Nominated by: Catherine Grigg
Buckinghamshire has been described as ‘Beechy Bucks’ by John Betjeman, and in the 1700s Daniel Defoe described the use of Bucks beech as having ‘diverse uses particularly chair makers and turnery wares’.
The beech woods themselves are characteristic of the county, and chairs, mainly made from beech, supplied the wider English counties, towns and even other countries, making High Wycombe famous nationally and internationally for chair making. The industry came to dominate High Wycombe and much of the surrounding area – from the hundreds or small factories in High Wycombe and nearby villages, to turners known as ‘bodgers’ working in the surrounding woodlands. Chairmaking changed both townscapes and the nature of woodlands, as different plants and wildlife thrived under new woodland management and workshops, factories and housing for workers were speedily established.
This wheelback chair was made in the 1840s, just as the furniture industry was expanding rapidly. By 1877, High Wycombe alone would be producing 4,700 chairs every day. This does not include chairs produced in the wider area, such as Stokenchurch, Princes Risborough or Amersham. This chair carries the label of a Sheffield retailer – Wycombe-made chairs were already supplying large parts of the country.
The Wheelback Windsor Chair was nominated by Catherine Grigg, Curator, on behalf of Wycombe Museum.