During the 20th Century Heal and Sons were one the UK’s leading furniture designers and manufacturers. The first furniture they began designing and manufacturing at the beginning of the 19thcentury where beds and still to this day Heals sell beds online and through their high street stores.
The company is over 200 years old having been founded in London by John Harris Heal and son in 1810. Originally a feather-dressing business supplying bedding, the business was taken over by John Harris Heal junior after the death of his father in 1833. Harris Heal Junior expanded the businesses furniture manufacturing considerably in the 1840s. John Harris Heal Junior improved the company’s designs of Beds, the “Heals bed” becoming a household name around this time and soon expanded into making other bedroom furniture. He was a pioneer in the use of advertising, even taking out full page advertisements in the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House in 1837.
However it was Ambrose Heal who had the biggest impact in the company’s history. Joining the company in 1883 Ambrose Heal was a proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement and applied the ethos of high quality handcrafted useful furniture with the economics of mass production enabling ordinary folk to own well designed, simple but good quality pieces of furniture. It was no coincidence that the company trebled in size between 1907 and 1922 with Ambrose at the helm. It was during this period that the classic “Heals look” was developed, with a range of innovative designs. He ran the firm successfully for over 60 years, finally retiring in 1953.
The enduring nature of heals is down to the way the company always strived to be on trend. The company followed fashions of the time and often created innovative designs; they were quick to stock modernist furniture in the 1930s and from the 1950s onwards Heals embraced Scandinavian design developing close working relationships with key designers of the mid-century movement.
From humble beginnings in Rathbone Place Heals moved to its Tottenham Court Road premises in 1818, and to its current flagship store on Tottenham Court Road since 1840, where it remained as a family run business right up until 1983. In 1983 the company was bought out by Terence Conran’s Storehouse Company. After the recession of the late 1980s the Company was subject to a management buyout in 1990, evolving into the Heals stores we see today.
A 1920s oak single bed by Heals of London, part of the “Cottage Range”.
Heals logos through the ages.
An Edwardian Heals bed in Mahogany with lattice work headboard and footboard.