The Chilterns were famous for furniture making
High Wycombe was well known for its furniture making trade. Our furniture factory was owned by James Elliot and Son. They made a special type of chair called a Windsor. When the factory first opened, it was used for assembling chairs. Chair legs were brought from people called bodgers (skilled men who worked in huts in the woods). They ‘turned’ legs on equipment called a pole lathe; a foot-operated pedal with string or a wheel attached spun a piece of wood really quickly, and the bodger held a sharp chisel against it to shape it smoothly. They could also make spoons and bowls in the same way – it’s harder than it sounds!
During the First World War the factory made flaps for aeroplane wings, and they also made fireproof furniture for the Royal Navy in World War 2.
Why is it here at the Museum?
It was going to be knocked down so houses could be built. The Chilterns were famous for making furniture and the factory was perfect to represent this.
How old is it?
It was built in 1887 and was a working factory until 1974.
Where did it come from?
This furniture factory came from Shaftesbury Street in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
What can you see in our furniture factory?
Our furniture factory shows a range of woodworking tools that might have been used, there is a pole lathe and chair display. From time to time in one of the downstairs rooms you might see a small exhibition of local artists and crafts peoples work – check the events section of our website for further details.
Half of the furniture factory is used for the Museum cafe.
What is it built from?
Downstairs the two buildings are made from brick, and the upstairs is made from a wooden frame covered in long boards. The roof is made of slate.
Steep stairs on the outside of the building saved space on the inside and made it easier to bring parts of the chairs in from the stock yard downstairs.
Mismatched windows upstairs, made of thin overlapping bits of glass. The strips are all different lengths because they are all leftover bits cut off other sheets of glass – much cheaper to use!
If you’re interested in the furniture factory make sure you see the Museum’s bodgers area located in the woodland behind the playground and near Arborfield barn.