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Clissett, Philip (1817-1913)

Clissett, Philip

Bosbury, Ledbury, Herefordshire; chair maker (b.1817-d.1913)

The Clissett family worked as chair makers from at least the middle decades of the eighteenth century. Most of the surviving chairs from the early years of Philip's career are spindleback, rather than the ladderback versions many are familiar with, however, from the late 1880s onwards, the majority of his manufacture seems to have been in the production of ladderback chairs. 

Clissett made several rush-seated chairs for the main hall at the Art Workers Guild in 1888 (priced at 10s 6d each) with his grandson adding at least fifty more to the collection over the following twenty-five years, or so. Philip also taught chair making to Ernest Gimson.

Photographs of the Kenton and Company exhibition at Barnard’s Inn in 1891 showed chairs made by Clissett. Ambrose Heal recalled that his visit to Clissett’s workshop (date unknown) was one of ‘his earliest recollections’. Heal and Son Ltd., along with other retailers, such as Liberty, produced chairs in the Clissett style. 

Ladderback, ash with rush seat, from an original chair by Philip Clissett and possibly made by Heal and Sons for the Passmore Edwards Settlement, British 1897-8.
Ladderback, ash with rush seat designed by Philip Clissett, c.1897 [CIRC.511-1962]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The engineer and architect, Raymond Unwin was a proponent of the Arts and Crafts style and collected Clissett chairs in the early decades of the twentieth century, one of many architects and artists who owned them or used them in their interior design. 

Philip Clissett in his Stanley Hill workshop, c.1910. Tilley & Son, Ledbury

Special thanks to Dr Terry Rowell for providing updated information and advice. Click here to view his website and blogs about Philip Clissett. 

Sources: Comino, Gimson and the Barnsleys ‘Wonderful furniture of a commonplace kind’ (1980); Carruthers & Greensted, Good Citizen’s Furniture (1994); Greensted and Wilson, Originality and Initiative. The Arts and Crafts archives at Cheltenham (2003); Heal, Sir Ambrose Heal and the Heal Cabinet Factory 1897-1939 (2014); Allwood, ‘Innate Bohemians All: decorative artists in the early Garden City’, The Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the Present (2017); Whittaker, ‘Barn Close and the Arts and Crafts Interior’, The Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the Present (2018).

This entry is originally from Dictionary of British and Irish Furniture Makers, 1500-1914.