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A History of the Very British Deckchair

History of the Very British Deckchair

Go to any British seaside town, and you’ll no doubt see rows of brightly coloured, stripy deckchairs for hire along the promenade. They’ve become an icon of British beach holidays, up there with 99 ice creams and colourful beach huts, and there’s nothing quite like lazing in a deckchair on one of the rare sunny days that the British summer grants us. But how did this simple design come about, and what made it so popular?

Although the British claim the deckchair as one of their cultural icons, the truth is it may have been invented by an American. John Cham submitted a patent design in 1855 for simple, wooden folding chairs with comfortable woven backs. They soon became a regular fixture on decks of cruise liners, and so were given the name ‘deck chairs’. However, the design may have been refined by John Thomas Moore, whose 1886 patent for simpler ship chairs more closely resembles what we’d call a deckchair today. Early advertisements for ‘Yankee Hammock Chairs’ also imply that they were an American invention.

Soon after being invented, deckchairs became a common sight at beach resorts and on the decks of ocean liners. Even the Titanic featured 600 chairs for passengers, with six being pulled from the wreckage and auctioned off for thousands of pounds. However, it was their popularity at the British seaside that endures to this day, with vendors renting them out on piers and promenades on a daily or hourly basis. For many, they’re a reminder of childhood holidays, and hold a nostalgic appeal, as well as being a comfortable way to recline on the beach and enjoy the sunshine.