I’m thinking of getting a mahogany spray tan. Now some of you might be wondering why, and others who know me well might be questioning whether that shade is appropriate for someone with red hair. It really was a toss up between the tan and a black leather jacket and a perm, because right now I feel like a cross between David Dickinson and Lovejoy.
You see, I’m working on a piece of furniture at the moment for someone who found me through this very blog (Hi Charlotte!) and while I was stripping back this little armchair, I found an intriguing mark stamped clearly on the underside of the arm which said ‘CC41’.
I’ve never professed to know a huge amount about antiques, in fact I really know very little. My involvement with and love of furniture has been based mostly on the aesthetic, but I really am starting to pick up bits of knowledge as I go along and I found this makers stamp quite exciting. Just like Lovejoy, I went straight to Google (I may be using a little artistic licence there) and discovered that ‘CC41’ is in fact the mark that was stamped on to genuine Second World War utility furniture. Admittedly there are probably harder mysteries to solve and this wouldn’t have been any easier to identify if it had a stamp saying ‘Jon, I’m a piece of utility furniture you plonker’ but I’m going to embrace the idea of being an expert for a few moments at least.
Irrespective of the ease of identification, I still felt like I was looking at a historically significant item of furniture. Commissioned in the early 40’s at a time when timber supply was falling short and demand for furniture was very high, this little chair would have been one of the designs approved by the Utility Furniture Advisory Committee. Like most commodities at the time, these furniture items would have been rationed with priority given to newly weds and people who had been bombed out of their homes.
The first ranges to come from this scheme were detailed in a catalogue in 1943, and while the designs needed to be robust and economical in their use of timber, the designers did their best to produce items that balanced function with simple visual appeal. I was very excited to be able to find an image from one of the catalogues showing a very similar chair. And the ‘CC41’ logo? Well it’s said that this was taken directly from the earlier Civilian Clothing scheme of 1941. The committee continued until 1952 when the public desire to move on from wartime austerity rendered these items unfashionable.
It’s warming to think that this little fellow, designed to get people back on their feet, has survived and been of genuine use for all these years. He’s being treated to a frame up rebuild, a plain fabric and three simple buttons as his only adornment. I think that’s pretty in keeping with his utilitarian origins, don’t you?