The tale of a pair of English hall chairs
Things aren’t exactly looking good for the little boy perched awkwardly on one of the chairs in the large entrance hall. He was caught red-handed by the gardener while he and his chum, Mikael, were busy scrumping apples from a tree inside the gated grounds of the impressive great house. Mikael managed to make a speedy getaway, so the other chair in the hall is unoccupied. This little lad wasn’t so lucky, however, and now he feels very much alone – abandoned, afraid and heavy-hearted.
The chair is uncomfortable and slippery – slippery as an eel is the phrase that comes to mind. The boy anticipates that, in all probability, he is about to have his ear pulled. He knows that’s the punishment regularly dished out at home as soon as he gets up to any mischief. And he remembers with fear and foreboding how terribly it hurts.
But what a fairy-tale ending this story was to have!
The man (presumably the owner of the house) who now approaches the little boy hands him a big bag of apples from the tree in the garden. Lots of apples! Many more than Mikael had managed to stuff into his pockets before he ran off. And the man says kindly, “Ring the bell by the gate next time you want any apples” and adds, “I’ll tell you a secret. I too used to scrump and snitch all sorts of fruit back in the days when I was still young enough to climb trees.”
The hall chairs were designed simply to serve as chairs – nothing more or less. Somewhere to sit while removing one’s riding boots, a seat on which to pause fully dressed in outdoor clothes when making a delivery to the family, or maybe even a place to wait patiently for the master of house when applying for a vacancy as a gardener.
No-nonsense chairs. Chairs built to cope with a bit of grime and wet. That’s why they’re not upholstered or topped with cushions. It would take a lot for someone to nod off while sitting on one of these.
Descriptions of chairs like these date back as far as the mid-1700s. Such chairs are usually made of mahogany. The chairs in the photograph, a matching pair, have elegantly curved back legs and a little cut-out in the outside backrest to make it easier to move them when needed. The decorations on the inside of the backrest are reminiscent of buttons, not unlike the old-fashioned bell-pushes that once used to grace the front doors of stately properties. Age? At a guess, the chairs were made sometime around the middle of the nineteenth century. And, of course, it goes without saying that the two of them are still in use to this very day, happily carrying out their duties with the utmost dedication.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Note from the Editor:
What kind of chair is in your hallway? It is always so interesting to step inside someones home for the first time and to be greeted by a chair or a stool, strategically placed for dressing or undressing of some kind. Do please share yours as we would love to know!
Until next time on the blog, you can find more historic chairs stories in our two charming books from the Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell series.