Wednesday 10 November 2010

The owner of a distressed chair

This chair went out into the garden
to make up numbers one summer evening
and was never brought back in.

It has already had one new lease of life -
I found it in a junk shop,
and re-caned the seat myself,
but I think it's too far gone now.
What a pity we don't have chair menders anymore.

The Chair Mender by Myles Birket Foster c. 1862

I wonder where the last one was seen.

Chair menders were classed as pedlars.
Section 3 of The Pedlar's Act 1871 defines them thus:

'any hawker, pedlar, petty chapman, tinker, caster of metals,
mender of chairs, or other person who, without any horse,
or other beast of bearing or drawing burden,
travels and trades on foot
and goes from town to town or to other men's house,
carrying or selling or exposing for sale any goods,
wares, merchandise immediately to be delivered,
or selling or offering his skill in handicraft.'

In The Law of Street trading including Markets and Fairs 
by Barry Hough
is this observation by J Hutchinson,

'If the distinction is to be encapsulated in an aphorism,
one might say that a pedlar is one who trades as he travels 
as distinct from one who merely travels to trade.
I do not mean that he must not stop...
the chair mender stops in order to mend chairs:
but the feature which makes him a pedlar 
is that he goes from place to place,
mending a chair here and a chair there:
He comes to the owners of distressed chairs, 
rather than setting up his pitch
and allowing them to come to him.'

And if you think that this fine distinction is of little relevance today
I discovered all this information on a local authority website
where it had been invoked to deal with
prohibited street trading in a shopping centre.

Next week:
How to be a costermonger.
You will need a large neckerchief.


  1. But it's a lovely chair and makes a very pretty picture. Can't you keep it in your 'props' department?!

  2. Recaning a seat sounds like specialized work these days. I am reminded of the shoe repairman; who does that, if there is enough business in our disposable world.

  3. Looking for a neckerchief ...

    and enjoying your photo and definition

  4. Puts me in mind of the "No Hawkers. No Pedlars. No Circulars." sign that was often seen on gate-posts.

  5. Yes, too bad! Poor chair. Perhaps it would be a good setting for a flower pot now.

  6. I wish there were chair menders -- I could use one, too.

  7. Oh, teach me to cane a chair! I have a gorgeous old rocking chair (made by my great-grandfather) that must be re-caned soon. I am on the hunt for someone to do it.