Westacre Village Furniture - Sofas and Chairs
by Barbara King
Westacre Village furniture was made in Castleacre near Kings Lynn in Norfolk after the first World War. It was started by Ysabel Birkbeck who lived at Westacre High House in Castleacre. Simple materials were used: card, wire, beads, string, paper, fine Liberty fabrics, wool and paint. In this article I am looking at the sofas and chairs and their basic construction.
Firstly the scale of the furniture was not consistent, if you look at the photos of the two sofas and the two armchairs the difference in scale is quite drastic. This only seems to apply to the soft furnishings.
Chair on right with cushion made by Barbara from a Cash's woven silk picture
The sofas and chairs were quite simply made: a wire frame was constructed, this was covered in paper mache which was then painted brown to look like wood. If you look at the photo of the wheelback sofa the frame is more obvious.
The items were then lined with plain cotton, they were then decorated with frills and cushions like the wheelback or padded out and upholstered like the comfy ones. The legs on the furniture varied, sometimes just straight and rounded off, some of them finished with a bead for a foot, all painted brown.
The Wheelback and similar chairs were finished with stiffened bobbin lace and embroidery.
All of the items were beautifully and carefully made; the fabrics and cushions were all hand finished, and the tiny stitches on the cushions were obviously done by some of the young girls who worked on the furniture with Ysabel.
Matching or co-ordinating silk cushions were added to complete the look; a particularly good example is the silk cushion on the small lace back chair edged with tiny glass beads.
The chair itself is a very fine example of their work with a pretty rounded hand stitched seat pad and a finished decoration of gold lacquer over the brown areas.
The style and appeal of the furniture has endured well over the years. Much has survived despite it being fairly fragile, and it is much sought after today.