Oak backstool, or side chair





Oak backstool, or side chair




A joined oak backstool, or side chair, with boarded seat and panel back, and turned front legs.

Full Description

This oak backstool has mouldings on the back posts and rails as well as along the seat rails and stretchers. The frame is ‘joined’, meaning it is made by a joiner using mortice and tenon joints, secured with wooden pegs. The front legs are turned with bobbin and reel forms, ending in ball feet, now partly worn. The back posts are raked at a slight angle for added comfort, and the back legs have raked heels to prevent the chair from tipping back. The seat is boarded and would probably have had a moulded edge which is now missing. The back may have had a carved crest which is now missing.

Backstools were known as such simply because they were derived from stools. They are amongst the earliest forms of English chairs, introduced from the continent in the early 17th century. The almost square back panel on this chair and the shaping of the back and heels suggest a date in the last quarter of the 17th century. Backstools from the first half of the century generally have an upright back and rectangular back panel. Many such chairs were upholstered, often with leather or ’turkeywork’, an English woollen cloth made in imitation of imported rugs from the eastern Mediterranean.

This was a parlour chair or dining chair, of a type which became relatively common in the homes of the emerging middle classes in the mid-17th century, gradually replacing stools and benches which formed the main seating furniture prior to this date. Backstools were often listed in contemporary inventories, but by the 1670s this type of chair was becoming old-fashioned, particularly in London homes. They were being replaced by comparably priced caned chairs made in walnut or beech, often decoratively turned and carved, and generally used with a squab, or stuffed cushion. They were made in London from around 1660 and by the 1690s were more common than backstools.

Beyond London, backstools continued to be made into the early 18th century. This chair might have been made in the North West of England, where there was a strong tradition in such furniture. It has an unusually low seat, suggesting it might have been used as a nursing chair. The boarded seat and panel back would have meant a less expensive chair than one with upholstery, but it would have been more robust and less prone to damage or wear and tear.


In good original condition.
Crest and seat edge missing.
Feet worn.



Physical Dimensions

H. 81
W. 43
D. 48

Parker Numbers



Not recorded, but in the Collection prior to 1993.


See Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, Antique Collectors Club, 2002, pp.68-83. For a comparable backstool with leather upholstery, 1692, see Plate 3:23
Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture; The British Tradition, Antique Collectors Club, 1995, pp. 278-279.
For other backstools in the Frederick Parker Collection see FPF006, 008, 413 and 414.