Saturday, 6 June 2020

Lincolnshire medium bow back Windsor armchair, with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove turned front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 204

Lincolnshire medium bow back Windsor armchair, with 9 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarms, bell-shaped seat, ring and cove turned front legs with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, crinoline stretcher WS 204
My attention was drawn to this chair, that was advertised on Instagram, by my fellow furniture enthusiast Tim Garland. From the image by the vendor, it was obvious that it was in poor condition with some serious structural issues - also it was said to be possibly from Welsh borders. I recognised it as a typical early spindle back Lincolnshire Windsor armchair, dating from about 1815. There was no indication whether it was marked by the workshop owner. After having completing the deal, the chair duly arrived and the breakages were even worse than I had initially thought, but no matter, as it was soon in the capable hands of Tim. He repaired and restored the chair and the result can be seen in the picture above. He made a splendid job, and we both felt a deep sense of satisfaction of having rescued a valuable historical piece of vernacular furniture.

The maker of this chair remained a mystery to me, but as you may have heard me say before, the maker always leaves his finger prints all over his chairs, if you just know where to look. The give away was the incised ring around the back legs to indicate where the hole needed to be drilled to take the side stretcher. The only signed chairs, that have this feature, are those that are signed TAYLORS, so those made in the workshop of William Taylor. There remains the possibility that those made in his brother's workshop (John), could have the same implicit mark but as I had never handled one, and am most unlikely ever to find one, so the final identity of the marker remains uncertain.


© William Sergeant 2019

Friday, 5 June 2020

2 x Lincolnshire underarm turnings compared - the turnery signature is clear WS 181


This picture shows the underarm supports of the unstamped bar back chair in WS 180 on the right and the underarm support of the stamped TAYLORS bow back in WS 167 on the left. The underarm supports are so similar and both chairs had the same finish applied, a sort of dark varnish. But the telling detail is the incised ring around the back leg where the side stretcher joins. It's a detail that I have only ever seen on two chairs - both signed TAYLORS and it appears on the comb back chair as well. So there is no doubt which workshop both these chairs came out of: William Taylor, Grantham.

© William Sergeant 2017 and 2020

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Lincolnshire rush-seated ladder back armchair, with 4 domed ladders with downward shaping, straight back poles with tapered feet and flattened top finials, rushing bars, turned front legs morticed into the seat frame, with pad feet, front stretcher with turnery often found in Lincolnshire, double side and rear stretchers WS 121

Lincolnshire rush-seated ladder back armchair, with 4 domed ladders with downward shaping, straight back poles with tapered feet, and flattened top finials, rushing bars, turned front legs morticed into the seat frame, with pad feet, front stretcher with turnery often found in Lincolnshire, double side and rear stretchers WS 121
This chair was offered for sale at a south Lincolnshire auction house along with 4 side chairs. It's made out of ash with fruitwood arms. The rush seat has been repaired in a very poor manner and there is some loss of height due to wear on the legs . However these carvers are very rare and so I was particularly pleased to collect this one along with the 4 side chairs that went with it. Once again there are metal pins to secure the ladders to the uprights and scribe marks to aid construction, just as in the 3 chairs in WS 120; I am in no doubt that they are came from the same workshop.

© William Sergeant 2018

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Lincolnshire Windsor bow back medium armchair stamped TAYLORS GRANTHAM with 3 piercing fleur de lys upper splat, teardrop pierced lower splat, 6 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarm supports, bell-shaped seat, with cut-and-shut Nottinghamshire 3 ring leg turnings with vase-shaped feet and crinoline stretcher WS 206

Lincolnshire Windsor bow back medium armchair stamped TAYLORS GRANTHAM with 3 piercing fleur de lys upper splat, teardrop pierced lower splat, 6 long spindles, 8 short, crook underarm supports, bell-shaped seat, with cut-and-shut Nottinghamshire 3 ring leg turnings with vase-shaped feet and crinoline stretcher WS 206
Thanks to former Regional Furniture Society member, James Drake, for allowing me to record and publish an image of this chair, stamped TAYLORS GRANTHAM. I would ask you to study the picture of this chair closely. It certainly took me by surprise: there is something clearly wrong with it. The legs, with the three ring turning motif are not something that I would associate with an early Lincolnshire Windsor armchair, and sure enough, on close inspection it soon became obvious that legs belong to another chair, probably from Nottinghamshire. There has been some serious damage to this chair as the underneath of the seat shows, while the legs are quite a different colour to the rest of the chair. It's a splendid example of a 'cut and shut' chair! However, I am sure the seat and every component above are by William Taylor's workshop in Grantham, as the name stamp would indicate.

