Skip to main content

Grown Furniture at the Museum of English Rural Life – University of Reading

Show access keys

Grown Furniture at the Museum of English Rural Life

Release Date 26 March 2008

The Museum of English Rural Life planted six grown-furniture stools in its garden recently, to demonstrate a simple but highly effective way of making furniture in a non-polluting manner.

The Museum (MERL), which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, invited Dr Chris Cattle from Abingdon in Oxfordshire, to demonstrate his craft and plant saplings which will eventually grow strong enough to be used to create 3-legged stools. He was helped by Kathryn Robinson, Environmental Learning Officer at MERL, and a group of young adults with learning difficulties and their tutor from Thames Valley University who make regular visits to the Museum garden.

In the late 1970's Dr Cattle, formerly a lecturer in Furniture Design at High Wycombe, developed the idea of training and grafting trees to shape as they grow when searching for a way of making furniture more sustainably. Since then he has promoted the idea widely around Britain, including last year at MERL.

Dr Cattle said: "Growing furniture isn't going to save the planet, but it can show that it's possible to create genuinely useful things without adding to the pollution that industry inevitably seems to produce. Trees are self-generating, and the only energy needed is that which the sun provides worldwide. It's free and it's non-polluting. My aim though is to encourage as many people as possible to try it for themselves."

As part of MERL's 'Going Green' season of events last summer, Chris gave a talk about his grown furniture and demonstrated the jigs required to train the saplings. To continue the sustainability theme, the Museum invited Dr Cattle back this year to plant six stools in the garden, where they will create an interesting feature as they grow over the next five years, before being harvested to create furniture.

Bekky Moran, Learning Manager at MERL said: "We are delighted to have some of Chris's stools in the garden. We hope that visitors will go outside and see how they are growing every time they visit. We are gradually adding more features to the garden which opened last May, and the new stools join a pondlife bench, created by another sustainable furniture maker, Phil Koomen and a wattle fence, built by Ben Law of Grand Designs fame last summer."

Sycamore, maple or ash saplings are available from any garden centre and now is the perfect time to plant your own stool. The plywood jigs and instructions are available from the Chris's website at


For more information, please contact Alison Hilton, marketing officer, on 0118 378 8660

Notes for editors:

1. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in Redlands Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

2. More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.