Parker Knoll furniture has always promoted values of quality and comfort. It was a brand people aspired to own. In the 50s and 60s, Parker Knoll embraced modern as well as traditional design. The firm specialised in chairs and sofas.
The history of the company goes back to Victorian times. Unlike most furniture manufacturers, which were started by cabinet makers, the founder of Parker Knoll, was an upholsterer. He began in the trade as an apprentice in 1862.
After several years in the furniture trade, Frederick Parker started his own business in 1889, manufacturing furniture from premises in Drummond Road, Hampstead, London. Frederick Parker then moved the business to High Wycombe, the centre of UK furniture manufacture in 1897, forming a limited company known as Parkers with his four sons in 1901.
Parkers specialised in the manufacture of sofas and chairs, sticking to Frederick Parker's roots in upholstery. The Parker-Knoll trade mark was introduced in 1931.
Like many firms, Parker-Knoll was involved in the manufacture of aircraft in the Second World War. After the War, it resumed furniture production, making Utility chairs. Once the Utility Scheme ended in the early 50s, Parker Knoll continued with the manufacture of traditional sofas and chairs, but like many other firms also experimented with contemporary style.
Their take on contemporary was always restrained and well proportioned. Parker Knoll aimed at a market where comfort and build quality were important, though the company was not afraid to embrace the contemporary style and mix and match approach to colour that was popular in the 50s.
Parker Knoll also continued with traditional designs. They made a classic style wing chair in the 1930s. In 1951, Parker Knoll introduced the Penshurst wing chair. It was such a timeless desing that Parker Knoll still makes it today.
The recliner was a new development in the 60s. Several manufacturers made a reclining arm chair suitable for relaxing after a hard day's work. The Parker Knoll recliner was one of the best. Their advertising, firmly rooted in the social mores of the day, suggested that the housewife could use it, but only whilst her husband was out at work. It could recline to an almost horizontal position.
The recliner became an instant hit and was a desirable object in homes of the sixties and seventies. A variation of this classic design is still made today.
In the late sixties and early seventies a status symbol from the office found its way into the home: it was the black leather or vinyl office executive chair. Some people needed a desk and office chair at home; others thought what was good enough for the boardroom was good enough for the lounge.
Both Hille and Conran specialised in contract furniture. Some of their designs for office use also found their way into fashionable homes. The high backed swivel chair, suitable for the top executive's office, looked equally as good in the modern home. The swivel chair on pedestal base became a modern status symbol. It was seen as the chair of the man of the house. With its deep-buttoned, high back, swivel pedestal base, Parker Knoll's Statesman, right, looked the part.
Parker Knoll made good profits throughout the sixties. In 1961 it opened a furniture showroom in London. In 1962 the company bought new land at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and built a new factory as an additional production facility to its High Wycombe base. The new factory originally manufactured chairs and sofas under the Cornwell-Norton brand.
Parker Knoll in the 70s
Parker Knoll retained its status as a luxury aspirational brand in the 70s. The firm was able to work five days over the period of the three day week because its factories had their own generators.
This advertisement, left, from the early seventies tried to persuade people to make the extra sacrifice needed to own a Parker Knoll suite and emphasised that it need not be as expensive as they thought.)
The textiles business ran alongside the furniture business from the late 1940s onwards. Parker Knoll Textiles made furnishing fabric used in Parker Knoll and other upholstered furniture.
Parker Knoll continued to make profits in the early years of the 80s, when many other British furniture firms struggled. In 1981 it bought struggling cabinet makers Nathan for £650,000.
The Parker Knoll brand is still in business today, promoting similar values of quality and comfort that saw it become a respected household name in the past.
Parker Knoll model names and numbers
We have compiled this table from contemporary advertisements and brochures. Please accept that it is not fully complete. However, it should provide some help in identifying Parker Knoll models.
