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'The Handy' Man O'War Garden Chair made by H.Castle & Sons
Manufactured from teak, this is a campaign style folding garden chair with an oval brass plaque riveted to the back confirming : "THE HANDY (REG) A PORTABLE FOLDING CHAIR MADE FROM TEAK WOOD FROM OLD NAVY SHIPS BROKEN UP H.CASTLE & SONS MILLBANK SW". Shipbreakers Castle & Sons, who were the largest shipbreakers in England in the Victorian period, are still in business today. They started their shipbreaking business at the Baltic Wharf, Millbank on the Thames in 1838. The firm specialized in the breaking up of wooden warships there; Turner's famous painting entitled "The Fighting Téméraire" shows that ship being towed to Castle's yard on her final journey. It was found by Castle's that reclaimed seasoned timbers from decommissioned wooden warship and especially the oak and teak made an source of material for garden furniture. In 1887 the company furnished the grounds of Buckingham Palace for the garden party held in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. In addition Castle's supplied the timber that was reused for other purposes including within the store 'Liberties of London' in 1922 when material recovered from the old training ships 'Impregnable' and 'Hindostan' which were been broken up by them on the Thames was 'repurposed'!
Our chair has clearly been painted at least twice during its life and traces of blue and white can be seen giving it the classic shabby chic look so popular today. The chair folds flat for storage purposes and whilst like all out stock is offered for sale as a collectable it remains in remarkably sound condition despite its age and we estimate it probably dates from c. 1910-1920. With some Castle furniture the plaque also confirmed the Naval ship from which the timbers were recovered but in this instance this is sadly not the case but Castle's records indicate a list of the famous ships from which the Men O'War teak built seats were made was extensive and included famous names such as the 'Colossus', 'Galatea', 'Albion', 'Alexandra ', 'Ajax ' 'Apollo' and 'Arethus'. We can only guess at the origins of our ships timber chair but I remains a fine early example of what we would term 'recycling' but today's trendies refer to as 'up cycling'! The chair is of modest proportions measuring 29" to top of back rest (74 cm) and a 16" (41 cm) seat height. Grab this small but beautifully formed piece of Royal Navy history whilst you can!