A night on the farm with Harrison Spinks

    Harrison Spinks farm (4)
    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    A night on the farm with Harrison Spinks

    In the heart of the Yorkshire countryside – slap-bang between Leeds and York – editor Hamish Kilburn arrived on the 300-acre farm where the Harrison Spinks journey evolved into one that was centred around sustainable and innovative initiatives. From understanding the benefits of hemp to seeing how the bed manufacturer is keeping British manufacturing alive, Hotel Designs was given full access for 48 hours to understand why the bed and mattress manufacturer is commonly referred to as ‘the true bedmakers’…

    Harrison Spinks farm (4)

    If Christmas movies have taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate – or turn down – the opportunity to swap city life for a quieter pace in the winter months. The Harrison Spinks farm, for me this year, was that secret escape; a peaceful staycation in the tranquil setting of the Yorkshire countryside – as far removed from metropolis madness as it gets.

    But I was not there to kick back and relax. Instead, I was on a mission to explore how the Harrison Spinks brand developed from a family-owned, small-scale business to one of the leading bed manufacturers in the world, sheltering gamechanging technology, fuelled by innovative methods designed with a conscious mindset towards the local community as well as the environment – there’s no greenwashing here. And, luckily for me, to really understand the brand’s unique ethos, you first have to stay one or two nights on the farm, which the bed manufacturer acquired on its mission to become Net Zero.

    After arriving late at night, I was kindly shown to my digs – a newly renovated hut in the middle of, well, nowhere – and, once locked away safely in the cosy confines of my quirky cabin, it didn’t take long for my head to hit the pillow.

    Following a much-needed comfortable night’s sleep, I awoke to the soothing harmony of birds chirping and sheep bleating (I’ve had worse wake-up calls). Peeking my head through the curtains, I meet the locals – flocks of them – and, while doing so, captured the most spectacular site of the Yorkshire countryside. As far as the eyes would focus, there was nothing but untouched meadows, which, I am told, is where the story of Harrison Spinks began.

    Image caption: The huts frame spectacular views of the Yorkshire countryside. | Image credit: Harrison Spinks

    Image caption: The huts frame spectacular views of the Yorkshire countryside. | Image credit: Harrison Spinks

    As well as providing a five-star home for the sheep and goats, the venue itself is utilised throughout the year for weddings and events with a total of 42 rooms (from shepherd huts to suites inside the main house). 182 years ago, though, the farm was the bed and mattress brand’s base, where it first operated from.

    “The brand’s farmer Liam and  Processing Supervisor John are growing 382 acres of hemp this year.”

    Despite consumer demand requiring the brand to modernise and expand– its headquarters moved into a large-scale factory in 1979, just a few miles down the road in Leeds where its premises has been swelling ever since. The farm, meanwhile, is used to house the sheep, goats, lamas (for wool), and hemp plants scattered around the 300-acre plot on the farm that are used for the inner fillings that are used in the manufacturing process.

    From farm to factory

    The brand’s 360-degree approach and sustainable purchasing process can be seen throughout the manufacturing process, but it is arguably most evident on the farm, where pioneering innovations, such as the harvesting of hemp – a material that the design industry is only scratching the surface of its groundbreaking properties. The brand’s farmer Liam and  Processing Supervisor John are growing 382 acres of hemp this year, which ties up approximately 1,390 tonnes of Co2. The hemp and flax grown is pesticide-free, creating a clean, natural and chemical-treatment-free product. And this, along with many other eco-conscious initiatives, is helping the brand hit a major milestone in 2023, when it will go Net Carbon Zero.

    The manufacturing process

    When the natural fillings from the farm arrive at the factory in Leeds, they are cleaned in a process that resembles a candyfloss machine and are pressed together and made into sumptuous layers. Bringing weaving back to Yorkshire, the top, bottom and side panels of the beds are cut into size and sewn.

    What sets Harrison Spinks aside from other bed manufacturers – as well as being one of the first to grow natural fibres for fillings – is that the brand creates its own springs by taking steel rod to the wire drawing line. The steel is drawn through a series of dies to form an ultra-fine wire which can then be bent and manipulated, by in-house engineers, into robust springs.

    Pocket springs form the mattress core. Once these pockets have been cut, a metal frame is then attached to the core before sliding down (literally down a chute) into a different production line, where the mattress continues its manufacturing journey to meet the trained eyes of those who stitch the product together (by hand). Mini springs and natural fillings are then added for comfort and support and tufts are pushed through to keep everything in one place. Tape edging – a process that requires skill and finesse by operating the machine with a knee and guiding it by hand – joins the fabric to the board of the mattress, and this process is the finishing touch.

    Following this, each mattress is sent to the brand’s in-house lab where tests on the fillings and mattresses are carried out before being sent out to the customer.

    From one night on the farm and a day exploring the factory, stepping inside the world of Harrison Spinks has been an eye-opening experience. Seeing how far brand will go to keep manufacturing local, while also understanding how it plans to go Net Carbon Zero by 2023, has been insightful and inspirational. With unrivalled sustainability credentials, more than 180 years of manufacturing excellence and multiple Queens Awards, Harrison Spinks is living up to its name as ‘the true bedmakers’ by helping the world sleep more comfortably.

    Harrison Spinks is one of our Recommended Suppliers and regularly features in our Supplier News section of the website. If you are interested in becoming one of our Recommended Suppliers, please email Katy Phillips.

    Main image: Harrison Spinks

    Hamish Kilburn / 17.01.2022


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