The Cornish Bed Company is the last working foundry to make authentic Victorian bed frames in the same way that they were crafted over 150 years ago. At its foundry the craftsmen make beautiful brass, nickel and cast-iron beds. It’s a time-honoured Victorian method of building metal beds, which has become increasingly rare since the advent of bulk production and lighter weight, flimsy metal frames that are held together with nuts and bolts.
However, these handsome – and extremely comfortable – traditional beds have been finding new audiences in recent times. That’s why The Cornish Bed Company, which was first established as a side business of a family that ran a Cornish antiques emporium and made reproduction Victorian furniture, has painstakingly revived every process that forms part of the craft of traditional bedmaking.
The company’s foundry, still in the same location, was set up in old steam engine sheds near Fowey at the end of the old Great Western Railway. The red-bricked, slate-roofed Grade II*-listed building boasts one of the first train turn-tables in the country, which was built for the Cornwall Mineral Railway.
Today, behind its original round-arched, keyed windows, craftsmen continue the traditions of iron bedmaking. The frames and moulds are set out on a jig and then from the bubbling vat of molten metal, zinc is super-heated to over 500°C and carefully poured by hand and left to cool, setting all of 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 colour.
The key component of a Cornish Bed is the handcast Victorian knuckle joint that joins the head and foot sections of the bed. The two parts of this joint slot together and are then tapped in place with a hammer. This secures the bed without the need for any screws or bolts and is guaranteed to last a lifetime, ensuring that these beds become the antiques of the future.
‘Because we make beds individually, we can offer customers a high level of customisation at little or no extra cost,’ says Garry Smith, director at The Cornish Bed Company. ‘This means that different heights, sizes or embellishments can also be easily accommodated so that your bed is bespoke to you. Before each bed leaves the foundry, it’s stamped with its unique number and furnished with a certificate of authenticity.’
Since 2015 The Cornish Bed Company has been part of the Naturalmat Group of companies. Naturalmat’s know-how has helped develop custom spring and divan bases that fit into the traditional frames, making the beds even more comfortable.
‘Naturalmat and Cornish Beds seems an unlikely marriage,’ explains Garry, ‘but as one company creates organic beds and mattresses that join the earth at the end of their life, while the other produces beds that last lifetimes, it’s a combination of two very distinct-looking yet sustainable options and together, they both celebrate West Country craftsmanship at its finest.’