© William Sergeant 2019

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Unusual Lincolnshire ladder back rush-seated side chair with 4 domed ladders with downward shaping, straight back poles, rushing bars, turned front legs morticed into the seat, two opposed-pear front stretcher almost never found in Lincolnshire, double side and rear stretchers WS 185

Unsual Lincolnshire ladder back rush-seated side chair with 4 domed ladders with downward shaping, straight back poles, rushing bars, turned front legs morticed into the seat, two opposed-pear front stretcher almost never found in Lincolnshire,  double side and rear stretchers WS 185
My talk at Spilsby in the spring of 2017 created much interest and it was during the public chair surgery the following day that I was told about this rush-seated chair that was in a church near Coningsby. When I was shown the photo that a member of the public had brought along, I was put in a quandary. The design was just so typical of a simple Lincolnshire rush-seated ladder back chair, remarkably similar to the chairs that I find in the south of the county. What puzzled me was the front stretcher with its double baluster or opposing pears. When I give talks, I point out that one of the defining features of a local rush-seated chair is that the front stretcher always has a single bulb in the centre so it became evident that I needed to see this chair for myself.

A few weeks later, I took my portable photographic studio to a small village on the edge of the Wolds (which I had never visited before) and found the church open. Like so many churches in this part of remote Lincolnshire, it is not used for regular services anymore though they are often open in the daytime. I found the chair next to the pedal organ in a very dirty, dusty and uncared for state, so I set about giving it a good clean and set up my studio to record it, the result of which you can see above.

Every component is of ash wood and original, generally in very good condition as it probably never gets sat on from one year to the next. I was unable to find anyone in the village who could give me any meaningful history of the chair .

I have no doubt that it was made locally and in future I shall have to modify what are the defining features of a rush-seated chair that was produced in the county.  Yet another example of the exception which proves the rule!


© William Sergeant 2017 and 2020

Monday, 1 June 2020

East Anglian cabinetmaker's plum wood square back armchair, crest and cross rails squared with two tapered laths either side of an amphora-shaped splat, with curved rear legs, tapered front legs, board seat, curved arms morticed into ogee underarm supports, single stretcher all round WS 193

East Anglian cabinetmaker's plum wood square back armchair, crest and cross rails squared with two tapered laths either side of an amphora-shaped splat, with curved rear legs, tapered front legs, board seat, curved arms morticed into ogee underarm supports in the Hepplewhite manner, single stretcher all round WS 193
An auction house near Stamford offered this chair for sale in May 2016, there were other items of interest included in the lots so I went along to the viewing. On examining this chair, which was rightly described as fruitwood, I found it to be in very poor condition with numerous crude repairs and both back legs were completely broken at seat level. I recognised it to be a cabinet maker's chair from East Anglia and made out of plumwood. It must have looked beautiful when it was first made over 200 years ago. On the day of the auction, much against my better judgment, I decided to bid for it as I knew there was little chance of ever purchasing a plumwood chair ever again. The opening bid was for five pounds, the second bid was mine at six pounds and much to my surprise it was knocked down to me.

Well this ugly duckling turned into a fine handsome swan after I let a good friend and restorer work his magic on it. I couldn't believe the transformation - I now have a beautiful Georgian armchair, strong and stable, taking pride of place in my sitting room. A chair very similar to this one, but with two piercings through the central splat appears at figure EA11 on p. 218 of Dr B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990).


