The Frederick Parker Collection is a unique and outstanding educational resource spanning over 300 years of British furniture making and design, from 1660 to the present day.
The collection comprises over 200 chairs, together with an archive of related historical documents and artefacts. The collection was established by Frederick Parker (1845-1927) who together with four of his sons, had set up a furniture and upholstery business in 1871.
Following the introduction of the recently invented tension spring suspension system in 1931, the Parker family business was renamed and rebranded as Parker Knoll. The Parker Knoll Company continues to the present day as one of the leading British manufacturers of furniture, and the company is a key supporter of the Frederick Parker Collection.
The collection was established and developed by Frederick Parker to enable his craftsmen to reproduce and learn from styles from earlier historical periods. For example, in the early years of the 20th century, styles from the 17th and 18th centuries were in vogue and chairs from this period form a large proportion of the collection.
The collection was used as a working tool, and many of the chairs within the collection are in “original” condition, having had alterations or additions – a few are even deliberate fakes. All of this gives those using the collection today an invaluable opportunity for study and research into every aspect of the development of chair making in Britain since 1660.
The collection became part of The Furniture Makers’ Company in 2013, with Past Master Cliff Rust as Chairman. The Curator of the collection is Dr John Cross of the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University. Read an article here from The Sunday Telegraph about John and the collection.
The collection is internationally recognised as an important educational resource, and the Frederick Parker Collection Committee seek to promote and encourage the study of furniture, furniture history and the design and development of the British chair, through building, maintaining and promoting the collection.
The Frederick Parker Collection is a “living” collection and continues to evolve, with the regular purchase of new chairs to illustrate the most current developments in design and manufacture.
The collection and archive have been on long-term loan to London Metropolitan University since 2002, and both are now housed in the University’s Archives and Special Collections Gallery at Old Castle Street, London E1. The installation of chairs from the collection into a number of display areas is almost complete, and access and visiting times will be advertised and promoted soon. The contents of the Archive are now appropriately and accessibly stored and the archive inventory is being developed into an accessible catalogue which, when completed, will be available online, enabling items from the Archive to be retrieved for study and research purposes.
Renowned British furniture designer and Furniture Makers’ liveryman Tim Gosling included four chairs from the collection in a special feature at this year’s Decorex International (18-21 Sept).
Embracing this 2016 show’s theme, the roots of design, Tim constructed a spectacular exhibition of 12 chairs, including four from The Frederick Parker Collection, called ‘The Heritage of Chair Making’ that documents the links between interior design, architecture and the exceptional heritage of British craftsmanship through the ages.
Working with the historic collections from the Victoria & Albert Museum and The Frederick Parker Collection, Tim asked 12 leading British visual creators, including Paul Smith, Jasper Conran and James Dyson, to choose their favourite piece and why it speaks to them.