The Windsor chair as opposed to the gentleman’s arm chair was traditionally the vernacular or domestic arm chair of working people. From here the husband could sit and relax to await his meal on his return home from work, or the chair provided ‘back stairs’ furniture where the servants could relax below stairs after their work above stairs was finished.
The chair itself evolved as its usage and popularity grew and the Industrial Revolution took hold. Initially it was made from home in its entirety but as production increased and families moved to the towns, it became the job of the master craftsman to assemble rather than create the whole piece, and components such as the rods, seats, legs and bows were supplied by bodgers.
The wood of choice for the bodger was beech. These artisans had a good knowledge of the type of beech that was best for the component parts of the Windsor chair. Whether the tree was erect or gnarled, whether it would split well, whether it had a troublesome grain that would mean wasted effort and timber, and above whether it would turn well on the lathe; all this was taken into account when the bodger went to buy his wood.
As an antique chair, the Windsor has evolved successfully alongside its finer contemporaries. Furniture experts such as Christopher Gilbert have written extensively on Thomas Chippendale as well as Thomas Ventris of York and his writings are a celebration of the local craftsman and English provincial furniture.
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