IT has the whiff of a horror film - or at least, a slightly sinister practical joke - about it.

Of around 800 pieces of furniture in Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection, this unassuming-looking chair is definitely the oddest.

Glasgow Times: Imprisoning Chair. Pic: Glasgow Museums

Project curator Laura Bauld explains: “The Imprisoning Chair is very unusual – there are not many of them about. It gives you an idea of what William Burrell’s sense of humour was like…”

Sir William Burrell devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing one of the world’s greatest personal collections of art, which he donated to Glasgow in 1944. The Burrell Collection in Pollok Park will re-open in March 2022, following a five-year, £68m refurbishment.

For our occasional series The Secret Life Of…. Times Past has asked Glasgow Museums curators to reveal the stories behind a selection of objects in the vast collection prior to its re-opening.

The tale of the Imprisoning Chair, which will be part of a new display about life at home for the Burrells, is an intriguing one, explains Laura.

READ MORE: How a rare possession of Anne Boleyn ended up in Glasgow's Burrell Collection

“Burrell bought the chair in 1932 for £350 and displayed it in the entrance hall to his home at Hutton Castle in the Borders,” she says.

Glasgow Times:

“On the face of it, it seems like an ordinary chair, but it is a trick - when a person sits down, the seat tilts backwards setting off a mechanism hidden underneath, which forces curved iron bars to spring out from the arm supports, clamping down on the sitter’s legs and imprisoning them into the chair.”

She grins: “It would have been pretty terrifying, I’d imagine, for the unsuspecting sitter. You would need another person to help you out.”

The Burrells lived among their vast collection of priceless art, tapestries and stained glass at Hutton Castle.

“Marion, the Burrells’ daughter, spoke of being told off for being in certain rooms, and for guests, many objects and artworks would have been strictly off limits,” says Laura. “So the chance to sit in one of Burrell’s chairs would probably have been too good to miss. Perhaps it was meant as a deterrent – as it would have made people much less inclined to sit on anything else in the house.”

Little is known about imprisoning chairs, says Laura.

“Samuel Pepys mentions one in his diaries, which he had seen at a friend’s house, and describes it as ‘good sport’, which suggests they were jokes rather than anything more sinister,” she says.

“In the 50s, when the collection came into the hands of Glasgow Corporation, the curator at the time, William Wells, put a picture of the chair in the newspapers asking if people knew of like examples. He got lots of responses - perhaps Times Past readers will do the same, almost 50 years later?”

At Hutton Castle, Sir William and Lady Constance entertained many VIPs, the most famous of which, says Laura, was probably Queen Mary (grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth II.)

READ MORE: 'Greatest gift' to Glasgow - the story of William Burrell's collection 75 years on

“Could she sat have in the chair?” she laughs. “No, that’s impossible – as she visited Hutton Castle in 1931 and Sir William did not buy the chair until the following year. It’s probably just as well he did not have it when she visited – can you imagine?

“The chair is a real curiosity, and it will certainly give visitors a glimpse into Sir William Burrell’s unique sense of humour…..”