The chair belongs to a descendent of John Hubert Clissett, one of the two grandsons who worked with Philip in the early 20th century, and who carried on the workshop briefly after his death. The chair has been passed down the family as having been made by Philip himself. Many thanks to Anna Lawrie for getting in touch and for supplying some great photographs of her chair.
The chair is built like a fairly standard West Midlands chair, but has no pegs in any of the joints (we’ve seen this in other small chairs by Clissett). Some obvious Clissett features include the finials, which are more or less those used on the classic ladderback, and the rush seat with the typical Clissett method of weaving the front edge. We can even find the typical Clissett scribe marks marking the insertion points for stretchers.
The chair is unusual in being essentially a ladderback, but with dowels rather than slats. Cross rails like these, with central ring turnings are unknown in Clissett’s chairs, other than from the two flap-seated chairs in the Hereford Museum. The arms are similarly unusual on a Clissett-made chair, with the only other example discovered so far on one of the three known high chairs. The front arm supports are the lower three-quarters of the turning commonly used by Clissett on his spindleback armchairs. The pattern of the fancy turned front stretcher is known from a couple of Clissett’s side chairs, and from two by his brother-in-law, William Cole. The only features of this chair that are not known from other chairs are the front feet, and the stretcher pattern. Single rather than double stretchers is an obvious compromise on such a small chair, and single front stretchers (both patterned and plain dowel) are found on a number of Clissett’s full-sized chairs. Note that the rear stretcher is missing from this chair.
Miniature items of furniture like this are often described as apprentice pieces. I’ve also heard it suggested that they are demonstration pieces, and this chair certainly shows off a range of Clissett features. But it seems equally possible that it was made for children or grandchildren to play with. Whatever the case, it’s wonderful that it has survived, and that it’s retention in the family provides such good provenance.