A sofa at war

Some sofas can surprise us with their story and few more so than this lovely sofa recently reupholstered by Richardson and Paige. Are you sitting comfortably? Well, here’s the story.

100 years ago, Britain was at war and in 2017 it’s hard to imagine how it would have affected people in everyday life: The need to lead a normal life; to eat, to dream. I can only imagine the dull ache of fear creeping in to everyday life, the fear of that telegram or a white feather; a dark reminder of others’ expectations of you to fight and die for your country.

How in 2017 can any of us imagine that fear today? The simple reminder of how life goes on in the darkest of times became very clear to me while preparing a sofa ready for re-upholstering, when a piece of paper fell out of the sofa. It was a letter dated 1916.

The writer was evidently serving his time in the forces in Africa. He was writing to his father asking for help to be transferred to another regiment in Canada. He believed his father had influence in the right spheres to be able to help him. The letter conjures up an image of father and son separated by many hundreds of miles communicating by post.

A son who sought protection from the worst of the war. I guess there is a real possibility that by the time the letter was being read, the son could have been injured or killed. No text messages then just the passage of time. The letter makes fascinating reading simply because it is life being lived in the most frightening of times. I can picture the father sat in his sofa in Sussex reading his son’s letter possibly with some feeling of disapproval. My train of thought brings me back to the sofa’s upholsterer in 1910, or earlier, working on a brand-new sofa in a workshop full of hair and hessian. He would have learned his skills as an apprentice to an upholsterer from 1880 or 1890. Thinking like this means we are starting to go rather a long way back in time. Thinking of his father reading his letter, makes me wonder how many of us have a piece of history sat in our living rooms. Maybe your sofa has a similar story behind it, maybe you just have fond memories of curling up with your grandmother listening to her reading you stories and although that sad sofa has seen better days it would be sadder still to let it crumble to dust.

Meanwhile I’m stood here in the present day stripping back the original covering that father and son had sat on. I feel some sadness in ripping out a little bit of history, but in a good way I am preserving it. That sofa was handed down as an heirloom, and although the son may not have returned home from the war the sofa lived on. The sofa links me back to that original upholsterer. As upholsterers, with this connection to the past, we are rebuilding memories and the good amongst us are using those same skills, horse hair and hessian, stitching and knotting, applying the skills taught to us by a fellow who learnt his skills in the ‘50’s, ‘60’s or ‘70’s and so the circle turns.

Every sofa tells a story. It may be a twenty-year-old sofa that you’ve seen your children grow up on, or a sofa that has been in your family for a hundred years and been sat on by several generations of family and friends. Memories of historic moments in time, family events, shared laughter with friends.

It’s a sofa’s life: Looking tired and worn, it shows the time passing. Adding a new chapter to your sofa’s story and still preserving those memories is what my story is to you. I have a desire to express our traditional values without compromise, bring back to life your memories for the next generation and the next hundred years. Our craftsmanship is a stitch in time, linking us to times past.

As I said; all sofas have a story to tell and the older the more fascinating and yet mostly unknown. So, if your sofa has a story to tell hang on to it and hold it close.