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Stevenage Museum is on the hunt for a design gem from the mid-20th century.

The museum is looking for a lost design masterpiece: the elusive X202 teachers’ chair, designed in Stevenage by the Educational Supply Association’s (ESA) chief designer, Jim Leonard, immediately after the Second World War.

The museum would also like to find other pieces produced by the local factory and to speak to anyone who remembers working there, for an exhibition being planned for 2025.

Councillor Loraine Rossati, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Leisure and Wellbeing for Stevenage Borough Council said:

“Let’s use the power of the internet and social media to track down this missing design classic! It would be amazing to track down a piece of Stevenage’s history and give James Leonard the recognition he deserves. If you have a photo of an X202 chair, or better yet, the real thing – no matter what condition - then please contact the Museum.”

The Educational Supply Association opened its Stevenage factory in Fishers Green Road in 1883 and soon became an important employer. During World War II, it produced wings for the famous all-wood de Havilland Mosquito aircraft. After the war, James Leonard had the vision to persuade ESA to invest in an injection moulding machine from the United States, to make a new range of modern, clean-lined school furniture fit for a post-war world. The furniture would be made with an aluminium frame and bent plywood, using skills learnt in the manufacture of the Mosquito wings.

The X202 chair was part of this range; the teachers’ chair that complemented the X200 one for students.

The X200 went on to unprecedented success, achieving seven-figure sales. Almost every British person of the period must have sat on one of these James Leonard-designed chairs. But what happened to the X202 design intended for teachers, arguably the most elegant chair design ever seen?

Today, the furniture style has become very collectable. Other European designers working in mass production at the time, like Jean Prouvé in France, have gone on to be recognised and celebrated around the world. James Leonard, who spent his entire working life at the ESA in Stevenage, is much less well-known, but researcher and writer, Peter Wyeth, believes that his early post-war designs not only pre-date work by Prouvé, but are inherently better designs. His mission is to win Leonard the recognition he deserves.

Peter Wyeth, author of The Lost Architecture of Jean Welz and currently writing a book about Jim Leonard and the ESA, said:

“The X202 was, to my mind, one of the most beautiful chairs ever designed - and I have never seen one, nor, as far as I know, has anyone alive today. There are just three photographs of it in existence. We would love to see one and include it in the exhibition.”

If you can help, please get in touch with the museum by email: or phone: 01438 218 881. The museum is open Wednesday to Friday, so your call may go unanswered outside those hours.