THERE can be few more instantly recognisable forms in English furniture than the Windsor chair. Since the early 1970s, Michael Harding-Hill has been well known as an authority on the subject, publishing ‘Windsor Chairs, An Illustrated Celebration’, a book which pictures many examples that passed through his hands over many decades as a dealer.
Along with Robert
Parrott, a retired scientist and council member of the Regional
Furniture Society, Michael has poured his expertise into curating
an academic loan exhibition on the subject, Windsors at West
Wycombe: A Definitive Exhibition of 18th Century English Windsor
Chairs, which runs from May 6-31 at West Wycombe Park in
Buckinghamshire - a fitting venue as the surrounding area has been
synonymous with the manufacture of Windsor chairs from the late
18th to the mid 20th century.
The exhibition is
the largest ever of its kind and gathers together a tightly edited
group of 35 exemplary English Windsor chairs of all forms and
periods, most of which were made in or near the Thames Valley, lent
by public and private collections.
'Windsor' chair can be firmly traced back to 1720 and the
exhibition includes what is thought to be the earliest surviving
Windsor chair, made around 1715 and now in the Temple Newsam
Collection, alongside others chosen to illustrate the wide range of
styles that fall under the Windsor umbrella.
All were produced
prior to 19th century mass production, and include a selection of
comb-, low- and bow-back examples, as well as painted garden
Windsors known as Forest chairs, gothic-style chairs, mahogany
'cabinet-maker' examples and those attributed to the earliest known
maker, John Pitt of Slough. To demonstrate this practical form's
popularity in 18th century United States, the show also features
one American chair, loaned by the American Museum, Bath.
National Trust admission charges and opening hours apply; for
more details see www.windsorchairs2012.co.uk