In Lancashire, Victorian dining chairs vary greatly in design and quality, from elegant early Victorian dining chairs still bearing their Georgian hallmarks to robust Arts and Crafts pieces with their utilitarian charm, Chippendale Revival chairs with perfectly machine-turned legs, and chunky, sombre chairs mass produced for the Gothic Revival market.
Some late Victorian dining chairs were, it has to be said, poorly made, though generally those you see in Lancashire antique shops are of superior quality. However, even a mass-produced factory-made piece can become a thing of beauty if it’s well looked after.
First, let’s look at the patina. This defines the age of the chair and gives it its charm; it is the sheen that has built up over a century or more of use and polishing – polishing achieved with the aid of beeswax and elbow grease, rather than Mister Sheen! Antique dealers describe Victorian dining chairs as having a fine patina, which adds enormously to their value. Amazingly, people will pay hundreds of pounds for an antique, and then use abrasive modern chemical polishes on them. These attack the natural patina, reducing its value enormously – use a natural beeswax product instead.
When restoring antique dining chairs , remain true to the spirit of their design. Early Victorian cabinet makers sealed their furniture with a beeswax, linseed and turpentine polish. Later on, French polishing became the norm, which used shellac derived from beetle secretions.
Neither are necessary today. Lancashire antiques dealers are only too happy to steer people in the direction of less messy modern products suitable for Victorian dining chairs.
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