Windsor And Other Chairs
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
During the periods when costly and decorative furniture was being made in England, carefully modelled on what were then deemed fashionable styles, a cheaper class of furniture was being made at various local centres. It would appear that the London cabinet-makers confined their attention to the better and higher branches of chair-making, leaving chair-makers in the country to supply the demand in cottage and mansion for the chairs which were used by the common people. The so-called Windsor chair, with its decorative splat, which was the central feature in the back, caught its inspiration from the Dutch chairs of Queen Anne's day ; but still earlier chairs had been made after the fashion of the turned chairs of the period 1500 to 1550, and the rush-bottomed chairs with turned spindles and framework, made in a primitive lathe, which existed in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
High Wycombe was the centre of the industry. The wood best adapted for chairs grew about the town, and its pliability was very suitable for the bent-wood work which shaped the top-rail and other portions of the arm-chairs of that day. Besides those chairs made in High Wycombe local chair-makers seem to have prospered in many places. There were some in the North of England and some in the Bristol districts ; and many small villages boasted of wheelwrights and others who were able to make chairs, and from their early efforts sprang chair-makers who handed on the craft until entire families became noted chair-makers. It is an undoubted fact that the kitchen or Windsor chairs of the seventeenth century were mostly made by village carpenters and wheelwrights. The ladder-back and the fiddle-back were two important developments. There are many legendary stories of the derivation of the name which became so universal, one being that George I. took a fancy to one of the locally made chairs he found in a cottage home, and ordered one like it to be sent to Windsor Castle, where he not infrequently used it in preference to the more luxurious chairs which British cabinet - makers had designed for their royal patrons. The railed Windsor chairs appear to date from about 1760. The painting of such chairs was common, and many Buckinghamshire cottagers own antique beechwood " Windsors " which have been painted green, receiving many coats from their different possessors. The rush-bottomed chair was doubtless an early institution, a kind of "upholstery" which dates from the sixteenth century. (For further particulars in reference to kitchen chairs.