© William Sergeant 2018 and 2020


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Lincolnshire rush-seated ladder back armchair inscribed 17 W*H 55 on the topmost of 5 domed ladders with downward double half-round shaping, straight back poles with finials, scroll arms morticed into turned front legs, missing rushing bars, with double stretchers all round, 1 of which is missing WS 202

Lincolnshire rush-seated ladder back armchair inscribed 17 W*H 55 on the topmost of 5 domed ladders with downward double half-round shaping, straight back poles with finials, scroll arms morticed into turned front legs, missing rushing bars, with double stretchers all round, 1 of which is missing WS 202
The top ladder of this chair is clearly incised with the date and initials "17 W*H 55": I am sure that they are contemporary with the making of the chair. Even more remarkably, I have a provenance to go with it, namely that it has been in the same house in northeast Lincolnshire for the last 65 years, having been purchased in a village hall house clearance sale in the south of the county in 1953. I had been aware of its presence for some while as the owner has several other examples of rush-seated Lincolnshire  chairs but only recently did I realise the significance. 

Detail of WS 202 inscription "17 W*H 55"

When I was looking through David Knell's English Country Furniture 1500 - 1900, (1st published 1992, 2nd edition 2000)  I came across two virtually identical chairs on p. 291, though they are dated 1742 and 1739. Of those chairs, Knell says: 

"Incised dates can occasionally be authenticated by subtle variations in the shape of numerals at different periods. The style certainly suggests contemporaneity in this case."

The style and positioning of the numerals on the 1739 chair shown at p. 291 is identical to that above and that chair has a six-pointed star in the middle as well, though no initials. 

Knell attributes these chairs to the north in general and possibly to Lincolnshire, but the one pictured above has a firm association with the county. It can be said with a fair degree of confidence that this chair is at least 264 years old. Even though the condition is very poor, with loose joints, broken rushing rail and some shortening of the legs, the ash wood used to make the chair is in sound condition.

The chair was in my house for some time, during which time I was able to assess and photograph it; on returning it to the owner, I stressed the importance of the preservation of this remarkable survivor and asked that it was not to be sat upon. Indeed I took another armchair along to take its place in the kitchen, so that this one could be positioned in the house where no one could use it.

© William Segeant 2019 and Julian Parker 2020

Saturday, 30 May 2020

2 x Lincolnshire comb back Windsor side chairs by Marsh Sleaford with curved crest rail, turned stiles, 5 long spindles, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with 6 bobbin turning, H stretcher with darts WS 176

2 x Lincolnshire comb back Windsor side chairs by Marsh Sleaford with curved crest rail, turned stiles, 5 long spindles, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with 6 bobbin turning on left, H stretcher with darts on right, WS 176
Two complementary beautifully balanced Lincolnshire Windsor side chairs by Thomas or James Marsh of Sleaford. Their turning and proportions stand out amongst Lincolnshire makers.

Angled view of Lincolnshire comb back Windsor side chair by Marsh Sleaford with curved crest rail, turned stiles, 5 long spindles, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher with 6 bobbin turning 


© William Sergeant and Julian Parker 2020 

Friday, 29 May 2020

John Amos, Grantham, Windsor chair maker WS 148

Stamp of Amos Grantham WS 148 
Those familiar with Lincolnshire Windsor chairs will probably be well acquainted with the name of John Amos, the chairmaker from Little Gonerby. Many pictures of his chairs appear in Dr B D Cotton's The English Regional Chair (1990) and other books on vernacular furniture. However, new research has revealed that he only changed to making chairs later in his life. His baptism has not been traced though he is recorded in the 1841 census as being aged 75 which suggests that he was born in about 1766. The marriage of John to Millicent Everitt took place at Wellingore on the 23rd December 1794.

The earliest mention of him can be found in an advertisement in the Stamford Mercury of October 1794 when he is seeking two journeymen wheelwrights and signs himself as JOHN AMOS wheelwright of Little Gonerby. Two years later in September 1796 a similar advertisement is placed in the same paper looking for two journeymen "and if they can make ploughs the more agreeable". An apprentice is also wanted "with which a Premium will be expected". This would mean that he was a Freeman of the Borough and by time served, probably as a wheelwright, was able to take on an apprentice .

At the start of the following year - 3rd Jan 1797 there is a baptism of John Amos, son of John and Melicent of Little Gonerby .

On the 1st March 1799 he again advertises for three journeymen wheelwrights followed in August 1800, when he is seeking two journeymen wheelwrights and another apprentice, signing himself both times as JOHN AMOS wheelwright of Little Gonerby. His next appearance in the paper is in May 1804 when he seeks the return of his apprentice John Branston and warning that anyone harbouring or employing him will be dealt with as the law directs but should he decide to return without any further trouble then he will be received; once again signing himself as a wheelwright of Little Gonerby.

