Lawrence Neal (Marchmont House)

The Scottish Gallery is delighted to have partnered with Marchmont House, who are currently championing the work of Lawrence Neal who makes traditional rush seated chairs, a village craft that was founded by Ernest Gimson. Marchmont house, situated in the Scottish Borders, is about to undertake a programme of furniture apprenticeships.

“I fell in love with the Ernest Gimson’s Bedales Library and its chairs over 20 years ago when I bought six Bedales chairs from Lawrence Neal in 1994. Much more recently, I have been working with Lawrence Neal, who continues to make rush seated chairs today in a 100 year tradition from Ernest Gimson, still using Gimson’s tools. We now have apprentices working directly with Lawrence before moving the whole workshop up to Marchmont House stables in Berwickshire to let Lawrence retire and take the business forwards within a charitable structure. The business will generate a good living and offers the opportunity to grow and evolve, with an incredible lineage, using the actual tools of Ernest Gimson from Daneway – one of Britain’s greatest architect designers and pioneers of The Arts and Crafts Movement.” Hugo Burge, Marchmont House, 2019.

This exhibition will feature a historical example of a rush seated chair from the 1940s - the Clisset no.2b Armchair by Edward Gardiner and a contemporary exmaple form Laurence Neal - the Bedales Armchair. Lawrence has been making rush-seated chairs by hand for over 50 years, using rushes from the local river and material from nearby ash woodlands in his native Warwickshire. He is the fifth chair maker in an 128-year tradition which began in 1890 when the Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson learnt to make chairs from an elderly Herefordshire chair-maker named Philip Clissett, keeping a dying craft alive. Edward Gardiner, and Lawrence’s father Neville were the third and fourth makers in the tradition. Today, Lawrence makes chairs in the traditional way of his predecessors.

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