Chair Arch History
The Arch Tradition
Many towns in Victorian Britain constructed arches to mark special occasions, often composed of objects which symbolised the town, like High Wycombes chairs. However, the origins of this tradition are unknown. None is earlier than the mid 1800s, so it may be that towns around the country got the idea when Londons Marble Arch was moved from Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park Corner in 1850-51.
Chair Arches in High Wycombe
The first known chair arch was put up in 1877 to mark a visit Queen Victoria paid to Disraeli at Hughenden Manor. The idea originated with the Council, who deputed one of its members, Walter Skull, to organise it through the Chair Manufacturers Association. He assembled a Committee which included some of the towns most notable chair masters, including Benjamin Howland and Thomas Glenister.At the bottom were common Windsor and cane-seated chairs, rising with the ascent of the arch through drawing-room, lounge, library, reading, rocking and other seats, to the State chair of the Mayor, covered with red velvet and bearing the gilded crest of the Borough¦This arch attracted great admiration from Her Majesty as she returned from Hughenden, and had the coach stopped to enable her to carefully examine it. (The Cabinet Maker & Complete House Furnisher, Nov 6 1915).
The largest chair arch contained about 400 chairs, and was erected at the Guildhall in 1884 to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales.
West Wycombe Chair makers put up an arch across the High Street outside the George & Dragon in 1889 to celebrate the return of Sir Edwin Dashwood from New Zealand.
There is no evidence of any other full-scale chair arches being erected. Several other commemorative arches were built in and around High Wycombe in the 1800s and early 1900s but these did not include chairs.
However there was an arch of modern chairs put up inside the Town Hall for the visit of the Queen in 1962.
Arch Tribute To Furniture Makers
Hundreds of people celebrated a historic event recently in High Wycombe with the official opening of the Millennium Chair arch. Built as a tribute to the town's famous furniture industry, this modern chair arch recreated the structure built for a royal visit 110 years ago. Spanning the end of the High Street near the Guildhall, the arch was made up of over 200 chairs and is more than 9.5m tall.