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The Frederick Parker Chair Collection

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Portrait of Frederick Parker

The Frederick Parker Chairs are part of the Frederick Parker Collection that also includes a collection of carvings and the Frederick Parker Company archive. The Collection is a valuable educational tool, providing research and source material for students and academics from a range of disciplines such as interior design, conservation and museum studies, design, furniture, social and business history. Catalogues of the collections and archive will eventually enable the public and scholars from a broad range of disciplines to gain access. This catalogue of the chairs is the first phase of this endeavour.

Frederick Parker (born 1845) built up a substantial and high quality furniture making business. In 1902 the company was registered as Frederick Parker and sons Ltd. He supplied furniture for ocean liners, country houses, palaces and the high-end retail trade. In 1931 a new brand was launched called Parker Knoll. Frederick Parker was convinced that the only way his workforce could produce fine, new furniture for contemporary use was by studying "the old masters". Thus he collected a library of books on furniture, 360 pieces of furniture (mostly chairs) as well as examples of carvings and textiles to inspire his designers and furniture makers.

Frederick Parker & Sons Ltd shop sign

In 1997 The Parker Knoll Company decided that the Frederick Parker Company archive, the associated collections of antique furniture and carvings were surplus assets. The company decided to auction them. Descendants of Frederick Parker and other interested parties formed the Frederick Parker Foundation to purchase items from the collection to maintain it as a study resource, as was the original intent. The Frederick Parker Foundation acquired, from Parker Knoll, 170 chairs, 150 carvings and the Frederick Parker Company archive. In 2002 the Foundation agreed the long-term loan of the chairs, carvings and archive to London Metropolitan University. The chairs went on public exhibition within Metropolitan Works at the Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design, the carvings and archive were placed in secure storage.

Metropolitan Works is London's leading Creative Industries Centre, helping designers, artists and manufacturers develop new ideas and bring new products to the market place through access to digital manufacturing, workshops, knowledge transfer, advice, courses and exhibitions. Within Metropolitan Works are two purpose built galleries. In one gallery the chairs are on permanent display in an environmentally controlled space and open to the public, in the adjacent gallery contrasting contemporary exhibitions are held.

The chair collection demonstrates 350 years of British chair design and manufacture. The chairs represent the pinnacle of design and craftsmanship; demonstrate experimentation with materials; challenge entrenched perceptions of shape and form or are icons of economically successful products, of their day. The history of the attitudes and acceptability of reproductions, fakes and restoration by both the public, and furniture trades, may also be observed.

Catalogue produced by Sue Newton-Short and John Cross

Entrance to the Frederick Parker Chair Gallery
Address: Metropolitan Works
London Metropolitan University
41 Commercial Road
E1 1LA
Tel: 0207 320 1827/ 2832
Fax: 0207 320 1830

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