British and American furniture form; wooden chair whose legs are separated from back and arms by SADDLE SEAT, into which legs, back parts and arm supports, if any, are mortised. The Windsor chair developed in England in the late 17th century, was made in America by about 1725 and has been popular in both countries ever since, appearing in many styles. The origin of the term is obscure, for the chair has always been made in many parts of Britain other than the town of Windsor, to which the name is often thought to refer.

Types Windsor Chairs

Different Types Windsor Chairs, distinguished by the design of their backs, have been made and are denoted by specific names; they are described individually. In general, the backs have had either a horizontal top, as in the COMB-BACK and SCROLL-BACK types, or a BENT-WOOD curved outline, as in the BOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR. BRACING STICKS have sometimes been used to provide extra support for the backs. Windsor armchairs frequently incorporate an ARM BOW, a roughly semicircular length of bentwood comprising both arms and a connecting rail across the back. The legs of Windsor chairs have generally been turned, but early versions, made before 1740, sometimes had simple stave like legs, and in about 1725- 1810, carved CABRIOLE LEGS were also used. Whatever their form, the legs of Windsor chairs are typically connected by STRETCHERS, most frequently the H-STRETCHER or COW-HORN STRETCHER.

While a few mid-18th-century examples were made entirely of MAHOGANY, most types Windsor chairs have been constructed of several woods, due to the different demands placed on the various parts: the bent parts and spindles, the most common components of Windsor backs, require strength with flexibility; the saddle seat must be easily shaped; and legs and arm supports generally have to lend themselves to turning. In Britain ASH, YEW and various FRUIT-WOODS are thus used for bent elements; ELM, for seats; and BEECH, for turned parts. In America HICKORY, CHESTNUT, OAK and ASH fill the first role; TULIP, POPLAR and PINE, the second; and maple, chestnut, hickory, or oak, the third. Because of the resulting variegated appearance, Windsor chairs have almost always been painted, usually a single, dark color. The traditionally favored hues have been dark green and black, but many others have also been used. In early 19th-century America, Windsor chairs sometimes figured as **”FANCY” FURNITURE **and were gaily painted in a medley of colors.

American types Windsor chairs

American types Windsor chairs have differed somewhat from British ones. In 18th-century America backs composed entirely of spindles were the norm,, while those with splats were in great vogue in Britain. Also, at this time American backs were usually higher than British ones, sometimes featuring a second, smaller bow or comb atop the main back. Cabriole legs were uncommon on American examples, and seats were often considerably thicker and the carved “saddle” accordingly deeper. Legs tended to be set at a rakish slant and were attached to the seat at points slightly to-ward the middle rather than at the corners, as was done in Britain. Some variations, such as the ARROW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, simply did not exist in Britain.

An 18th-century American development ,

An 18th-century American development, the various LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS, including the famed CAPTAIN’S CHAIR did not reach Britain until the 1840s.
The Windsor chair remains widely popular, and it is made in large numbers in both traditional and new styles. The modern British designer Lucien ERCOLANI is particularly noted for his Windsor chair designs.


Structural device featured in many Windsor armchairs; length of roughly semicircular bentwood that comprises both arms and a connecting rail across the back between them. spindles in the back usually run through holes in the arm bow and are set in mortises at top and bottom. At the sides spindles mortised beneath the arms run to the seat. A central splat, if present, is set against the front of the arm bow, while any secondary splats, and sometimes the spindles, are applied in two parts, one above and one below the arm bow; both are mortised into it. The arm bow first appeared in Windsor armchairs in about 1720, and it has been used ever since.


Any late 18th- or early 19th-century American NEOCLASSICAL STYLE Windsor chair whose back incorporated a row of flattened spindles carved to resemble downward-pointing arrowheads or spearheads.


Rare variant of 18th-century COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR in which the comb was narrower than the seat or the comb was replaced by a half-disk, into which the back’s SPINDLES were mortised. In either case, the spindles bent inward, creating an impression of ballooning below, in contrast with the flaring FAN-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR. The balloon-back Windsor chair usually lacked a central splat.


