As part of this line of enquiry, I pulled from the files a photocopy I was given some time ago. This showed the living room of Raymond Unwin who, with Barry Parker, was architect and planner at Letchworth Garden City. He occupied this house (“Laneside” at Letchworth) between 1904 and 1906. The photograph came from the book Raymond Unwin: garden cities & town planning by Mervyn Miller (published 1992); Miller refers to the chairs as “Clissett”. When Unwin moved to Hampstead in 1906, to the house he was to occupy for the rest of his life, it seems that the chairs went with him. (The copy of the photograph shown here comes from a copy of The Craftsman published in 1911)
Following this line of enquiry held some surprises. The National Portrait Gallery holds some photographic portraits of Unwin. In one of these, taken in the 1930s by the Bassano studio, Unwin appears to be sitting in one of the chairs seen in the much earlier photograph. The visible parts of this chair make it clear that it is Clissett's. Time to look a little further...
Unwin's partner, Barry Parker, published a long series of articles around 1910 in the American magazine The Craftsman. Each of these is illustrated by photographs of houses and interiors by Parker & Unwin, including the first photograph referred to above. Several others of the illustrated interiors feature these same ladderback chairs, showing Clissett's chairs in Arts & Crafts interiors dating from 1899 in England, Scotland and Ireland.
A final piece of circumstantial evidence. One of only two surviving bills of sale from the Clissett workshop dates from 1906, and is made out to Mr Wilson Bidwell. Richard Wilson Bidwell (1877-1944) worked with Parker & Unwin in Bakewell, and went with them to Letchworth.
And one final surprise. In several of his articles, Barry Parker claimed (personally, or with his partner) to have designed all the furniture in the interiors shown. The total number of possible designers of the “Clissett” ladderback is now four; James MacLaren (the front runner), Ernest Gimson (according to many dealers and some museums – no evidence for this), the architectural team of Arnold Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer (according to the V&A – but again no evidence) and, now, Parker & Unwin!