In a historic steam engine shed in St Austell, The Cornish Bed Company has revived the lost art of making cast iron beds by hand that will stand the test of time.
From steam trains to ocean-going liners, the innovation that defined Victorian manufacture was propelled by an ability to hand craft iron, a skill that relied on the human hand and eye to create possibilities that could never be achieved by a fully mechanised process. Two centuries later, behind the round arched facade of a Grade II- listed steam engine shed in St Austell, The Cornish Bed Company is keeping this tradition of Victorian manufacturing alive, creating beautifully designed and crafted beds made in the last working foundry in the UK, still using authentic hand pouring techniques.
Frames and moulds are set out on a jig and then, from the bubbling vat of molten metal, zinc is heated to over 500°C, carefully poured and then left to cool, setting the components in place. Next, the frames are knocked out of the moulds, cleaned, fettled, polished and powder-coated to meet a customer’s choice of finish and colour.
Bedsteads from The Cornish Bed Company are made in precisely the same way as they were 150 years ago. They owe their extraordinary rigidity to a magic ingredient — a hand cast Victorian knuckle joint that fuses the head and foot sections of the frames, creating a level of stability and longevity that could never be achieved with a bolt, screw or nail. The two components of this joint slot together and are then tapped in place with a rubber mallet.
No two beds made by The Cornish bed company are alike; each one is individual, bespoke and made to order. Once complete, a unique number is chiselled onto the knuckle joint and every bed is delivered with a signed certificate of authenticity. No two beds are alike, even if made from the same moulds, as the craftsmen fettle the intricate details by hand, rendering each tiny imperfection a mark of originality. These unique and distinctive characteristics can only be achieved with skilled craftsmanship and materials of the highest quality.
While the beds have a nostalgic charm that complements both classic and contemporary interiors, at their heart is a capacity for longevity that meets a growing demand for products that are naturally sustainable and can be repaired, updated and refurbished to prolong their lifespan. It was not long ago that the idea of passing furniture down from generation to generation was presented as impractical, expensive and esoteric. ‘Fast furniture’ made from inferior materials and designed for the convenience of the factory created a fashion for self assembled furniture that lasted, on average 4-8 years and is destined for landfill.
This thriving British-owned business with showrooms in London, Devon and Cornwall is employing craftsmanship, quality materials and time honoured construction techniques that is preserving natural resources and creating furniture that will become much loved heirlooms for future generations.
See cornishbeds.co.uk for more details and showroom locations.