Chair bodgers were one of three types of craftsmen associated with the making of the traditional country “Windsor Chairs” . Of the other craftsmen involved in the construction of a Windsor chair, one was the benchman who worked in a small town or village workshop and would produce the seats, backsplats and other sawn parts. The final craftsman involved was the framer. The framer would take the components produced by the bodger and the benchman and would assemble and finish the chair.
In the early years of the 20th century, there were about 30 chair bodgers scattered within the vicinity of the High Wycombe furniture trade. Although there was great camaraderie and kinship amongst this close community nevertheless a professional eye was kept upon what each other was doing. Most important to the bodger was which company did his competitors supply and at what price. Bodger Samuel Rockall’s account book for 1908 shows he was receiving 19 shillings (228 pence) for a gross (144 units) of plain legs including stretchers. With three stretchers to a set of four legs this amounted to 242 turnings in total.
Another account states: “a bodger worked ten hours a day, six concurrent days a week, in all weathers, only earning thirty shillings a week” (360 pence=£1.10s.-)
The rate of production was surprisingly high. According to Ronald Goodearl, who photographed one of the last professional bodgers Alec and Owen Dean in the late 1940s, recalled they had stated “each man would turn out 144 parts per day (one gross) including legs and stretchers- this would include cutting up the green wood, and turning it into blanks, then turning it”.