|PK720||Penshurst||Wing chair 1951 to date|
|PK724||Bramber||Wing chair with open arms c1952|
|PK733||Lanford||Small chair with arms c1960 to 1980s|
|PK734||Langdale||Contemporary wing chair c1953|
|PK735||Pembroke||Traditional wing chair c1953|
|PK735||Albury||Contemporary easy chair c1954|
|PK737||Langold||Contemporary armchair c1954|
|PK743||Denham||Sofa bed c 1955|
|PK745||Hawkhurst Sofa||c1960 to match Penshurst to 1980s|
|PK747||Newlyn||Padded dining chair c1955 to 1970s|
|PK749||Froxfield||Compact armchair c1955-1980s|
|PK750||Frith||Compact wing chair (styled to match Froxfield) c1955 to 1980s|
|PK751||Roslin||Contemporary dining chair with arms c1960 to 1980s|
|PK752||Oban||Contemporary dining chair c1960 to 1980s|
|PK902||High Newton||Contemporary high-backed chair c1959|
|PK904||Nutley||Contemporary wing chair c1959|
|PK908||Tuxford||Contemporary small chair c1959|
|PK917||Malvern||Contemporary armchair c1960|
|PK918||Kedelston||Traditional wing chair c1960-1962|
|PK919||Knebworth||Matching sofa for Kedelston|
|PK925||Ludlow||Contemporary armchair c1959|
|PK926||Chepstow||Contemporary armchair c1959-1960|
|PK924||Raglan||Contemporary wing chair c1959-1960|
|PK927||Dunster||Contemporary armchair c1959-1960|
|PK928||Highworth||Contemporary high-backed armchair c1960 to 1980s|
|PK929||Highwing||Contemporary high-backed armchair with wings c1960 to 1980s|
|PK935||Gavotte||Three-seater sofa c1960|
|PK937||Triviso||Swivel coffee table c1960|
|PK938||Malton||Small contemporary armchair c1960-1965|
|PK939||Tirano||Small swivel chair c1960|
|PK945||Andante||Contemporary chair/unit seating c1960-1965|
|PK941||Sienna||Contemporary armchair c1964-1965|
|PK947||Adagio||Contemporary chair/unit seating with arms c1960-1965|
|PK950||Mendip||Contemporary armchair c1960-1962|
|PK951||Wycherley||Contemporary wing chair c1960-1962|
|PK954||Ravanna||Contemporary armchair c1965|
|PK958||Highworth||Contemporary high-backed armchair with padded arms c1970 to 1980s|
|PK959||Highwing||Contemporary high-backed armchair with wings and padded arms c1970 to 1980s|
|PK960||Serino||Contemporary wing chair c1961-1965|
|PK964||Abinger||Contemporary armchair c1965|
|PK967||Ainsdale||Contemporary wing chair c1963-1965|
|PK973||Ringwood||Contemporary armchair c1965|
|PK974||Rockwood||Contemporary rocking chair c1964-c1965|
|PK976||Bosworth||18th century inspired wing chair c1964 to 1980s|
|PK977||Bosworth||Footstool for Bosworth chair c1964 to mid 1980s|
|PK988||Ashby||Contemporary armchair c1969 to 1980s|
|PK989||Ashby Rocker||Contemporary rocking chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK991||Ashby Wing||Contemporary wing chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK992||Ashby Rockwing||Contemporary rocking wing chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK997||Ashby Setee||Contemporary sofa c1970s|
|PK1009||Castel||Contemporary high-backed chair 1970s|
|PK1014||Froxfield Sofa||Compact sofa late 1960s to 1980s|
|PK1018(sofa), PK1017(chair), PK1016(high-backed chair), PK1019(rocker)||Florian group||Ladder-back chair, rocker and sofa c1969 to 1970s|
|PK1022 & PK1027||Waverley Suite||Compact sofa and chairs based on a Victorian design from 1970s to early 1980s|
|PK1023||Ashton||Modern high-backed chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK1024||High Ashby||Modern high-backed chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK1025||High Ashton||Modern high-backed chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK1026||High Ashby Wing||Modern high-backed wing chair 1970s to 1980s|
|PK1038||Orleans Chair||Traditional wood-framed chair, 1970s|
|PK1039||Orleans Rocker||Traditional wood-framed rocking chair, 1970s|
|PK1040||Maxi Sofa||Convertible sofa/bed 1970s|
|PK1045 & PK1046||Howard Suite||Luxury sofa and chairs, 1970s to 1980s|
|PK1048||Castel with Wings||Modern wing chair 1970s|
|N17, N18||Corsham||Meeting room chairs c1970s|
|N18||Copnor||Meeting room chairs c1970s|
|N10, N12, N14, N21, N22, N23||Compton Group||Modern wood-framed sofa, chairs and table|
|N11, N13||Conway Group||Modern wood-framed sofa, chairs and table|
|N24||Queensgate||Modern wood-framed chair without arms|
|N25||Queenswood||Modern wood-framed chair with arms|
|N26||Queensdown||Modern wood-framed chair with arms|
