‘People are made on our beds, they’re born on our beds… the full circle of life’

After 40 years, one of the last independent furniture manufacturers left in London won’t be renewing its lease

Friday, 22nd April — By Geeta Wedderburn

Kim Mcrory and Stephen Bond_Big Table Bed

Big Table Bed makers Kim Mcrory and Stephen Bond

WITH its garish green gables and vintage stained-glass, Big Table Bed’s shop front is as eclectic as the owners, and serves as a reminder of the building and business’s illustrious past.

Erected in 1901 by the Temperance Society, the site at 56 Great Western Road, Westbourne Park, first functioned as a coffee house for railway workers on the Great Western Railway as an alternative to the pub.

The company, one of the last independent furniture manufacturers left in London, moved into the premises in 1982 and the rich smell of varnish and timber has filled the space ever since.

“The basement was used for workers’ rallies and education classes in the 1900s,” said owner Stephen Bond.

Now the crypt is stacked with polished bed frames, industrial machinery and bulging with mattresses.

Hand-tufting a mattress

Kim Mcrory, who started as a “Saturday girl” in 1986 and never left, details their craftsmanship: “Fallak from Pakistan tapes the edging; Nayden from Bulgaria stains, waxes and seals the wood; Christina, a Westbourne local, is a seamstress and sews every handle; John, we call him Big Table John, from down the road, hand-tufts every mattress himself; George from Georgia drives, delivers and assembles the frames for every customer; Sam from Nigeria is the bookkeeper.”

“They’ve been working here since 16 years old. And we do all of the above,” Kim added.

Big John shoots a smile from behind a 1930s Singer sewing machine which stands as tall as him.

People can spot a Big Table bed by their trademark stripes, or “ticking”, on the mattresses – named after the areas nearby – Ladbroke and Portobello.

Their designs have drawn in thousands of customers, from the Johnson family, Michael Gove and his ex-wife, and artist Damien Hirst.

“Damien wanted to paint the frame pink,” said Kim. “I would have done a better job myself.”

Steve said soaring rents and wholesale timber prices – and businesses like IKEA – meant independent furniture manufacturing has “died a death”.

When Big Table petitioners fought Crossrail

After 40 years, co-directors Kim and Steve won’t be renewing the lease. It’s a blow for the community, said one loyal customer, Maisah.

“It wasn’t the safest growing up here,” she said. “There was a lot of crime. But Big Table’s lights were always on. Those lights stopped the muggings and attacks. It has been so important to the community.”

Police have confirmed the well-lit building opposite the Westbourne Park bus garage has helped reduce crime.

Steve said: “The police didn’t like it so much when we made shirts for staff and customers with a wooden bed frame joinery on the front and printed the words, ‘Big Table Makes The Best Joints’. That was in the 80s”.

The business was threatened with demolition in 2011 when Crossrail served Big Table with a compulsory purchase order.

A Save Big Table Campaign was mobilised and there was a 3,000-strong petition and protests outside the Crossrail’s Royal Oak construction site.

After eight months of protest, Big Table won a stay of execution.

Kim said: “It’ll likely become a storage unit. The rail line hum is too loud for apartments.

“Or a Wetherspoons? That’d be good for people around here. Then they can afford a pint.”

She adds: “People are made on our beds, they’re born on our beds, they sleep very well on our beds, and they die on our beds.

“It’s the full circle of life.”

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