A Thing of Beauty : Part Two : The Chair
by Florence B Fry
edited: Monday, March 11, 2002
Posted: Monday, March 11, 2002
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Many years have passed since I met Bill Hadfield. Now I possess a chair crafted by him, and came to know something of the man.
His birthplace - the town he still thinks of as home – is Glossop in Derbyshire, England. At seventeen he left to join the Fleet Air Arm which carried him to many places around the world. He saw much that enthralled him, and much that equally disturbed him.
But never intending to make it his career, he left for a greater love: the countrysides of England. So from water that foamed and dipped and constantly moved, he returned to land that was steady under his feet, gave freedom to his spirit, yet, conversely, held his heart a prisoner.
He became a gamekeeper. It was a good life. He enjoyed the independence and the solitude of the job. But the more he became involved with nature in all its glory, the more he respected and loved the foliage, the fauna, the birds, the many creatures that grew and lived around him, and which depended on him for their existence.
When his work demanded that he kill, or allow, or arrange for others to do so, then it seemed the most base of betrayals. At last he could bear it no longer, and resigned his post. But another ten years of his life had passed, and his options now for employment were few.
Now began the most difficult and desperate of times. A marriage which at one time had been happy and produced three children, broke down, unable to stand the strains and trauma of a man whose mind was in turmoil, loss of the home which had been provided by his employer, and the uncertainty of the future.
For a short time he delivered school meals. This work provided a little money, but left him with time on his hands.
It was during this time that he found and read a book on the construction of chairs. It interested and motivated him enough to consider the repair of two old Windsor chairs in his possession, which had perhaps been waiting for him to find his calling.
From this simple beginning grew the hobby which became a full-time cottage industry. The pleasure he takes in his craft is apparent: the way he speaks of and touches the wood he works with; his delight in using the old ‘adze’, a cutting tool with an arched blade at right angles to the handle, which he uses to shape the seat of his chairs; and the skill with which he uses the ‘spoke shaver’, a plane with a handle at each end used for dressing spokes or any curved portion of the chair.
His reading is wide. I know now that he has been influenced by the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, and probably most by the present-day philosopher and poet, Krishnamurti.
I know too, that he enjoys tramping, alone and happy to be so, on the slopes of Snowdonia in Wales. Yet once he enjoyed the nickname of ‘Mellors, the friend of Lady Chatterly’.
Undoubtedly, he is a man for all seasons.
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