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Senior Attendant’s Chair #1999-0773Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor

Senior attendant’s wooden chair, with seat, arms and back upholstered in red leather; set on a timber base comprising six pigeonholes; chair is set into the panelling on the right hand side of the King’s Hall entry to the Senate chamber.


This Senior Attendant’s Chair was used in the Senate Chamber between 1927 and 1988, and is still located in the Senate Chamber. This chair was designed in 1926 by the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. This chair is fixed to the panelling on the right hand side of the Senate Chamber when entering from King’s Hall; its partner chair is located across the aisle on the left hand side. Murdoch’s design for this chair and the other Senate Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament.

This chair was manufactured by Beard Watson & Co Ltd, one of the six firms that were contracted to construct Murdoch’s designs. Beard Watson & Co Ltd were renowned in Sydney as a retailer and manufacturer of high class furnishings, initially manufacturing floor coverings and carpets but diversifying into furniture in 1901. A 1917 article in The Australian Manufacturer stated of Beard Watson that ‘the furniture it sells, and particularly the furniture it produces, is distinguished at once for its good workmanship and for its artistic beauty.’

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Statement of values

This Senior Attendant’s Chair is a significant item of furniture through its association with the Senate Chamber. The Senate has outstanding significance as a venue for the debates, petitions and votes associated with sixty-one years of Australian legislature, and recognisable by its red upholstery. This chair was used in the Senate between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history, while also reflecting the formal and adversarial nature of debate, and the role of the Senate in the parliamentary process.

This Senior Attendant’s Chair is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the House, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988. The building is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture prominent in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920s to 1940s. The characteristic expression of the building’s style is due to the design work of the Commonwealth’s first government architect, John Smith Murdoch. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections, which include the purpose designed furniture and furnishings, that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices. This furniture is significant as it has remained within the building for which it was designed.

  • Senior Attendant’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House CollectionSenior Attendant’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House Collection
  • Senior Attendant’s Chair - PlanSenior Attendant’s Chair - Plan —


Width 780mm
Height 1045mm
Depth 650mm
Medium Leather; blackwood; timber
Creator’s name John Smith Murdoch
Date created Circa 1927