This chair appeared in Heals of London’s catalogue for 1907 (illustrated here), and was manufactured by William Bartlett of High Wycombe (thanks to Oliver Heal for this information). Heals appears to have started buying them in 1900, and stocked them until at least 1920. There was also a side chair. It’s likely that they were sold more widely than just Heals – Norman & Stacey, Artistic House Furnishers of London also seems to have stocked then (thanks to Paul Shutler for this information).
The chair is constructed in, mainly, fumed oak – I think the stretchers are beech. Fuming is a process involving ammonia that darkens the wood and brings out the grain. The rush seat has been replaced in this particular example, and would originally have had edge protectors, strips of thin wood pinned to the edges of the seat to reduce wear to the rush.
Although the chair looks superficially similar to Clissett’s ladderback, there are many differences; the timber is just one. The chair is obviously factory made, having none of the character of a country, handmade item. There is no pegging; it’s held together entirely by glue. The seat edges are curved, making this appear a rather more sophisticated design. Turnings are different too, and the finished parts are thicker and heavier in appearance. While the overall height of the chair is more or less the same as the Clissett, the arms are higher, and the seat is bigger in all dimensions, particularly in depth. Despite the greater depth, it’s not a particularly comfortable chair to sit in. This seems to be due to a very upright back – despite having a curve to the back legs, the designer failed to get any slope into the back, something that Clissett achieved superbly.
While there could be some concern that these chairs might be directly mistaken for Clissett’s work, but I haven’t (yet) seen that happen. But I have seen them offered for sale by two separate dealers as “designed by Ernest Gimson and possibly made by Edward Gardiner”, and by one saleroom as “attributed to C.R. Mackintosh”. These are convoluted errors that dedicated readers of this website will appreciate.