22 Apr 2021

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was an important figure in the English Arts and Crafts movement. An outstanding architect and interior designer, he built a number of country houses, especially in the Lake District. Most of the antique dining tables , chairs, bookcases and other Voysey antiques sold in Cumbria today originated from these properties. C.F.A Voysey’s Arts and Crafts furniture is highly collectable, with a timeless quality that is totally in keeping with modern interiors.

C.F.A. Voysey was born in Yorkshire in 1857, the son of a nonconformist minister. This spiritual upbringing, coupled with his rural surroundings, was to have a strong influence on Voysey’s work. Privately educated, he studied architecture and design under J. P. Seddon and others before establishing his own practice in 1882.

Initially Voysey focussed on textiles and wallpapers, supplying designs to Liberty, Alexander Morton and others. A shrewd businessman, he kept and reused many of his patterns, which featured birds, exotic flora and, later, heraldry symbols.

Voysey later branched into architectural design. His main period of house-building was between 1895 and 1910, which coincides with his most prolific period of furniture design. Most Voysey antiques, such as his antique dining chairs and cabinets, were originally destined for his houses, which he believed should be spiritual and uplifting. His furniture, like his panelling, made extensive use of unstained light oak, avoiding heavy ornamentation in favour of simplicity and restraint. Decoration was sparse but well employed; Voysey’s trademarks include decorative heart and bird motifs, and Puginesque strap hinges, which were used extensively on his antique chests, bookcases and cabinets.

Unlike Morris, Voysey was happy to utilise machinery, working around its constraints to produce varied and ingenious workmanship. A Cumbrian antique dealer may have a set of tapered, rectangular Victorian antique dining chairs one day, and a pair of elaborate pegged Swan chairs the next. Voysey antique tables are similarly eclectic in design.

The V&A owns an extensive Voysey fabric collection, and several modern designers have created authentic reproductions – the perfect way to show off your antique Arts & Crafts furniture.

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