|N27||Kingsgate||Modern wood-framed chair without arms|
|N28||Kingswood||Modern wood-framed chair with arms|
|N29||Kingsdown||Modern wood-framed chair with arms|
|N30||Norton Recliner||Reclining chair c1970 to 1980s|
|N31||Norton Fixed Chair||Reclining chair c1970 to 1980s|
|N32||Norton 3-seater Sofa||Reclining chair c1970 to 1980s|
|N57 & N58||Sonata Suite||High-backed sofa and chairs, from early 1970s|
|N67 & N56||Concorde Suite||Compact sofa and chairs, from early 1970s|
|N78||?||Contemporary high-backed chair c1970s|
|N102- N104, N105-N109, N115||Evesham Group||Dining and easy chairs and table|
|N110 & N111||Ambassador Chair and Sofa||Modern sofa and swivel chair from late 1960s to 1970s|
|N112, N113, N114||Comus System||Unit furniture from early 1970s|
|N116||Nimrod Recliner||Compact reclining chair early 1970s|
|?||Pulford||Contemporary armchair c1956|
|?||Wingfield||Contemporary wing chair with sloping back c1957-1967|
|?||Mayfield||Contemporary wing chair with sloping back c1957|
|?||Kinross||Contemporary armchair c1957-8|
|?||Rowstock||Compact armchair c1958|
|?||Merano||Contemporary wing chair c1958|
|?||Tutshill||Contemporary small armchair c1959|
|?||Sorrento||Sofa to match Serino chair c1961|
|?||Irlam chair||Occasional chair, from mid-1970s|
|?||Fabrino||Contemporary armchair c1962-1965|
|?||Stratton||Rocking chair with fixed base c1969|
|?||Bolaro||Armchair and matching sofa c1965|
|?||Cavatina||Contemporary three-piece suite|
|?||Apollo Unit Range||From early 1970s|
|?||Statesman||Swivel chair c1970|
How to use the date information
Some models were produced for a considerable length of time. The Penshurst is still being made today and the Froxfield was made from 1955 to the 1980s. Others were very short-lived.
The dates shown above are where the model first appeared in Parker-Knoll's adverting. Where there is a range it shows the first and last dates we could find. It does not mean that the design was not produced after those dates. This list is a work in progress and we shall update the page as and when we obtain more information.
Parker Knoll wood finishes
Parker Knoll customers could choose from an extensive list of wood finishes for their chairs. In the 1960s the following were available:
- Natural beech
- Light walnut
- Dark finish
- Ebonised finish
The colours reflect contemporary taste. Lighter colours were in vogue in the first half of the 1950s. Mahogany and ebonised finish reflect tastes in the later 1950s and into the 1960s. The teak and rosewood finishes reflected an interest in Scandinavian style, which was becoming popular in the UK in the 1960s.
Parker Knoll usually supplied the Penshurst wing chair in antique walnut, although customers could ask for other finishes.
See www.parkerknoll.co.uk for more details.
"Parker Knoll today is not the same company and no longer produce spares for the 'old range', the brand name was sold in 2005. I am looking for new rocker bushes for my Statesman chairs and they don't make them!!!!;" Michael Hawkesworth
"i remember going to vist my great grandfarther with the rest of the family and he was always sat in this rather lovely parker knoll chair! he was never out of it , that was his chair and no one else was aloud to sit in it! just shows that it must have been a gd chair!" Frances Keenan
"Hello, I wonder if you could help, i was left two small chairs which are very comfortable. The model is PK 1022-7. They need re-covering but i am interested to find out more about them as i have never seen this model anywhere before. Many thanks, " Mike Seaward
Hi Mike, A chair of similar model number sold on eBay recently. The seller dated it 1970, although I can't confirm it was the same design. Retrowow
"I have 2 Parker Knoll chairs that have Parker Knoll registered trademark on them but don't have a style number. They do have a small plaque that says 'Made in W.A. by Boans. European labour only' They have wooden arms and coil spring back and base. Could somebody please tell me something about them." lesley rasheed
"Hi,i have 6 Parker-knoll chairs stamped PARKER-KNOLL MODEL NO.P.K.751/2MK1 WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT THEIR VALUE------We bought them second hand in the 1960's" stan burgess]
"i have 2 parker knoll chairs maked mpk1140 what are worth" dickerson