High Wycombe Furniture Trade – A Look at the History
The High Wycombe Furniture Trade is perhaps the town’s most notable claim to fame. Several of today’s most influential furniture manufacturers including Ercol, Parker Knoll and G-Plan began life during this exciting wave.
When the High Wycombe Furniture Trade Began
The High Wycombe furniture trade (specifically chair making) is believed to have begun around the later part of the 18th century. Rich forestry of Elm, Beech and Ash trees surrounded the town making it the ideal environment for such a trade.
Men known as “Bodgers” would create legs for simple chairs used within kitchens, servant’s quarters and various public buildings. These legs would then be transported by horse and cart to various furniture factories in High Wycombe where the chairs would be fully assembled and finished.
Our Role in the High Wycombe Furniture Trade
We’ve been in business since 1976. Established by Clive Bailey, GB Foam began life supplying foam to the once booming High Wycombe Furniture Trade. Our foam has been used to bring comfort to copious amounts of high-end furniture. Parker Knoll, G-Plan, Ercol and many more are among the list of furniture manufacturers we’ve supplied to.
Today, we supply foam on a much greater scale. GB Foam Direct allows customers from all over to purchase foam cut to size online. Whether they require replacement sofa cushions or CNC cut acoustic foam tiles, we’re able to help!
Although our operations have expanded considerably, we still remain true to our roots. Our company ethos remains the same as it did back in 1976 and we still supply large amounts of upholstery foam to customers across the UK.
What Happened to the High Wycombe Furniture Trade?
Sadly, the High Wycombe furniture trade is now a shadow of its former self. The early 1990’s recession played a substantial role in the disbandment of many factories.
In 1992, the recession claimed the G-Plan factory leaving approximately 700 people unemployed.
Subsequently, the Glenisters factory closed and was later demolished. Glenisters was High Wycombe’s longest surviving furniture manufacturer and this event paints a clear picture of the state of affairs at this time.
Soon after, more manufacturers began to leave High Wycombe. Parker Knoll made the announcement that they would no longer be manufacturing furniture there.
Also, in 1999 Ercol made the decision to move their operation to Princes Risborough. These events came largely as a result of the rising cost of property in the area.
Celebrating the High Wycombe Furniture Trade
The High Wycombe chair arch is a particularly notable celebratory tradition which dates back to the Victorian era.
The first chair arch was created in 1877. This initial chair arch was constructed to mark Queen Victoria’s visit to Benjamin Disraeli at Hughenden Manor. Upon her return from Hughenden Manor, the arch is said to have attracted the attention of Her Majesty. Her coach stopped so that she could closely admire and examine the arch in greater detail.
The largest chair arch assembled in 1884 contained approximately 400 chairs and was erected to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales.
Finally, the last full-scale chair arch is thought to have been erected in 1889 to celebrate Sir Edwin Dashwood’s return from New Zealand.
Other Chair Arches Celebrating the High Wycombe Furniture Trade
Several chair arches have been created commemorating this old tradition. In 1962 for example, an arch featuring modern chairs was assembled in High Wycombe’s townhall to greet Queen Elizabeth II.
As well as this, in the year 2000, a millennium chair arch was made to celebrate the town’s contribution to the furniture industry. This structure recreated the chair arch originally built 110 years prior. It was over 9 meters high and featured more than 150 chairs of traditional design.
High Wycombe may not create furniture to the scale it once did, but it will forever remain historically famous as one of the UK’s most thriving hubs of furniture manufacturing. We are proud to have been able to contribute to the High Wycombe furniture trade as well as the lasting impression it has formed.