Almost two hundred years before the Roorkhee chair was adopted by twentieth-century adventurers and militias, Windsor chairs were commonplace anywhere cheap, lightweight and portable seating was required. Black- or green-painted Windsors known as ‘forest chairs’ were used outdoors from the early eighteenth-century and found themselves in all manner of unusual situations (figs. 1 & 2).
The design, light, strong and elegant, and relatively inexpensive, could be as simple or elaborate as taste or customer required, and thus the Windsor made its way in to houses both rich and poor, indoors and out, in the kitchen and hall, library and dining room, in wardrooms of Royal Navy ships and great noble households.
Windsors were ideal for use on the high seas, not only did they barely impact the ship’s payload; they were easily hoisted into the rigging when the decks were cleared for battle.
A set of cartoons by the soldier-cum-artist Abraham James – who served with the 67th Regiment from 1799 to 1801 while posted in Spanish Town – satirized Creole life in Jamaica. The Army and Navy officers depicted in James’ print below are all seated in a type of Windsor known as a ‘smoker’s bow’.
Another form of Windsor, unique to the military, was the one-armed chair used by officers to accommodate the swords that hung by their sides (fig. 5).
Fig. 5. One armed scroll-back officer’s chair circa 1890.
Removing an arm from a Roorkhee chair might result in a somewhat less than favourable outcome.