It was soon after the Second World War, that in 1948 Jack and Cecil Woodberry, together with Cecil Haines, set up their first workshops in Coronation Road.
There was a need for someone to produce furniture; because during the war many families had lost all their possessions in air raids, also with men returning from the forces and wishing to set up homes again there was the inevitable a shortage. Woodberry Bros & Haines saw this need and they decided to start producing pieces of furniture from redundant ammunition boxes. With orders starting to build up it was not long before larger premises were required and in 1949 the first bay was opened in Springfield Road. It was built on the site of an old Gas Works, with a labour force of six. Over the following years building work continued on the adjoining site of the brickyard once owned by Cox’s, it was in these workshops that School Furniture was produced.
Due to experiencing some bad debts on the joinery side of production, that had caused a few problems, it became necessary for the Company to take stock of the market for school furniture. The decision was therefore made to produce school furniture only for the County Council where the money was safe. This proved to be a wise decision and it soon paid off, orders were received to cater for the supply of furniture on a national basis. Woodberry Bros & Haines were the first manufacturer to produce a bent laminated school chair, and, because other companies could not supply these, they had the monopoly on school furniture.
It was whilst in this production that the business decided to invest in the first machine of its type to ‘print wood’ and Caxton Furniture was born. —William Caxton had invented the first printing machine; so it was agreed they call their product Caxton.
Boards that were printed on this machine were supplied to the caravan manufacturers for the internal decorative panels. This business was further developed, so that they may enter into the production of Domestic Furniture, the prices were very competitive.
Again their eye for future business had not failed, as this became a successful venture.
Many times it is said, “Why did’nt I think of that”—Jack Woodberry whilst looking through wallpaper books spotted patterns of decorative wood paper. He decided to develop a machine that would put wood patterns onto the panels they were producing; the cost of manufacturing domestic furniture was cut and demand soon outstripped production.
It was around this time that County Councils were suffering severe cutbacks from the Government with regards to educational spending and the orders for school furniture diminished. Obviously this caused a decrease in its manufacture but this gave them the opportunity to increase the manufacture of domestic furniture and, in 1972 the manufacture of school furniture ceased.
Eventually the Springfield Road site was not able to cater for further expansion, and due to the increase in demand, it was necessary to look for an alternative site. In 1988 the negotiations with British Rail to purchase land in Walrow were successful and additional buildings were provided. Woodberry Bros & Haines now also produce kitchen and bathroom furniture; they have 350 employees.
In 2002 the Company moved to the Walrow Industrial Estate to a new factory and office block.
(Information supplied by Christine Woodberry and Ben Griffen (an employee for 55 years)
We were at the reclamation yard in Glastonbury last week and they have a load of Woodberry and Haines chairs. I had to buy one! I told the youngsters in charge all about the company…I think they thought I was just a senile old man….they were probably right!
Further to my posting, I meant to say these are the school chairs – the ones with pale blue-grey steel frames and bentwood seats. I’m sure at Highbridge VC School we were among the first to have these.
Does anyone know if anyone has old second hand furniture from Woodberry brothers & Haines.
I need a piece of replacement glass for a cabinet and I am banging my head against a brick wall trying to get it.