I have, at last, made my way through most of the seventeen patent documents and have summarised and illustrated them to the best of my ability. They may be found here.
Eight of the patents relate to chair design or chair manufacturing equipment. The others cover a range of inventions including making and repairing highways, mechanical aids for swimming, signalling for railway trains, counting machines, improvements to colliery tubs, etc. The ones relating to chairs are, of course, the ones of greatest interest but I commend you to read the quote from the 1887 patent in which Reilly complains about the fact that so much of the stuffing used in upholstery is infested with moths, grubs and other vermin. It leads him to abandon its use in favour of drum-like seating.
I have decided to continue this blog as a facebook group which can be accessed here. Gradually I will move all the images and documents to that site but will leave this open, and maintain it for as long as I can, so non-facebook users will still have access to the information here.
I have found facebook to be easier to manage and edit, and I hope it will be easier for people to contact me and to contribute images, comments, and information. I hope to be able to reach a wider audience and, maybe, spark some interest in those who do not already have a Reilly chair.
I’ve never really liked the idea of modernising antiques. The concept of “shabby chic” has always seemed cheap and nasty, perhaps because it so often seems to be done with little skill, care or finesse. Clearly the quality of the piece should dictate the amount of care and skill employed in a restoration, but I accept that Reilly’s chairs are not always amongst the finest, having often been mass produced and for the masses. I suspect, however, that Reilly produced pieces of high quality that we do not recognise as his because they do not employ patented methods of construction or are of his registered designs. But even many of those that have been produced en masse are made of quality mahogany and interesting design and deserve to be preserved and given a new lease of life. Brown furniture is not popular these days so perhaps a thoughtful “modernisation” should be accepted as way of achieving this. Upcycling Reillys is perhaps to be encouraged?
So this is the context in which I encountered this chair on ebay.
“The chair has been re-webbed, has new foam and cushioning while the seat has been finished with a nice bold patterned red fabric. The solid wooden chair has been repainted in a coco chocolate chalk paint then lightly distressed. The seat base has been finished in a lovely gold paint. All the paint work has been sealed with varnish and should last a very long time.
The chair has some lovely lines, carvings and mouldings, hopefully the pictures can do the piece justice.” So wrote Alex Knott of his newly refurbished chair, and I think it could be a feature piece in a modern home. I am grateful to Alex for permission to reproduce his images. He did not know that it is an example of Reilly’s output but he has found the remains of a patent mark on the underside of the seat frame which confirms it.
On looking through Reilly’s registered designs I found an image on which this seems to be based. The design was registered on 17th February 1883.
Alex’s chair back is attached to a seat frame that I have described as “ 4 part frame – curved – nut exposed inside (4-C-NE)”, whereas the design drawing uses a conventional frame with over-stuffed seat. Nice work, Alex!
Thanks also to Beverly Burgess, at Vintage & Retro Treasures in Castleford, West Yorks, for permission to reproduce this image of a chair she has now sold.
It is a variation on the theme of bar backs with splat(s) as shown in the gallery
My thanks to Jo and Lloyd Rust, of Cuckoo Vintage at Wickham Market in Suffolk, for permission to reproduce their images of these chairs. They are an ornate variant of a similar bulls-eye back rail that I have.
They are still available on ebay.
I’ve received a very nice and complimentary email from Sophie Cheney, in Campbellville, Ontario, Canada, which has stirred me from my sloth. That spring has nearly sprung also helps! She sent an image of three of her set of four chairs, the absentee is being repaired.
Thank you Sophie.
I am grateful to Mark Prior, of Prior & Willis Antiques, for letting me use his images of a typical Reilly balloon back chair but with a leg design that’s new to my gallery