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A Visit to the Robert Sayle Upholstery Room - extracts from the John Lewis Gazette 1972

In these times of rapidly rising prices thirty five pence will barely pay for many people’s daily bus fares.  But thirty five pence – or 7 shillings as it was then – was the amount that Mr George Caron, upholsterer at Robert Sayle, earned for a week’s work when he first started learning upholstery as a young apprentice 45 years ago.  Mr Caron and his colleague Ernie Charlton work in the John Lewis Partnership’s only remaining upholstery workroom…. There is no shortage of work. They receive a constant flow of chairs, sofas and stools for repair or renovation… 

  ..The two upholsterers are helped in their work by Partners from the other workrooms. The cabinet maker and polisher Mr R L Wesson is responsible for putting the wooden parts of the upholstered furniture in order and three women Partners in the soft furnishing workroom, Mrs Y Hobbs, Mrs F.G. Shore and Miss M.R. Murphy, help by machining the covers for loose cushions and piping and rucheing for back, arms and seats.   Before a customer sends furniture in for re-upholstery she is visited by Mr Charlton or Mr Caron  who estimate the cost of the work to be done. They also teat the furniture by sitting on it and by feeling the firmness of the arms and back…  

… Each item is treated differently, for the upholsterers stick very strictly to the rule that a piece of furniture must be re-upholstered in the kind of materials it was originally made in.  Since the design of metal springs has changed quite radically over the last century, the workroom has to keep a stock of different types of springs to replace worn out ones. Similarly, they have to keep old fashioned forms of binding, hessian, webbing and horsehair.  Horsehair is very difficult to obtain nowadays, Mr Charlton told us.  It has to be ordered form a firm in Belgium…  

… Mr Charlton can remember the day some twenty years ago when the workroom was sent thirty deep-buttoned sofas to reupholster in red hide. The customer was a local pub that has only recently closed down.  We wonder what has happened to those thirty red sofas? Perhaps someday they will find their way back to Robert Sayle!