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Pair of chairs: M.485A & B-2015

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 11 (20th Century)


Pair of chairs


Designer: Makepeace, John
Maker: Baines, Clive
Upholsterer: McGraidy, Karl
Founder: Delrosso, Lee




Fumed English oak, cast and polished aluminium, and red leather.


History note: Commissioned from John Makepeace by the donors.

Legal notes

Gift of Nicholas and Lady Judith Goodison, through the Art Fund

Place(s) associated

  • Beaminster ⪼ Dorset ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (2015-07-13) by Goodison, Nicholas and Judith


Early 21st Century
Production date: AD 2015


Text from object entry in A. Game (2016) ‘Contemporary British Crafts: The Goodison Gift to the Fitzwilliam Museum’. London: Philip Wilson Publishers: This pair of chairs was made from English oak planted at Longleat, Wiltshire, in 1740 and felled in 1980. They were originally designed as part of the ceremonial furniture for the graduation ceremonies at Plymouth University. The university commissioned four chairs of these dimensions and three larger chairs (95 cm high) bearing its shield on the aluminium backs (Serendipity 2), all upholstered in blue leather. These were made by the same craftsman with Jemma Thompson gilding the shields. The chairs were a development of Makepeace’s Serendipity 1 design, a chair with four legs and aluminium back, which was among the exhibits in his retrospective touring exhibition John Makepeace: Enriching the Language of Furniture originated by the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in 2010–11. Its appearance in the exhibition’s showing at Somerset House led to this commission. John Makepeace is one of the leading and most influential furniture designer/makers of the last forty years. His own formative influences were the furniture of Scandinavia, which he visited in 1956, traditional African artefacts and dwellings (he travelled there in the mid-1960s), and the work of the Barnsleys, Sidney (1865–1926), Ernest (1863–1926) and Edward (1900 1987). He began work as a furniture-maker with an apprenticeship to Keith Cooper (b.1917) in Dorset. He set up his own workshop in his home county of Warwickshire. He had some considerable early success with the London retailers Habitat, Heal’s and Liberty and was widely acclaimed for his innovative dining table made for Liberty in 1975. He was invited to join the Crafts Council in 1972. He was soon commissioned to design and make furniture by Templeton and Keble Colleges, Oxford, Banque Générale du Luxembourg, and museums and corporate and private collections both in Britain and abroad. He bought Parnham House, Dorset in 1976, where he established his workshops and founded the Parnham Trust and the School for Craftsmen in Wood, which was opened in September 1977 and later became Parnham College. The Trust provided integrated courses in design, making and management for aspiring furniture-makers. Upwards of 200 aspiring furniture-makers took the course, including Jim Partridge and Rod Wales. In 1982 the Parnham Trust bought Hooke Park, a 350-acre area of woodland nearby, where Makepeace established a European programme of collaborative research which explored the improved utilisation of indigenous timber, resulting in a number of award-winning buildings. He moved Parnham College to Hooke Park in 2000, appointing a new director. The College was subsequently amalgamated with the Architectural Association. Following the sale of Parnham in 2001, John Makepeace purchased Farrs, a listed house in Beaminster, where he continued with his work as a designer/maker. He was awarded the OBE in 1988 and has received several other awards including the American Furniture Society’s Award of Distinction in 2002. He now works almost entirely to commission, especially for private clients, principally as a designer, with independent craftsmen who have been members of the Makepeace Studio over the last 30 years. He is renowned for the subtle elegance of his designs and the excellence of the craftsmanship, and for the attention he pays to the function, structure and context of each furniture commission. ‘John Makepeace has a special place in the history of design and fine furniture making.’ Professor Jeremy Myerson, Royal College of Art, London John Makepeace: ‘As a designer and a maker, I am constantly searching for more eloquent concepts for furniture. My objective is to achieve freer, lighter, stronger and more sculptural forms better suited to their function and more expressive of what is unique about each commission. My passion is to create masterpieces that enrich people’s lives and the language of furniture.’ A life history interview with John Makepeace is available at

The design of the chairs was originally made by John Makepeace for ceremonial furniture for the Graduation Ceremonies at Plymouth University. They were made by Clive Baines, and other craftspeople, with castings by Lee Delrosso and upholstery by Karl McGraidy.

Components of the work


Materials used in production

red Leather

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.485A & B-2015
Primary reference Number: 204648
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Wednesday 22 July 2015 Updated: Tuesday 22 December 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 31 March 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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