Gothic Revival

There has been some revived interest in Gothic Windsor chairs in these parts lately. I had an enquiry from a reader about the possibility of my making a Gothic Windsor for him. That’s on-going.

I have also received mail from another reader, Peter Flynn, who, for almost thirty years, has taken a keen interest in Gothic Windsor chairs from an historical perspective. Our dialogue has focused on the central joint atop the back of the typical pointed-arch back Gothic Windsor armchair (figure 1) which was previously discussed in the comments of Picture This LXII.

Fig. 1. Yew Gothic Windsor elbow chair, circa 1765.

Peter’s findings are analogous to my own viz. the predominant method of joining the back at the point of the arch is a ‘leg-and-a-half’, lapped and mitred bridle joint, unique, I believe, to these Gothic Windsor chairs (figures 2, 3 and 4) – some barn builder will likely correct me.
Peter has come across left and right-hand variants of the same joint.

Some of these bridle joints are augmented with double-pegs (figure 1) and others with a single peg (figures 2, 3 and 4).

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01aFig. 2. Single-pegged, mitred face of a Gothic chair back. (Peter Flynn)

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01bFig. 3. Top view of a ‘leg-and-a-half’ bridle joint. (Peter Flynn)

Gothic_Windsor_chair_back_01cFig. 4. Reverse showing the simple lapped elements of the bridle joint. (Peter Flynn)

Another method of joining the two halves of these Gothic chair backs is by use of a separate spline.  Dr. Cotton says – as I quoted in Picture This LXII – the “complex interlocking joint” (bridle joint?) is uncommon in these chairs, and describes the use of a “narrow fillet” (spline?) as the norm. That statement is contrary to my, Peter Flynn’s and any dealer’s or furniture restorer’s opinion whom I have conversed with on the matter. I have seen several original butt-mitred joints with loose splines and double pegs; however, a good number of the splines I have encountered were implemented whilst effecting repairs.

There is an arch-back Gothic chair in the Victoria and Albert Museum which Peter has briefly inspected that has a splined back joint. He intends to make a second appointment to examine the chair more comprehensively. I am sure Peter will share his findings with us.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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3 Responses to Gothic Revival

  1. Adam Palmer says:

    That’s a really cool joint. I would want the double pegs for the symmetry, but it really doesn’t appear to be necessary to the joint.


  2. confur says:

    Whatever works…..
    Some better than others
    Time has tells…..


  3. Mark St. John Dobbs says:

    Very interesting Jack. I think these are beautifully made and elegantly designed chairs that display a high level of craftmanship, especially in the various elements of the back – this particular joint adding another layer of complexity! The fitting of a separate tongue with pegs is the obvious and quickest solution for the maker to execute. It’s a real expression of the makers’ skill to employ the other methods you show – for those who appreciate these things! Thanks for an interesting post again. Looking forward to more!


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