D Meredew Ltd a little known British furniture maker were a medium sized manufacturer in the 1960s and 70s . They were based in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire . Having started out in London Frederick Hard who was the owner brought some 50 families with him in 1914 to the new town of Letchworth . By 1938 they were employing 177 people , and Frederick’s son John was in charge of engineering , so it was a priority at the time to keep costs under control .
Some time in the 1950s ( probably around 1955/57 ) they took on their first staff designer a German émigré called Alphons Loebenstein ( aged 57 at the time , but year unknown )who persuaded the company to go down a route similar to G Plan . His name is given on some websites as designer of pieces in the Italian style , but Meredew themselves claimed that they had a known Italian designer doing some of their designs !
Between 1950 and 1965 turnover increased approximately 40 times , but some of this would be down to inflation . Their workforce increased from 150 to about 1500 over the same period . This was the peak of the British contemporary furniture manufacturing , with small local firms closing whilst larger progressive firms expanded .
They were smaller than G Plan , who were the main British makers of contemporary furniture at the time . By the catalogues that we’ve got in our collection we’d guess that they were of similar size to McIntosh , and a bit larger than White + Newton . However we don’t see as much Meredew furniture as we do McIntosh who actually employed a lot fewer people , so perhaps they made a lot of unbranded products for large retailers .Unlike McIntosh who mainly made dining furniture , Meredew specialised in bedroom pieces . G Plan of course made both equally , as well as a large range of upholstered sofas and chairs .
Meredew prices in the 1960s and 70s were similar to those of G Plan and McIntosh , so they were definitely aiming at the same customer base for their products . In the 1961 catalogue we have in our collection you’ll mainly find bedroom pieces in light oak and tola , as you would in a G Plan catalogue of similar date . They also made some high gloss pieces in satinwood and the darker walnut in a late 50s Italian style .
One of their Tola ranges introduced in 1961 was described as being designed by ” a leading Italian Designer ” . It would be great to find out which one ! Alphons Lobenstein was German and not Italian . However Tola in 1961 was on its way out as a wood .
The 1961 catalogue shows 1 dining set only , which was available in teak or light oak . The use of teak in 1961 was early for a British maker , as McIntosh didn’t use it until the following year , with G Plan following in their Danish Range c 1963 , and then more widely from 1964 .
The beautiful sideboard in our feature photo was introduced in the late 1960s , and is called ” The Lancer ” . In the 1969 catalogue it appears with 2 other sideboards , one designed by the great British designer and professor of furniture design Robert Heritage . This Heritage design was called the Shara , whereas the other model to appear was called the Rajah . The only named designer to appear in any of our catalogues is Robert Heritage , and then only for the Shara sideboard .
Our earliest Meredew catalogue dates to 1956 and mentions that the company had some 75 years of experience of making ” good furniture ” .
We’d love to know why Meredew made comparatively so much bedroom furniture in the 1960s and so few sideboards , as very few come up for sale . All their 1960s sideboards are very stylish and well made , and appear to be priced well for the time . They’re a lot rarer than those by G Plan , McIntosh , White + Newton , A Younger and others , yet their rather more ordinary bedroom pieces appear in large numbers .
By the mid 1970s Meredew was making a lot of fitted and semi-fitted bedroom furniture as was another similar sized competitor Austinsuite . The market by 1975 was changing , with more traditional mahogany designs coming in , with glazed wall units and cheaper finishes as would be expected as British taste was changing . The other major issue in the 1970s was the state of the British economy , and with the 1974 oil crisis indeed the world economy leaving buyers with less money to spend on furniture .
The best Meredew sideboards are more stylish and more interesting than the other pieces they produced , and they deserve to be better known . If you have any information about Meredew and any of the designers who they used in the 1960s and 70s we’d love to know . Meredew were taken over by carpet makers Bondworth Group who were expanding heavily at the time . By the mid-1970s with various UK and world economic problems they were having problems , and Meredew was taken over by Stag of Nottingham. Manufacturing closed in 1990 .