History

Much has been written on the history of the Windsor Chair, however, most of these writings are legends and suppositions. There is no doubt the chair originated in England around 1700 and the most popular theory, obviously, is that it was named after its town of origin, but there is no proof of this. What is known is that it began to appear in North America circa 1720. Because of its light weight, the early Windsor chair was commonly carried outside and was often referred to as a ‘garden chair’.

A few examples of the many styles of Windsor Chairs
(l to r) Northumberland County High Back
Prince Edward County Sack Back
York County High Back

Of all the stories regarding the history of the Windsor, my favorite is of Patrick Gordon who, when appointed Deputy Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties on the Deleware in 1726, brought Windsor chairs with him from England. The colonists of higher standing, having been deprived of some of the newer innovations and fineries from home, saw the chairs and immediately wanted one, so they went to their local jointers and turners to have them made. The tradesman, of course, didn’t have access to the governor’s mansion, and would only be able to build the chair from his customer’s description. The customer may have said, “A fine chair, green of colour from paint, made of a thick wooden seat that is deeply saddled for comfort. The turned legs are let into the seat with tenons and the back, made of delicate yet strong spindles and curved parts, too are let into the seat.” The poor tradesman would be left to his own imagination to properly design the chair, and this could explain why so many different styles of Windsors are around today. Certain styles have been attributed to areas such as Philadelphia, New York and Nantucket, to name a few.

Many Windsors would have been brought directly to Upper and Lower Canada from England, and many more would have been brought from the American colonies by the United Empire Loyalists. The Windsors that are found in Canadian museums and collections do not have a definitive “Canadian style” and therefore the names attributed to our chairs at The County Seat have no historical significance whatsoever: We have simply chosen to name them after many of the early counties of Upper Canada.