Heal & Son Holdings plc, bedding and furniture manufacturer and retailer : records

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 73 AAD/1978/2 : AAD/1986/1 : AAD/1994/16 : AAD/1996/8 : AAD/1997/4 : AAD/1997/13 : AAD/1997/21 : AAD/1999/7 : AAD/2002/2 : AAD/2003/2 : AAD/2004/3 : AAD/2007/1 : AAD/2010/8 : AAD/2016/6
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      ca. 4700 files

Scope and Content

Accounting and financial records, including balance sheets and accounts, private and departmental ledgers, summaries of bad debts and trial balances and working papers (1810 - 1981); property and premises records, including insurance and maintenance records (1811 - 1984); operation records, including designs, fabric sample books, order books and stock books (ca.1837 - 1982); other records, including the records of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers (ca.1850 - 1985); marketing and public relations records, including advertising material, photographic material and press cuttings (ca.1850 - 2009); legal records, including agreements and contracts, patents and trade mark records (1855 - 1969); staff and employment records, including House Committee minute books, house journals and salary books (1865 - 1988); internal administration records, including correspondence, procedure manuals and store surveys (1872 - 1985); corporate records, including accounts, annual general meeting papers, articles of association, minute books, partnership agreements and reports (1875 - 1984); share records, including annual returns, debenture records, dividend ledgers and dividend warrants, registers of members, transfers and probates (1876 - 1974); posters and fabric samples.

Administrative / Biographical History

The family firm of Heal & Son was established in 1810 as a feather-dressing business. In 1818, it moved to Tottenham Court Road and began to expand into bedding, bedstead and furniture manufacture and retail. By the end of the century it ranked among the best known London furniture houses and, in 1905, it converted from a partnership into a limited company. Under the leadership of Sir Ambrose Heal (1872-1959), who joined the firm in 1893, Heal's became renowned for promoting modern design in Britain by encouraging and employing talented young designers. Sir Ambrose also expanded Heal's own promotional activities and commissioned the best illustrators, graphic designers and photographers to design posters and catalogues for the firm. In 1917, the Mansard Gallery was opened at the top of Cecil Brewer's new building for Heal's and a number of important and influential exhibitions were held in this venue.

Throughout the 20th century, Heal's continued to expand and it began to sell fabrics, ceramics and other household items as well as furniture. It also began to move into other markets with the formation, in 1941, of its first subsidiary - Heal's Wholesale and Export Ltd - which dealt with the export of furniture, fabrics, glass and china. With the arrival of the Second World War, Heal's had ceased furniture production and moved instead into making beds and parachutes for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. This work led to the incorporation of Heal's second subsidiary - Heal's Contracts Ltd - which was formed in 1944, the same year in which Heal's acquired the small building firm of George Coulter Ltd.

With the end of the war however, things changed and, whereas Heal's Wholesale and Export Ltd began to concentrate on contemporary furnishing fabrics (changing its name to Heal Fabrics Ltd in 1958), Heal's Contracts re-opened the furnishing and decorating side of the business, carrying out furnishing contracts for institutions and organisations. In November 1948 relaxation of furniture design and timber control was granted and during the 1950s and 1960s Heal's continued to prosper and expand. In 1955 the company acquired J. L. Green and Vardy Ltd, a famous firm of architectural joiners from Islington. This firm was then combined with the newly relocated cabinet factory in 1956 and became known as Heal Furniture Ltd from 1968.

Retailing was also expanded with the acquisition, in 1965, of a 50% interest in H. G. Dunn and Sons Ltd of Bromley. The remaining 50% of the share capital was acquired in 1977 and the company became known as Heal of Bromley Ltd from 1978. In 1981 however, the Heal's store at Bromley was closed and the premises were sold to European Investment and Development (UK) Ltd. In 1969 Heal's acquired John Bowles and Co. Ltd of Brighton and in 1972 a store was opened at Guildford. On the international scene, Heal's formed a new company Heal Textil GmbH (a subsidiary of Heal Fabrics Ltd) in 1964 in Germany and also joined with a local partner in Dubai to form Heal's (Arab Emirates) Private Ltd in 1975. Heal's also expanded into the furnishing fittings business. Carpet Layers Ltd was formed in 1959 around the carpet factory and, in 1971, when the curtain workroom moved to Haringey, this company became Carpet Layers and Curtain Makers Ltd.

As the firm expanded, a certain amount of re-organisation was required and, in 1968, a holding company, Heal and Son Holdings plc, was formed to oversee the entire operation. At the same time a further subsidiary, Heal and Son Ltd, was incorporated, both to ensure the continuance of the original company name, and also, to take charge of the retailing side of the business. During the 1970s and 1980s the company entered more troubled times and, in 1983, it was sold to Sir Terence Conran and became part of the Storehouse plc group. In 1990 Heal's was subject to a management buy-out.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Study Rooms by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Acquisition Information

Given by Anthony Heal, 1978, AAD/1978/2.

Purchased from Malcolm J. Gordon, 1986, AAD/1986/1.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 1994, AAD/1994/16.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 1996, AAD/1996/8.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 1997, AAD/1997/4.

Given by Glyn Smith, 1986, AAD/1997/13.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 1997, AAD/1997/21.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 1999, AAD/1999/7.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 2002, AAD/2002/2.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 2003, AAD/2003/2.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 2004, AAD/2004/3.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 2007, AAD/2007/1.

Given by Heal & Son Ltd, 2010, AAD/2010/8.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Custodial History

AAD/1978/2 was collected together by Sir Anthony Heal, who gifted it to the AAD in 1978. AAD/1986/1 was a purchase from a private collector.

AAD/1994/16 was originally collected together within the company and formed part of an internally maintained archive, managed by Mr Robin Hartley, an employee of Heal's , who has since died. Following the acquisition of Heal's by the Storehouse Plc group, the archive was transfered to the Design Museum where it remained until its transferal to AAD in 1994. In addition four extra boxes of material were found at the Design Musuem in 1996. It was felt that this material must have been missed at the time of the initial transfer and belonged to the main Heal's archive. It was therefore handed over to the AAD with the permission of Heal's Chief Executive, Colin Pilgrim and accessioned as AAD/1996/8.

Related Material

AAD/1989/1 - Ronald Grierson, textile designer : annotated designs, photographs and documentary material. Grierson designed rugs for Heal's.

Corporate Names