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History of the Collection

The Frederick Parker Collection is in two parts, comprising around 200 English chairs dating from the 1670s to the present and the archive of Parker Knoll and its original company, Frederick Parker & Sons, established in 1869.

The chair collection was mainly formed by Frederick Parker & Sons between 1900 and 1930 as a resource for making reproduction furniture.  Antique styles were popular in the first half of the 20th century, particularly Queen Anne, Georgian and Regency styles, and these were copied from original models to create furniture suitable for use in homes, hotels, ocean liners and public buildings.  The Parkers built a collection of over 300 antique chairs, many with original upholstery and finishes.  They were generally not restored and so they remain with much of their history intact.  This is not a museum collection in the usual sense, but it is a unique and fascinating study collection. 

In 1997 Parker Knoll decided to dispose of the collection and The Frederick Parker Foundation was set up to save the most significant chairs for educational use.  Between 1997 and 2016 the Foundation added to the collection, mainly with 20th century chairs, including a number of Parker Knoll models from the Utility and post-war period as well as examples of modern and contemporary design.  In 2002 the collection was placed on long-term loan with London Metropolitan University. 

The Parker archive covers the history of Frederick Parker & Sons and Parker Knoll from 1869 to around 2005 and includes furniture designs, sketch books, fabric samples, photographs, films, company brochures, furniture catalogues, advertising and publicity material, business and financial records, as well as an extensive collection of wood carvings and plaster casts.  The archive was given to the Foundation in 1997 and was also placed on long-term loan with London Metropolitan University. 

In 2013 the Foundation agreed to transfer ownership of the chair collection and archive to the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, a process which was completed in 2016.  The archive was catalogued during 2016-18 in a project generously funded by Parker Knoll.  The chair collection was catalogued and professionally photographed between 2019-23. The collection and archive are accessible for study both online and at London Metropolitan University.  Visitors by appointment are welcome and touring exhibits are available for loan to schools, colleges and training centres.