The Frederick Parker Collection is a unique educational resource spanning 300 years of British furniture making to the present day. Currently, the collection holds over 190 chairs.
Frederick Parker was born in 1845. In 1871, with the help of four of his sons, he established a substantial furniture and upholstery business with a particular emphasis on ship furniture. During this period, Parker’s manufactured high quality furniture for ocean liners, country houses and palaces.
In 1931, taking advantage of the recently invented tension suspension system, the firm was rebranded as Parker Knoll.
Many of the chairs in the collection were purchased in the early years of the 20th century. At that time the period styles of the 17th and 18th centuries were very much in vogue, and Frederick Parker used his antique examples as models for his craftsmen to reproduce.
The Collection was used as a working tool, housed within the environs of the Parker factory. Many of the chairs were in ‘original’ condition, had alterations or additions, even a few were deliberate fakes, giving us today an invaluable opportunity for study and research.
In 1997, Frederick Parker’s great grandson, the late Jonathan Arnold MBE, together with the help of the Parker family, Lord Alliance and friends both inside and outside the furniture industry, established the Frederick Parker Foundation as a registered charity with the aim of buying back the major part of what was then known as the Parker Knoll Collection.
The Collection is now on long-term loan to the London Metropolitan University and is housed in a specially-built gallery within the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design. The curator is Dr John Cross.
In 2013, under the guidance of new chairman, Cliff Rust, the foundation merged with The Furniture Makers’ Company, the furnishing industry’s charity.
Today, the Collection is recognised as an important educational resource, and the custodians seek to promote and encourage the study of furniture, furniture history and the design and development of the British chair.
The Collection is still evolving and the custodians purchase interesting chairs on a regular basis.