Styles of English Antique Windsor Chairs

Written by joanne robitaille
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Styles of English Antique Windsor Chairs
English Windsor chairs were so popular that they crossed the Atlantic. (chair image by hazel proudlove from

Windsor chairs have been a common feature in English homes since the 18th century. The exact origin of the name is unknown, but the likely explanation stems from their prominence in the Windsor area of England. Comb-back chairs are the most readily available type of antique Windsor chair. Similar in style is the bow back chair. A rarer type of Windsor chair is the Gothic chair.

Comb-Back Windsor Chairs

Stick-back or Comb-back Windsor chairs are a very common style of Windsor chair. The most simple of these have two rows of tapered spindles. The lower level follows the entire back and sides of the saddle seat. A curved rail is set on top of the spindles to form the chair's arms. The upper row of spindles is narrower as it only supports the back. The name "comb-back" is derived from the crest rail that tops the second row of spindles. The shape of these combs varies depending on the style of the chair. Simple combs are relatively straight with a plain ear on either end (the end of the rail resembles a human ear). On more ornate chairs, the combs are elaborately carved all the way to the ear. The legs of comb-back Winsor chairs are straight turned legs set at slight outward angles and joined together with H-shaped spacers.

Bow Back Windsor Chairs

Bow back Windsor chairs feature a rail that is a continuous hoop rising from the arm supports. Basic versions of this chair have tapered spindles set in the upper and lower rows. The lower row of splats extends only slightly onto the sides of the seat instead of extending the whole length of the arms as in a comb-back chair. The soft curve of the rail is replicated into the curve of the arm splats. The legs of bow back chairs can be simple turned legs or more decorative cabriole legs.

Gothic Windsor Chairs

Gothic Windsor chairs first made their appearance in about 1760. The backs of these chairs have distinctive arched points that make them look like the stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals. The simple turned splat that's a feature of other Windsor chairs is replaced with diagonal struts on the Gothic Windsor chair. Within these struts are geometric cutouts that further the chair's resemblance to a cathedral window. Gothic Windsor chairs have front cabriole legs with a wide upper convex curve leading down to a narrow concave curve and solid feet. In contrast to the ornate front legs, the back legs of a Gothic chair are simple turned spindle legs.

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