The Ray Swain Memorial Lecture 2022
26th September 2022 @ 12:15 pm
Standardised, Serviceable and Simply Designed: Utility Furniture at 80
With Deborah Hedgecock, Curator of Bruce Castle Museum, supported by Paul Collier, author of ‘Harris Lebus: A Romance with the Furniture Trade’ and ‘Loving Lebus’
The Utility Furniture Scheme was founded 80 years ago in 1942. Local furniture manufacturer Lebus – based in Tottenham Hale – played a key role in its production. Not only did Lebus comply with government regulations after World War Two, it also helped to set the rules.
Sir Herman Lebus was one of the government’s Furniture Working Party from the start, its purpose ‘…to produce specifications for furniture of good, sound construction in simple but agreeable designs for sale at reasonable prices, and ensuring the maximum economy of raw materials and labour’. Like food and other commodities, furniture was rationed. Permits were issued to people most in need – those that had been bombed out or who had just got married.
During wartime, Lebus manufactured to government contracts, getting into its stride post-war making Utility furniture whilst restrictions were still in place. Some of these pieces have survived to today. The 80th anniversary is a timely opportunity to look back at Utility furniture and see what was made by one of our own local firms with global recognition – Lebus.