Late 19th-century British LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR , in which a curving arm bow , supported by turned spindles or a carved splat, swept high in back and terminated at the arms in pronounced downward scrolls. This striking form was common in British public buildings in the second half of the 19th century, beginning in the 1860.

BOBTAIL (also Tailpiece)

Structural device on some Windsor chairs; carved, lobe like rearward projection from back of seat, with two mortises, in which bracing sticks, used to give extra support to the chair’s back, are set.


Either of two varieties of Windsor chair in which top of back is formed by a back bow, a broadly curving bentwood member. In the SACK-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, the back bow is roughly semicircular and is mortised into the top of the arm bow, which crosses the back at the level of the arms. The back spindles, if any, are mortised into the underside of the back bow and extend through holes drilled in the arm bow down to mortises in the top of the seat. A central splat, if present, is set into the front of the arm bow, while secondary splats, and sometimes spindles, are applied in two parts, one set between back bow and arm bow, the other between arm bow and seat.

In the LOOP-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, the back bow is horseshoe-shaped and mortised into the top of the seat at each rear corner. In this case, it frames the entire back, whose spindles or splats are set between bow and seat. With no arm bow the arms of a loop-back armchair are mortised into the back bow’s two verticals.

Early instances of bow-back Windsor chairs had only spindles in their backs, but in Britain a central splat framed by spindles soon became much more popular as did multiple splats. In America though, splats have never been favored. The sack-back chair was the earlier form to arise; it evolved from the use of the bentwood arm bow in COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS. By 1750 the loop-back chair had been developed, and both forms have been in production ever since.


Structural device appearing behind backs of some 18th-century COMB-BACK or BOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS. It consisted of a pair of spindle like wooden rods, each extending diagonally downward toward the center from a mortise near one end of the comb or back bow to a lobe like rearward extension of the seat, called a bobtail. There they were set in two adjacent mortises. Bracing sticks helped to solve the distinctive structural problem of a Windsor chair—the weakness at the junction of seat and back.


SCROLL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR whose cross rail consisted of a panel of pierced carving, featuring botanical or abstract motifs that sometimes resembled elaborate contemporary belt buckles. The buckle-back chair was popular in Britain in the second half of the 19th century.


Nineteenth-century LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which the arm bow, supported by turned spindles, curved abruptly downward in front to be mortised into the seat at the front corners. Its legs were connected by a box stretcher. Originally used in the pilot houses of Mississippi River steamboats, the chair was popular in Britain as well as America by the 1860s and remained so into the 1890s.


Eighteenth-century Windsor chair with a horizontal crest rail surmounting spindles, splat or both, which were mortised into its underside. The basic form, with a simple back composed of spindles and crest rail, resembled a hay rake or large comb—hence, the name. The top of the comb, as the crest rail was called, had a carved profile that varied with current styles, and it frequently terminated in shaped lobes, or ears, on either side. Most comb-back armchairs featured an arm bow, but the arms may also have been mortised into the stiles. Many variants of the comb-back were made, including the BALLOON-BACK, FAN-BACK and **SHAWL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS **.


Eighteenth-century American version of LOOP-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which the arms, each supported at the front by a turned baluster, were made from a single piece of bentwood that rose at the rear to function as a back bow. Thus, the back bow was not mortised into the seat, as in a loop-back chair, but was supported by its numerous spindles, the front balusters and usually a pair of bracing sticks.



Variant of 18th-century COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which the comb was wider than the rest of the chair, causing the back’s spindles to fan out. It was often made with a central splat.


Nineteenth-century LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which the arm bow and its cresting, supported on simply turned SPINDLES, were plain and practical, without the scrolling’s of its antecedent, the SMOKER’S BOW WINDSOR CHAIR. Its legs were connected by a box stretcher. Developed in the United States in about midcentury, it was immediately popular in both Britain and America and remained so into the 1890s. It was frequently used by the volunteer fire departments that proliferated at that time—hence, its name.


Nineteenth-century British variant of SCROLL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR in which an arched profile was carved at the bottom edge of the top rail and the top edge of the cross rail. The two parts were linked by small turned balusters, and the whole resembled medieval arcading. This example of neo-gothic style furniture was most popular in about 1840-70.

