Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was born at Hessle, near Hull. His father was a vicar and they were soon moved to Healaugh, in Yorkshire. Voysey was one of six children and did not attend school for his first 14 years. In 1871 his father was expelled from the Church Of England for his unorthodox thinking, so Voysey was moved to the Dulwich College in South London. He disliked this and was soon removed to have private tuition. This upbringing may account for the apparently rather austere, uncompromising nature of a lofty man now celebrated as a major figure in the Arts & Crafts movement.
He was articled to J.P Seddon in 1874 staying there for five years, had a short spell with Saxon Snell and then two years with George Devey. He became an architect of domestic houses for the prosperous, completing some fifty or so by the time he retired. The houses are notable for end buttresses to the wall corners, deep eaves under flat cornices and leaded windows set tight under eaves and gables- not remote from his furniture.
His friend Mackmurdo probably introduced him to textile and wallpaper design. Voysey was sustained by designing in two dimensions, for which he had natural talent, although he was as equivocal about this as he was about furniture design saying “a wallpaper is only a background and were your furniture good in form or colour a very simple or undecorated treatment of the walls would be preferable……” This was a steady form of income for him and introduced him to people who bought him architectural commissions. His factory building at Chiswick, for Sandersons, is a case point.
Voysey’s early furniture included pieces like the gawky ‘swan’ chair of 1883-5 so called because of its back upright finials. This was exhibited in 1893 at the Arts & Crafts exhibition society. Voysey also worked with A.W Simpson of Kendal and designed a house for Simpson in 1909
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