Samuel Rockall: last of the chair bodgers

The two RockallsThe proud brick quoined flint cottage still stands alone on Summer Heath, once home to the Rockall family for an uninterrupted 180 years. But no longer can freshly cut Beech butts be seen stacked in the shade of a tall hedge or the whinny of Dapple, the family cart horse be heard from the meadow.

A traditional Chiltern Hills way of life ceased when Sam Rockall died aged 84 in 1962. The local newspapers announced: Samuel Rockall, the last of the Bodgers is dead. Continue reading

Chair Turnings

Roman chair from NaplesWoodturning has played more than a supporting role in the history of chair making. From the ancient Egyptians, who used the lathe for turning chair parts, to the latest computer-controlled copy lathes man has endeavored to decorate his furniture and solve the practical turning problems that arise.

Some of the earliest evidence of turned work in English chairs date from the twelfth Century where a chair of state is depicted in an illuminated manuscript written by Eadwine, a monk from Canterbury.

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The Chair Bodgers of Buckinghamshire

Reg Tilbury as a young manThe old chair bodgers of Buckinghamshire are now relegated to history, the last few of them doggedly clinging on to their traditional way of life until the late 1950s. I have been privileged to know some of these craftsmen from the Beech-clad Chiltern Hills and have spent many a cosy hour by their firesides and in their disused workshops sharing their old tales and dry sense of humour. They are all gone now but their legacy is every where. You are supported by their craftsmanship every time you sit in an old Windsor chair. Every leg, spindle and stretcher contains the spirit of these men, the essence of the Beechwoods is still there and if those turnings could talk they would speak of spring Bluebells, red Squirrels and autumn winds. Continue reading