A Shetland Chair Mystery – Solved?

by Giles Pearson for Storytelling Week 2020

The Story of A Shetland Chair

By Giles from Giles Pearson Antique Restoration

Giles is our resident Scottish vernacular furniture expert. Pop in and see him - he's always got a story to tell about his latest finds. Here's one of them, where he attempts to unravel the mystery of the design of a Shetland chair he now has in his possession...


A Particularly Interesting Chair

This chair is one design of many that those that have survived date back to the 18thC. This chair is made of three different woods, panels are Pine and the uprights are Oak and the arms are Birch, and has been built as a "Ladies Chair"  scale wise , quite small, but not a childs chair.

In Shetland itself the considered evolution is that folk in their crofts built their own chairs, ie Vernacular, which are very different to this one, more like a wooden high backed Orkney chair. The timber would have no doubt been collected from beaches and ship wrecks as not many trees grew on Shetland and still don't.
This particular chair has some interesting features, in that, apart from the underarm panels, it has a remarkable resemblance to an 17thC Wainscot Chair, with the pannelling and tongue and groove construction, however, the square front tapering legs, give it a more Georgian , ie late 18th, early 19thC feel.

How Did This Design Evolve in Shetland?

The question for me, is that how did that design evolve in Shetland?
Clearly, someone had seen, sat on, handled and been inspired to create his own design.This suggests someone who had been in England either travelling, or more likely seconded by the British Navy, as all the sailors were, in both WW1 and WW11, even as far back as the Napolionic Wars, ie early 18thC. Not only were the Shetlanders skilled seamen, but skilled woodworkers too as they all made boats, and had done for centuries ie certainly since the Vikings arrived in 700AD, and probably back as far as the Bronze Age, 3000 BC. The Sea was their Highway.
In 1822, a company was set up, Haye and Ogilvy, purely to import timber for the building of the Herring Fleet, which was made out of Larch. This was the first commercial timber import business. Before that, ancient relatives dating back to 1462 would have gone to Norway to see family and friends, the roots are very evident today, indicating trade and timber would have flowed on a regular basis, without any documentary evidence, In the Northern most island of Unst, it takes two, yes 2 hours by boat!

My Conclusion: 

Today in Shetland they would date this chair as 1860, because of "The Shetland Time-lag", based i'm sure on no documentary evidence existing to prove otherwise!!
I would say its early 19thC, circa 1810,  not only for its construction, but one particular feature, that is the arm support set back in the seat rail and with a "curved" profile, for the crinoline skirt!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
What would you like to hear from us about?
By providing your details and signing up to our mailing list(s) above, you agree to Logie Estate storing your details and contacting you with Logie updates and about Logie and activities here. You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at info@logie.co.uk. We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our Privacy Policy. By clicking above you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms. We use MailChimp as our marketing automation platform. By clicking to subscribe you acknowledge that the information you provide will be transferred to MailChimp in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms.

A Shetland Chair Mystery – Solved?

Terms & Conditions for fishing on Logie Estate

  1. Fishing on the river is restricted to 2 rods per beat and is to be by fly only. All fishing is from the right bank. By arrangement with the neighbouring estate there is no left bank fishing on the Relugas Middle and Top beats.
  2. The fishing is split into two 2 rod beats, Logie and Relugas, with Relugas sub divided into Middle and Top.  Beats can be taken together or separately. Logie is fished Monday to Saturday, Relugas Middle on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Relugas Top on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Beats change at midnight.
  3. Fishermen must contact Logie Estate office on 01309 611300 a day or so before arrival to organise being shown onto the river. A map of pools, beats and access routes will be provided.
  4. Bio-security is important to the future of the river and anglers are asked to observe protection measures. The Findhorn District Fishery Board Conservation Code will be strictly observed. To summarise: All fish caught up to 14th May inclusive must be released. From 15th May, all salmon over 9 lbs / 4 kg / 28 inches / 72 cm are to be returned.  Below that measurement at least 70% of salmon and 50% of grilse caught should be released and a maximum of 1 salmon and / or 2 grilse per rod per week may be retained. In September all fish are to be returned. No gaffs or tailers are allowed.
  5. The Findhorn District Fishery Board Bio-security measures will be strictly observed and all fishermen in the party must sign the Bio-security Declaration. (Also available at http://www.fnlft.org.uk/downloads/)
  6. The Estate recommends that barbless hooks are used, fishermen are in possession of a disgorger and that knotless nets are used. All possible care should be taken when returning fish to the river, they should be handled as little, and gently, as possible and should not be removed from the water.
  7. The catch should be reported at the end of each day of fishing to Logie Estate Office on 01309 611300. If the office is closed, please leave a message on the answering machine with the date, weight and pool. Please also report a nil catch day.
  8. Dogs are allowed on the river but must be kept strictly under control at all times. The Estate reserves the right to ask tenants to remove dogs if they are considered to be out of control.
  9. Rod, line and fly size are dependent on prevailing weather and water conditions and personal choice. In general, maximum rod length needed is 13ft with a size 8 or 9 line, usually floating. Fly sizes range from 6 – 8 in the spring down to 12 or less in summer low water.
  10. Safety must be considered at all times. All beats have a variety of pools with some suitable for most heights of water. Little wading is necessary and river paths are good however the fishing is within the Findhorn gorge, access to some of the pools is quite steep and a degree of rock scrambling is often necessary when playing and landing fish. Please be aware that a reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required. A buoyancy aid for each rod is provided and should be collected from Logie Estate Office on arrival, and returned to the Estate Office (or to the outbuilding opposite if office is closed) on departure. Logie Estate strongly recommends that buoyancy aids are worn when fishing and not doing so is entirely at fishermen’s own risk. Please pay attention at all times, avoid slips and falls, wear appropriate footwear, look out for overhead electricity lines, watch the weather and pay attention to livestock. Take extra care if fishing alone.
  11. Anglers need to supply or hire their own equipment (except buoyancy aids, which are provided).
  12. Ghillieing/tuition is available by on a first come, first served basis. This must be booked in advance with the Estate Office and is subject to availability. A half day ghillieing/tuition is approx. 3 hours, full day approx. 6 hours. Please contact the estate office or check our website for current rates. Rates do not include discretionary tips.
  13. Rod, Reel & Line hire is available by on a first come, first served basis. This must be booked in advance with the Estate Office and is subject to availability. Please contact the estate office or check our website for current rates. A rod, reel and line set is for one person and is subject to a fully refundable damage deposit of £100.
  14. Aside from fishermen, others, including rafters and kayakers, enjoy this stretch of river and mutual respect and consideration is expected.
  15. Bookings are confirmed when initial payment is received. Subsequent changes in dates or number or rods are entirely subject to the Estate’s discretion and to availability. Change of dates, if accepted, incur an administration fee. In the event of a cancellation the tenant must advise Logie Estate immediately, whereupon Logie will endeavour to re-let. If a new tenant can be found the deposit will be returned less any expenses incurred for advertising, office costs, etc., and less any shortfalls in discounted list price. Until such time as a vacancy has been re-let the hirer is responsible for making any further payment by the due dates. Failure to do so may mean that the hirer forfeits any refund if the dates are re-let. If it is not possible to re-let, all payments are still payable by the due date(s). It is unlikely that a refund can be made for a late cancellation. Logie Estate recommends that fishermen take out relevant cancellation insurance.
  16. Subletting fishing is only allowed with Logie Estate’s permission.
  17. Logie Estate reserves the right to immediately withdraw fishing without compensation from anyone who breaks these or associated conditions, or flouts normal standards of behaviour or fishing etiquette.