GOTHIC WINDSOR CHAIR (also Strawberry Hill Windsor chair; window-splat Windsor chair)

Eighteenth-century British variant of either COMB-BACK or BOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which back consisted of three pierced splats, carved in imitation of Gothic window tracery, without spindles. Often, smaller, matching splats also appeared, one below each arm. Occasionally, the bow-back Gothic chair featured a back bow formed as a pointed arch. The Gothic Windsor chair was popular for about 20 years in the mid-18th century—an example of the Gothic Revival taste in British Rococo furniture and since the Second World War, it has enjoyed a modest revival. It is distinct from the 19th-century GOTHIC SCROLL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR.


Nineteenth-century variant of LOOP-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which back’s spindles or splats were replaced by a bold open-work arrangement of smoothly curving bands of plain wood, representing any of several images, mostly neo-Gothic in taste, including interlaced arches and elements of tracery. The interlaced-bow chair was popular in about 1810-70.


Nineteenth-century British variant of LATH-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR with decorative central splat flanked by laths. In the 1850s the use of an ornamental splat began to be revived from 18th-century Windsor chairs, and the feature remained popular for the rest of the century.


Variant of 19th-century British WYCOMBE STYLE WINDSOR CHAIR, in which the back was composed of stiles, crest rail and flattened laths. The laths and stiles were curved to follow the profile of the human spine, swelling forward in their bottom third to support the small of the sitter’s back. This approach to comfort evolved from the shaped SPINDLES of the somewhat earlier SPINDLE-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR. The use of curved laths had a great influence on later deck chair design.
The lath-back Windsor chair was developed in the 1850s and remained popular into the 1920s, especially in the simplest, sturdiest models, which were known as Farmhouse Windsor Chairs. A more elaborate version was the LATH-AND-BALUSTER WINDSOR CHAIR.


One of two varieties of BOW-BACK WIND¬SOR CHAIR.


Any of several Windsor chair designs popular in Britain and America in 19th century, all having low backs composed of arm bow topped by shaped cresting no more than six inches high and supported on decoratively turned spindles. The low-back chairs were developed in America from 18th-century SACK-BACK and COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS, in which increasingly lower combs and back bows gave greater importance to arm bows. The three best-known varieties of low-back Windsor chair were of American origin but were popular on both sides of the Atlantic. These were the SMOKER’S BOW and FIREHOUSE WINDSOR CHAIRS and the CAPTAIN’S CHAIR. A fourth variety, the BERGERE-BOW WINDSOR CHAIR, was chiefly British.


Early 19th-century British Windsor chair; regency style regional specialty. The chair was made in Suffolk and named for the village of Mendlesham, one of the production centers. The chair’s back had a slender rectangular frame, set between TOP and cross rails, that enclosed a decorative row of open verticals, which was the chair’s chief highlight. This arrangement consisted of a miniature ornamental splat and flanking miniature spindles. Above and below this device, the chair rails themselves were open compositions. The top rail was composed of two horizontal bars joined by small wooden spheres, and the cross rail combined a horizontal member with a lower, upwardly curved, tapered rod; the two were joined by two small spheres. This elegant but busy piece was not made in great numbers and is rarely found today.

NELSON WINDSOR CHAIR (also Trafalgar Windsor chair)

SCROLL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRwhose cross rail bore ornamental twist turning, usually on a central section flanked by short baluster-turned elements. This chair, made in Britain in about 1810-40, was an example of TRAFALGAR FURNITURE, made to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.


Nineteenth-century type Windsor chairs form whose back comprises two stiles, each with simple rearward scroll at top, and two rails between them: a plain upper one, about four to six inches broad, and a narrower cross rail below which was frequently decorated. The names of the variants of the scroll-back chair reflect the cross rail’s ornamentation.


Variant of 18th-century COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR with a high back, above which a comb curved sharply forward at each end. A shawl or other fabric could be draped over this structure, creating an alcove like recess that provided protection from drafts. It was often made with a central splat flanked with spindles.




