When tightening and re-upholstering the chair there were some remnants of French period newspaper discovered to the innards though we don’t believe the chair is French, it may haven travelled there at a time. There were also some metal reinforcements to the frame, which both the French and the English used, employing bolts to fix arms and backs from the mid 18th-century onwards. This was continued by the best firms in the UK until the 1870 and then died out as a practice.
The charming hand written label to the underside (now covered but could easily be seen again) of the former owner ‘WM Bramston Esq.’ could well be for the Skreens estate in Roxwell, Essex. Thomas Bramston, Esq., built the house about 1710, but it and the grounds were greatly improved by his successor. Thomas William Bramston, Esq., M.P. He may have signed the chair WM Bramston to differentiate from his father before him as they were both Thomas’.
The frame has some similarities with that of prie-dieu chairs, though these never have arms, the back is similar being high and relatively upright. It may have been a prie-dieu for an infirmed gentleman, a certain Mr Bramston(?), who needed to rest his arms as he set about his devotional activities. The chair also has some similarities to a cock-fighting chair but the back isn’t quite narrow enough. The rear sabre legs are almost double the size you would expect and all of the castors are original. As such it is a mixture of different influences and proves unusual.
First used by the higher clergy during religious services in the early European Middle Ages, the prie-dieu became popular in the 19th century owing to the Gothic Revival and to a pietistic passion for family prayers. During this period their secular use was extended by the introduction of prie-dieu (or devotional) chairs, which followed the general shape of the purely religious version but extended the knee rest to form a low seat.
An intriguing, curious, beautifully sculptural and well-made chair, of which we don’t expect to see the like of again.