Windsor Chair

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 (see MORTISE).
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.

Different varieties of Windsor chair, 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
(see each under WINDSOR CHAIR), or a BENT-WOOD curved outline,
BRACING STICKS (see under WIND¬SOR CHAIR) have sometimes been used
to provide extra support for the backs. Windsor armchairs frequently
incorporate an ARM BOW (see under WINDSOR CHAIR), 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 (see TURNERY),
but early versions, made before 1740, sometimes had simple stave like legs, and in about 1725 – 1810, carved CABRIOLE LEGS (see under LEG)
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 (see each under STRETCHER).
While a few mid-18th-century examples were made entirely of MAHOGANY,
most 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 FRUITWOODS 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 POP¬LAR and PINE, the second; and maple (see BIRD’S-EYE 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 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 (see under WINDSOR CHAIR), simply did not exist in Britain.

An 18th-century American development,

the various LOW-BACK WINDSOR CHAIRS, including the famed CAPTAIN’S CHAIR
(see each under WINDSOR 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.