Nineteenth-century LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR whose shaped cresting mounted on the arm bow has slight rearward scroll at its upper edge and whose arms flare in an outward scroll at their end. The chair’s legs were connected by an H-stretcher or a double H-stretcher. Developed in the United States in the early 19th century, the smoker’s bow chair was highly popular in both America and Britain by 1840 and has been produced ever since. It has also evolved into the FIREHOUSE WINDSOR CHAIR, CAPTAIN’S CHAIR and BERGERE-BOW WINDSOR CHAIR.


Early version of British WYCOMBE STYLE WINDSOR CHAIR, introduced in about 1840. Its high back was composed of a crest rail and turned spindles, each simply shaped with a slight swelling about a third of the way up. This shape was intended to provide comfort and to support the small of the sitter’s back, but by 1850 curved laths were found to fill this purpose better, and the LATH-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR evolved. A more ornate version of the spindle-back—in which the spindles were more elaborately decorated with ring turning, baluster turning and other turnings — was known as a Roman spindle Windsor chair.


Another name for SCROLL-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, referring to its prominent cross rail, or stay.


Another name for GOTHIC WINDSOR CHAIR, referring to famed neo-Gothic mansion of writer Horace Walpole.


Mid-19th-century British types Windsor chairs whose back was composed of crest rail and central decorative splat, flanked by vertical lengths of cane or rattan, each consisting of two intertwined strands. Shorter lengths of such twisted cane were set below the arms of armchairs. Named for its resemblance to vernacular furniture of the Tyrol, the Swiss chair was fashionable in about 1840-70.


Mid-19th-century British Windsor chair whose open back featured a crest rail, in the form of a narrow horizontal panel, atop two stiles, along with two slender diagonal bars that formed an X between crest and seat.

TAILPIECE Another name for BOBTAIL.


Eighteenth-century American variant of either SACK-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR or COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR, in which a small back bow or comb, with spindles beneath it, was mounted on the main back. Thus, the back was divided into three distinct sections: one below the arm bow, one in the main back and the third above, adding height.

Another name for NELSON WINDSOR CHAIR.


British BOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR with pierced central splat decorated with image of spoked wheel. This motif developed in about 1780 and has been popular in Britain ever since. Earlier in the 18th century, some bow-backs, along with non-Windsor pieces, were made as WHEEL-BACK CHAIRS – that is, their back was composed of a central medallion and radiating spokes—and these are also called wheel-back Windsor chairs. The term has sometimes also been used to refer to the LOOP-BACK WINDSOR CHAIR.


Another name for GOTHIC WINDSOR CHAIR, referring to its mock window-tracery decoration.


Earliest TABLET-ARM CHAIR; 18th- and 19th-century American Windsor chair with large, paddle-shaped writing surface attached to one arm, almost always the right one in early pieces. Frequently a small, flat drawer was placed beneath the writing tablet and a larger one beneath the seat. Writing-arm chairs were usually COMB-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS, but occasionally the SACK-BACK form was used. Developed in the second half of the 18th century, probably in Philadelphia, the writing-arm chair was usually used in schoolrooms, especially in the 19th century, but early examples also appeared in libraries of private homes. Thomas Jefferson is said to have drafted the Declaration of Independence in one of these chairs.


Nineteenth-century British types Windsor Chairs with very high back whose heavy wooden crest rail, in the form of a slightly arched, round-ended horizontal panel, was mounted on the two stiles and the spindles or laths between them. The name refers to a district that was a major center of production of these and other Windsor chairs. Two basic varieties of Wycombe style chair were made, beginning in about 1840, the SPINDLE-BACK and LATHE-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS. The later proved more successful and was made in large quantities into the 1920s.


Eighteenth-century British and Amerycan furniture form, setee constructed like a WINDSOR CHAIR — that is, arm supports and back were mortised into the top of the seat, and legs were mortised into the bottom of it. The backs of Windsor settees were either composed of linked sets of two or three chair backs, designed in one of the Windsor chair styles, or of spindles below a continuous back bow or comb