You’re probably expecting a techie post but I thought I’d do something a little bit different in today’s blog, something to slow you down for a few minutes.
Local furniture maker Stewart Linford took part in the exhibition and as a thank you for our room guiding he invited us over for cream tea and a tour of the factory.
High Wycombe has been a centre for furniture making for over 300 years, particularly the Windsor chair. The definition of a Windsor chair is one that has a solid seat with all of other components (back, legs etc) built into the seat.
One of the things that made High Wycombe the perfect place to make furniture was an abundant supply of beech. Daniel Defoe noticed in 1725 that there was “a vast quantity of Beechwood which grows in the woods of Buckinghamshire more plentifully than in any other part of England“.
“Bodgers” would set up in the woods around High Wycombe to turn wood for the furniture trade.
Significant events in High Wycombe and the surrounding villages were often celebrated with a chair arch. The arch below was in West Wycombe in 1889 and celebrated the return of Sir Edwin Dashwood from New Zealand.
High Wycombe’s skill with wood made it a centre of plane part making during WW2 and post war it was home to famous manufacturers such as G-Plan, Parker Knoll and Ercol.
Our visit to the Stewart Linford workshops was like stepping back in time as little has changed in the process of furniture making, although perhaps now the finished items end up a little farther afield.
Seat templates lined up on the workshop wall.
Raw materials stacked up.
The machine that cuts out the bottom shapes in chair seats. Unchanged for over 100 years.
I can’t remember exactly what these were for but I think they are used in shaping chair legs to different designs.
A piece of very rare Rio rosewood that was brought in by a customer.
Chair backs waiting for their bases and legs.
The finished product, a beautiful Windsor chair.
It’s amazing to think this craft is still going strong in High Wycombe. The local university has a highly regarded furniture making course with lots of new blood coming through into the industry.
This image of chair making from the Wycombe District Council website is fascinating in its similarities to the pictures above… although we didn’t see any flat caps or waistcoats on our visit.