Glastonbury Chair thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 122

Glastonbury Chair

ca. 1840 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This example of the Glastonbury chair, designed by A.W.N. Pugin, was produced for the Bishop's House of St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham in about 1840.

The Glastonbury chair form was very popular in the nineteenth century, owing to the belief that it was based on a medieval prototype. The numerous versions made were based on a chair found at the Bishops Palace, Wells. However, the exact history and age of the Wells chair are uncertain. Pugin visited Wells in 1835 or 1836 and the chair he subsequently designed follows the shape of the Wells example exactly, but omits the carved decoration of the arms and back.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Joined oak
Brief Description
Of joined oak
Style
Credit line
Given by His Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham
Object history
One of a set of chairs supplied for the dining room of the Bishop's House at St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham, designed by Pugin and built 1839-41.
Historical context
On the history of this chair type see See Gabriel Olive, 'The Glastonbury Chair', Regional Furniture VIII (2017), pp. 24-41 (fig. 12 illustrates one of the two V&A examples of the Bishop's House chair)



Many different versions of the Glastonbury chair, sometimes carved with decoration and inscriptions, were produced by firms such as Gillow & Co. and Cox & Sons for both institutional and domestic use in the nineteenth century. The Roman Catholic Abbey at Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire, had a large collection of these chairs in the Calefactory (see Christina M. Anderson, 'Furnishing Fort Augustus Abbey, Inverness-shire', Regional Furniture, Vol. XXI, 2007. pp. 221-240, fig. 15). Gillow, a furniture-making firm based in Lancaster with a London branch, listed in their Estimate Sketch Books an oak Glastonbury monk's chair in 1840 and a more elaborate version, with a carved panel in the back, in 1873 (Westminster Archives, GWG0344, 344/137, p. 20, March 21st 1840; 344/138, p. 140, March 1st 1873).



A letter to the Builidng News, 9th November 1866, p. 751, compared Charles Bevan's Gothic furniture designs unfavourably with that for the Glastonbury chair. '...I am certain that it is not by chamfering and nicking and notching, or by dabbing on round spots at intervals like red, black, or white wafers, that organ cases can be made pleasing, or mediaeval furniture satisfactory. The Glastonbury chair was neither nitched, notched nor spotted, but is held to be a good chair nevertheless.'
Summary
This example of the Glastonbury chair, designed by A.W.N. Pugin, was produced for the Bishop's House of St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham in about 1840.



The Glastonbury chair form was very popular in the nineteenth century, owing to the belief that it was based on a medieval prototype. The numerous versions made were based on a chair found at the Bishops Palace, Wells. However, the exact history and age of the Wells chair are uncertain. Pugin visited Wells in 1835 or 1836 and the chair he subsequently designed follows the shape of the Wells example exactly, but omits the carved decoration of the arms and back.
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.353-1961

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record createdOctober 17, 2005
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