East Riddlesden Hall Shepherd’s chair

SAMSUNG CSCYesterday we went to East Riddlesden Hall, which is our local National Trust property and is on a scale that suits us best.  It’s really not much more than a farm house, but was enlarged and upgraded by James Murgatroyd of Halifax who made his brass in the woollen industry.  The Hall is also where I’m taking my beginner’s bee keeping course and where The Airedale Beekeepers Association have their apiary.  The Hall exterior has black-faced stone, fairly rare now in the industrial West Riding, and is a relic from the heavily polluted sooty air during the Industrial Revolution.  The parish church in Halifax was another fine example last time I saw it.

I wanted to visit to take a few pictures and measurements of this chair:

SAMSUNG CSCIt is an example of a type of chair made in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Dales in the 18th and nineteenth century.  They are also known as lambing chairs.  I’ve yet to find any evidence to support the theory that they were used by shepherds at lambing time and the dog or a lamb could be housed under the seat.  This one is certainly enclosed on three sides and would work as such, but more often they have a drawer under the seat, and maybe that is just missing from this one – my photos don’t give me enough detail to check, so I’ll have to revisit.  There is a very steep rake to the back, which I think is partly due to the back feet having rotted more than the front ones.

The main features of the style are the framed back. winged sides, arms and framed undercarriage.  Several examples also have the rope support for the seat and some have rather good carving to the back panelling.  There are not a great many survivors and so each one seems to vary from the others quite a bit. Bernard Cotton in his “English Regional Chairs” shows seven examples, none with a maker’s stamp.  He says:

The great variety of individual designs found in this group of chairs suggests that they were made by cabinet makers or carpenters for an individual order, rather than working in th tradition of the turner who made many chairs in the same design.  These chairs were, perhaps, the most comfortable and commodious made in the English common chair tradition.

It strikes a particular chord with me as we had one which used to have rockers (since removed) and my brother now has it.  I’ll be taking some photographs later.  The reason for my current interest is that I’ve been asked to make a story chair for Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes.  The chair will be sited outside in a new wildlife area so I’ll be finishing it off in situ on 23rd May at the opening of the new wildlife area.  The demands of outdoor living mean that the chair will not be a copy of an indoor shepherd’s chair, but inspired by the style.  I hope to have the shaped wings and arms and a panelled back as well as some basic carved decoration, hopefully.  The bottom will need to be very sturdy to create a robust bottom-heavy balance and withstand the rigours of Dales weather.

Last Friday I started splitting out some oak from a massive Bolton Abbey stem that I’ve already used in other work.  Here’s where I’ve got to so far:


These are the raw splits into the thicknesses I will require adding an allowance for cleaning up, removing bark and sapwood etc.

The whole chair will eventually weather to this colour:


But when freshly broken out of the oak butt it has this colour and an addictive aroma reminiscent of oak casks, whisky and leather:

SAMSUNG CSC  I’ll be doing some updates on this project as it progresses, maybe even doing one of these jobbies that Tony filmed during his coursework last Friday:

Meanwhile, I’ve a charcoal burn to do for an order as well as a couple of courses.

More woodland animals on the escape from Strid Wood:


Coppice work

I took my wife and daughter out for a couple of hours coppicing work at Lord’s Wood, Giggleswick, N Yorkshire:

This is a wood attached to a recently closed limestone quarry. It is a nature reserve managed on a voluntary basis by Craven Conservation  Group and Natural England’s Ingelborough staff .  Interesting mixture of sycamore, lots of ash, small elms, individual larches, hazel and a small amount of beech and cherry (and probably others that I didn’t see).

The wood is all about the same age and must have been clear felled a few decades ago.  It is based on a limestone pavement complete with clints and grykes, but which, unlike many in The Dales, are unexposed and covered over with a thick layer of vegetation, mainly moss at this time of year.  I’m told by those who know that there is interesting flora and I’ll be returning to check it out in Spring.

The work was to reduce the amount of sycamore and create some clearings.

There was an opportunity to obtain some sycamore timber, which is good for kitchen tools being close grained, but the stacks of wood made me think a charcoal burn might be fun later in the year, which seemed to meet with approval. There’s plenty of wood as the clearing has been going on for a couple of Winters or three:

Back at the bodgery work has been moved home temporarily due to transport problems (enough said).  I’m working on small tables and bird tables and stools.  Pictures later.

And after the excellent Mastercrafts programme on BBC2 last Friday there was a lot of interest in the bodgery on Sunday, even a few courses to set up.