The museum has these classed as “chapel chairs”, but nothing else is known about them. The lift-up seat led to the suggestion that these were stacking chairs, but the low front stretcher wouldn’t allow this. I think the clue to their function is in two holes drilled in each of the lower stretchers, one of which contains the remains of a broken screw. My view is that the chairs originally had kneeler boards (hopefully with padding!) screwed to the lower stretchers, and that these were originally kneeler or prayer chairs. This explains the single low front stretcher, and the lack of a font rail below the seat.
Another clue to the function of these chairs is the top rail, angled so that the arms can be comfortably rested when in the kneeling position. One of the chairs has a number, 106, fixed to the top rail suggesting that there may have been a large number of them originally.
I knew nothing about this type of chair, but a trawl of the internet threw up a range of examples in a variety of styles, including a mid-20th century plywood version attributed to Hans Pieck. I’ve included some of them below.
There seems little doubt that the chairs in the Hereford Museum were made by Clissett. Aside from the stamped initials, the construction is clearly a modification of the standard West Midlands elm-bottomed chair, and retains the slotted back rail which holds the fixed part of the seat. They also show Clissett’s usual method of marking up the legs for the side stretchers.
Are there any other examples of these Clissett-made chairs out there? And does anyone know who they were made for? [This chair has now been incorporated into a page on the main website.]