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From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria

Pair of two wicker armchairs, painted dark brown. The open wicker weave pattern extends from the seat up to the armrests and completely over the backrest, plus across the front of the chair below the seat. The seat is very firmly woven and fitted into a timber frame. A reinforcing pattern of wicker work covers the top edges of the armrests and backrest in one piece and folds around to the underside, referred to as ‘rolled serpentine arms and back’. The hollow ends of the armrests are filled with a circular knob of wicker work. The back legs are also completed with decorative wicker knobs. One chair base (3788.01) has been strengthened with metal bracing. The other chair (3788.02) has the remnants of an orange manufacture’s tag fixed to the base. The chairs were made 1897-1921 by Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company, USA. These chairs are part of the Giles Collection.
W 72 x H 86 x D 72 cm
Object Registration
flagstaff hill, warrnambool, shipwrecked coast, flagstaff hill maritime museum, maritime museum, shipwreck coast, flagstaff hill maritime village, great ocean road, giles collection, giles family, henry and mary jane giles, tower hill, cooramook, warrnambool breakwater, mailor’s flat, wangoom, 19th century furniture, wicker armchairs, rolled serpentine wicker work, cane armchair, wicker armchair, classic wicker furniture, victorian style furniture, domestic furniture late 19th century, domestic furniture early 20th century, heywood brothers & wakefield company of gardner massachusetts usa, heywood-wakefield company, levi heywood
Historical information
This pair of chairs is one of many 19th century items of furniture, linen and crockery donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village by, Vera and Aurelin Giles. The items are associated with the Giles Family and are known as the “Giles Collection”.

Many of the items of furniture, linen and crockery in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage were donated by Vera and Aurelin Giles and mostly came from the simple home of Vera’s parents-in-law, Henry Giles and his wife Mary Jane (nee Freckleton) whose photos are in the parlour. They married in 1880.

Henry, born at Tower Hill in 1858, was a labourer on the construction of the Breakwater before leaving in 1895 to build bridges in N.S.W. for about seven years.

Mary Jane was born in 1860 at Cooramook. She attended Mailor’s Flat State School where she was also a student teacher before, as family legend has it, she became a governess at “Injemiara” where her grandfather, Francis Freckleton, once owned land.

Henry and Mary’s family of six, some of whom were born at Mailor’s Flat and later children at Wangoom, lived with their parents at Wangoom and Purnim west, where Henry died in 1933 and Mary Jane in 1940.

Wicker and Rattan furniture

Wicker work furniture describes a technique of weaving plant materials such as rattan, willow, bamboo, straw and rush. A very wide variety of furniture for indoors and outdoors can be made using this technique. The natural material is made wet to soften it then it is bent and woven to create different designs. In more recent decades synthetic materials are also used for wicker work. The strength and durability of the wicker furniture depends upon the chosen material that is used.

Heywood Brothers

The Heywood Brothers and Company, founded by Levi Heywood, was one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in the United States. The company was established in 1826. By the early 1870s they began producing a line of wicker furniture from their factory in Gardner, Massachusetts. Their wicker furniture had become very popular towards the end of the 19th century.

In 1897 the Heywood Brothers merged with its rival company and the two leading wicker manufacturers became Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company, to become the most famous of all wicker furniture companies, with Henry Heywood as President. Many of their employees were Irish and Italian immigrants. Henry quickly created an export market by establishing two new warehouses in London and Liverpool; later he expanded them to eleven. Their first catalogue was produced in 1898 and the new business promoted itself as “Makers of Reed and Rattan Furniture, Chairs and Chair Cane Children’s Carriages”. The catalogue displayed many examples of fancy wicker “lady’s rocking chairs”. The sketches demonstrated a variety of wicker patterns and chair designs in the Victorian style of furniture.

In 1921 the name was simplified to Heywood-Wakefield Company. The wooden furniture manufacturing plant was in Gardner, Massachusetts and it closed business in 1979 while other branches of the company continued manufacturing.

The Heywood-Wakefield Company Complex in Gardner was added to the National Historic Register in 1983. In 1994 the South Beach Furniture Company bought the rights to its name and reproduces the wooden furniture.
When Made
Made By
Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company (Maker)
The Giles family collection has social significance at a local level, because it illustrates the level of material support the Warrnambool community gave to Flagstaff Hill when the Museum was established. The wicker furniture is a fine example of late 19th and early 20th century light weight domestic furniture.
Inscriptions & Markings
Printed in black on an orange tag “MANUFA - Heywood B – GARDNE”
Last updated
13 Jan 2020 at 11:36AM