These advertisements clearly show him and his business as dedicated to manufacturing wheels and ploughs, employing several people and apprentices. At the age of about 30 he has a wife and two children (daughter Melicent was baptised on 28th July 1800) and there is no mention of chairmaking. However, as Little Gonerby is such a small place and part of Grantham township he must have known Roger Taylor, John Wilson and Richard Hubbard who all had established Windsor chair making businesses. It seems very likely that he realised the demand for these chairs was greater than the supply as after the baptism of his second son Everitt in August 1806, he proceeds to call himself a Windsor chair maker. Once again with the help of the Stamford Mercury, an advertisement by him in June 1809, seeks two journeymen immediately, one who understands the Turnery and Fancy business, the other needs to be a plain Windsor chair maker. This is just signed JOHN AMOS with no indication of his trade. His change of direction in his business is re-inforced by another advertisement which appears in November 1823 when two journeymen are sought, one Windsor and one Turnpin chairmaker who can bottom, again just signed JOHN AMOS Grantham. In the meantime he and his wife have two more daughters - Mary baptised March 1810 and Louisa Ann in February 1814.

The only other time the word chairmaker appears after his name is in the announcement of the death of his wife in the paper in May 1837 aged 68. Ironically he probably would have known John Wilson, chairmaker of Little Gonerby who died the same week aged 58. Later that same year there is recorded the burial of his son Everitt aged 31.

In his will, made in 1838, he gives his occupation as chairmaker and mentions his son John, who is a butcher in Grantham; his son-in-law John Long who married his daughter Cassandra and his other daughter Louisa. He also mentions his two messuages or tenements in Little Gonerby along with their shops, sheds and yards which fronted on to North Parade and extended all the way back to New Street. These were built by him upon land formerly belonging to Peter Vere Esq. and his wife Elizabeth.

The majority of the houses facing out on to North Parade are fine four storey late Georgian terrace houses and the distance back to New Street is simiply huge, but recently built on. John Amos must have been very successful in his business to afford to build two houses here. Further investigation is needed to establish which ones were built and belonged to him.


© William Sergeant 2014 and 2020

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Lincolnshire high back bow back Windsor armchair with 5-piercing fleur de lys upper splat with lower diamond, double pierced lower splat, 6 long spindles, 8 short, no underarms, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with1 lower ring x 4, crinoline stretcher WS 153 & WS 152

Lincolnshire high back bow back Windsor armchair with 5-piercing fleur de lys upper splat with lower diamond, double pierced lower splat WS 153

Lincolnshire high back bow back Windsor armchair with 5-piercing fleur de lys upper splat with lower diamond, double pierced lower splat WS 153b
Another Windsor chair of little value, mainly due to the huge fracture in the armbow (which can not be seen in these pictures) and the missing underarm supports. However, it is not without some interesting points even though the maker did not stamp it. The seat is made from ash while the rest of the chair is made from yew wood. Every feature would suggest a Grantham maker but without the underarm supports for some design clues it is difficult to work out who made this chair. However, one of the benefits of keeping pictures of stamped chairs is that they make a hugely important reference library.

If you have read my few lines under picture WS 131 you will have noted that I normally take no notice of the design of the cut out fret work on back splats. However the only exception to that rule is a tiny feature that appears on several AMOS stamped chairs. Compare this back splat to the signed chair in picture WS 132 and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.


© William Sergeant 2015 and 2020.


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

John Amos, Grantham Windsor armchair, front leg turning with multiple rings above the cove and lower rings WS 133

John Amos, Grantham Windsor armchair, front leg turning with multiple rings above the cove and lower rings WS 133
John Amos is one of a very small group of makers who occasionally put multiple rings on his leg turnings. It makes a distinctive statement that says that this chair is just that little bit more special than the run-of-the-mill Lincolnshire Windsor armchair.  Normally there is a Tulip shaped turning to go with this design but on this one there is a single cove .

