by Rosamond Allwood
Originally printed issue 66  December 1996

The well-known furniture manufacturers Meredew were based in Letchworth for over 75 years, training and employing hundreds of local people.

The firm began in Islington in the nineteenth century, with mirror makers Hard & Austin, who supplied mirrors for overmantels and sideboards made by Daniel Meredew. Frederick Hard took over the Meredew cabinet-making business, and when he decided to expand he moved to a purpose-built factory in Dunhams Lane in 1914. Hard was attracted by the ideals of the new Garden City, and brought around fifty London families with him.

The factory expanded over the years, employing 177 by 1938. John Hard, Frederick's son, joined the firm as plant engineer in 1933, and like his father was concerned that the most up-to-date machinery was used in production rather than spending time on hand-work. During the war Meredew made panels for wooden gliders, and also Utility bedroom furniture.

The firm took on its first staff designer after the war; Alphons Loebenstein, a 57 year old German emigree whose ideas revolutionised the firm. 

He persuaded Fred Hard to abandon Meredew's traditional designs for a range of modern unit furniture. Between 1950 and 1 965 the company's turnover increased around 40 times, and staff numbers rose from 150 to almost 1 500, with factories in Bradford and Pontefract as well as Letchworth, and a design team ('Planning Unit') in London.

The firm merged with the BondWorth Group in 1969, and was later acquired by Stag of Nottingham. Meredew finally closed in 1990.