Design Moment: Windsor Chair, c. 1720s

18th-century chair has distinctive comb and hoop backs and is renowned for its longevity

A sack-back Windsor Chair

A sack-back Windsor Chair

 

My kitchen chairs are Ercol Windsor chairs, made in the 1950s from ash and still sturdy and without a creak – and it’s that practicality that explains the longevity of a design that first emerged in the early 18th century in England.

It is thought they got their name from the part of the England where they were first sold – but now the label refers not so much to geography but to design.

A Windsor Chair has legs and a back that is socketed into a solid seat. The backs, with often delicate-looking rounded spindles, are either a comb or hoop design. It’s thought that the earlier chairs were comb backed – with the upright spindles in the back slotting into a horizontal piece of wood.

Later 18th century models had hoop backs as craftsmen learned to bend wood into a rounded shape. The seats while sometimes entirely flat often have a slight saddle shape or a bottom shape for comfort.

Craftsmen

From the earliest days, Windsor Chairs were made by everyone from jobbing craftsmen to large factories and were used in both commercial and domestic settings, which explains why there are so many of them about.

Some are painted, some not, some have arms, others have decorative elements in the back spindles. Apart from the back, there are different types of Windsor Chairs – the one pictured is a sack-back armchair – and early US furniture makers took up the basic design and tweaked it to make their own versions.

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