This chair is not the same as WS 131, an Amos chair which also features multiple rings but the idea of including the leg turning design features here is to highlight the slight differences that this maker incorporated into his yew wood chairs. The side and cross stretchers are replacements and the legs have been reduced.


© William Sergeant 2014 and 2020


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

North Parade, Grantham: houses of John Amos, Windsor chair maker of Little Gonerby WS 149

North Parade, Grantham: houses of John Amos, Windsor chair maker of Little Gonerby WS 149
Little Gonerby is closely associated with the early Windsor chair makers of Lincolnshire but if you study any recent map of the Grantham area then you will not find no mention of it. However what you will find is the village of Great Gonerby which straddles the Great North Road about two miles north of Grantham. There is sometimes the name of Gonerby Hill Foot which is even closer to Grantham but nowhere will you find Little Gonerby. So where is this often mentioned place?   John Amos lived there, amongst others. My curiosity was aroused even more when I discovered in his will (written 1838 ) that he intended to leave two houses that he had built on North Parade and that he was living there at the time of the 1841 census under the heading of Little Gonerby.

My research has turned up the fact that in the eighteenth century the town of Grantham consisted of three areas: Spittlegate to the south, Grantham itself around the church of St.Wulfram and Little Gonerby to the north, all three joined together with no clear demarcation, to make up Grantham itself.

What has made research easier, however, was the fact that the area of Little Gonerby was just inside the southern most boundary of Lord Brownlow's estate based at Belton House. Maps survive of this part of Grantham with the Nottingham road dividing it off from the rest of the settlement. An early map, which is frustratingly undated but I guess is about 1750 and in the Brownlow depositions at the Lincoln Archives, shows no more than 15 houses. The most useful map is in the Enclosure Award for 1808 which shows the fields, roads and houses, which have grown to about 25 in total. Intriguingly it shows the names of some of the existing owner-occupiers, which include Richard Hubbard, Thomas Wilson and William Allen. Unfortunately the fold of this ancient document goes right through the settlement and as a consequence it is impossible to see who occupied which property. What makes this more galling is the fact that it is perfectly possible to walk around this part of Grantham and identify these substantial houses easily today.

John Amos would have lived in one of these houses before he brought some land off Peter Vere and built two houses on North Parade. As nearly all the houses remain on this fine terrace of late Georgian houses, I set about to see if I could locate his two. On looking through the 1841 census online I was frustrated as the photographic reproduction was so poor and the handwritting so faint that I had to go to the Lincoln Library to view it on their microfiche. Much of it was barely legible but I did find John Amoss (75) living with Louisa Amoss (25). His occupation was given as a chairmaker. Louisa was his youngest daughter born 1814 (the ages in the 1841 census are rounded to within 5 years. There were two female servants living there as well, both aged 15.

North Parade is a long row of terrace houses on the east ide of the old A1 road as it leaves Grantham and opposite there is mainly 1930s houses, so I supposed that the census taker would have started at one end of the terrace and worked his way to the other end. From the census return I counted 17 houses on one side of Amos and 18 to the other. So I went to Grantham and started at the end of North Parade closest to the town and counted 17 houses and found a pair of handed houses ( pictured above with Green and Red doors with a passage way door in between). Then I counted a further 18 houses which brought me to the end of the row. While this does not prove that these were the two houses built by Amos, there is a good chance they are, but more research needs to be done.

More evidence may still turn up as there is a large amount of documents deposited with the Lincoln archives from the Brownlow Estate which have yet to be catalogued.


© William Sergeant 2014 and 2020

Lincolnshire comb back rocking side chair with turned stiles, 6 long spindles, straight seat sides, ring and cove front leg turnings with 1 lower ring, plain back legs, H stretcher WS 93

Lincolnshire comb back side rocking side chair WS 93
From the collection of Steven Voyt. This the first Lincolnshire side chair on rockers that I have ever seen. On close inspection it appears to be all original and genuine. Although it is unstamped,  just compare the turned back supports with WS 90, which is stamped Camm Grantham.  I think the two chairs are near enough identical to say that they were made in the same workshop. The major difference between the two is in the front leg design: while this one has two rings WS 90 has a ring and a cove; this would indicate a subtle change with time: the two ring design being recognised as coming later than the ring and cove.

© William Sergeant 2013 and 2020