We moved out of our old warehouse today to a new location adjacent to our workshops a couple of miles away. Rather sad really for Natural Bed Company, our old warehouse is a three storey brick building, a lovely Victorian remnant from the days of the cutlery industry and we’ve been there for about 25 years.
It had been empty for three years when we noticed it (even though we walked past it every day) and when we looked inside it was like going back in time, a vision back into the Victorian era – black rusting old furnaces, metal grindings piled up by the long rows of polishers benches. Very dark even with the daylight from a row of old sash windows – and in need of a huge clear out and gallons of paint. It became our workshop – we moved from our existing smaller sites and started woodworking on the ground floor and making futons on the middle floor. In time we refurbished the top floor with its old pitched beams and turned it into a display space for the beds that overflowed our main Natural Bed Company showroom.
It has what I lovingly think of as quirks, for me that’s part of the attraction. You may regard these features differently but it suited our purpose. And it has an atmosphere, a palpable atmosphere, and wonderful amounts of daylight – except the ground floor that is as cold and dark as a dungeon. The doors open out onto Devonshire Green and the Forum cafe bar, a lively recreational area. In summer, walking out of the dark interior onto the busy Green is the oddest experience – one I’ve never adjusted to. It’s like passing from one world into another and for a moment it always unsettles me.
There’s evidence of previous configurations, one wall reveals a long, low arched opening just above the floor, an inaccessible one time staircase angles down from the ceiling to an outside wall – or maybe it was once a chute? We removed a double line of old heating pipes that ran under the old workbenches through the building and disappeared through the wall into a mysterious lean-to that we never had access to.
Getting on for 20 years ago we outgrew the workshop space and moved that activity across town. That’s when our old cutlery works became our warehouse and photo studio, and many of the photos on our website were taken there. In fact for a while we’re retaining the middle floor so we still have our photography space.
It has other attachments; longer ago than we care to think, we had my wife’s 40th birthday there, a big party with Ian, our futon maker at the time, and his band, dozens of pizzas, people flaked out on the Green and sitting on the fire exit staircases looking like something out of West Side Story. As I said, that’s longer ago than I’d care to think.
Before we converted the the top floor Ian’s band, including Steve the drummer, our current futon maker, used the top floor as a rehearsal space and Ian, also a visual artist, used it for his studio. On another night we cleared the space when my wife and her artist collaborators had a dramatic installation there, a wall of storage boxes, smoke, strange lighting and music are my memories. More recently some images of the interior were used for an art installation about the disappearance of a local woman in the thirties.
But it’s time to move on, the old cutlery works is set to enter a new and exciting phase (we’ll be sure to keep you posted!) With refurbishment and careful preservation of the old quirks it will have a new lease of life and should look superb once again.