the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers (1986), for which he wrote a group of smaller biographies of East Anglia makers. His most recent work was the Introduction for the 1801 Cabinet & Chair Makers’ Norwich Book of Prices, Regional Furniture, XXX, 2016. He is a founder member of the Regional Furniture Society.