Furnitubes' 70th Anniversary
To mark our 70th Anniversary we interviewed Stephen Cluer, Chairman of Furnitubes to tell us about the history of the company and how things have changed over the years.
Q.How and why was the company started?
"It all started after the war in 1946. My father Jack Cluer was a marine engineer, and at the time motor torpedo boats were being dismantled and he had access to vast quantities of steel tubing from the shipyards. It was at a time when new institutions were being set up such as the National Health Service and educational establishments and he approached the council and simply asked what they required – therfore production began with things like pot and pan racks for schools, and hospital beds."
Q.Where was the company located?
"My Father bought a house in Humber Road in Blackheath, South-East London. He had a garage at the bottom of the garden which is where the manufacturing took place. As the business grew, he rented the garages from neighbours either side to increase the manufacturing space. "
Q.Where did the name Furnitubes come from?
"All of the products created were tubular furniture – so it was a simple combination of Furniture and Tubes!"
Keep Britain Tidy campaign
Q.When did you start working for Furnitubes?
"As it was run from our home, I got involved when I was a child. At the time screws and bolts were hard to come by – there was no Screwfix in those days! My father had good contacts, and he would buy mixed bags of bolts, screws and washers at auction. I would then work with my brother to sort the bags into each type, and would get paid 1 penny for each completed bag!
It was very much a ‘make do and mend’ time, so if we needed a particular length screw it would be cut down to size from what we had available."
Early Tulip Advert Mockup
Q.What’s been the biggest achievement for Furnitubes?
"Without doubt the Bell Bollard. Designed in 1985 as a solution to both protect property and for pedestrian safety. As I was driving around, I was continually seeing bollards that had been knocked over and used to always call the relevant council to encourage them to install a Bell Bollard. Nowadays you see them everywhere, as they're the perfect solution to solve multiple traffic management problems, and they're proven to save lives. It's something we're very proud of."
Q.What’s the future for Furnitubes?
"To continue as we currently do, and adapt and evolve the business as we have done for the past 70 years."
Q.What’s your biggest passion outside of Furnitubes?
"Well it used to be Charlton Athletic, but due to Roland Duchatelet’s lack of passion that’s gone on the back burner. For now, it’s enjoying time with my Grandchildren, my black Labrador Benson and spending time in the garden."
Tulip promotional material
1946 - Furnitubes is born
Furnitubes founded by marine engineer Jack Cluer. First products were made from recycled metal tubes, and sold to educational institutions and the National Health Service.
1950s - Tulip Success
The original Tulip timber-slatted litter basket sees Furnitubes breakthrough to the Street Furniture market.
1960s - Branching Out
Furnitubes expanding into lots of new markets, including concrete seating and planters, playground equipment and skateboard ramps, railings, street sweeper carts and traffic cones.
1970s - Street Furniture
Due to customer demand, Furnitubes released a large range of street furniture including bollards, cycle stands and tree protection.
1980s - Security Bollards
Following a pandemic of raids, the dedicated anti ram-raid Gunner Security bollard was created and quickly became the standard for security bollards among retailers.
The Bell Bollard. 1985 brought the introduction of the Bell Bollard, the most famous of all Furnitubes products.
1990s - Innovative Products
With expansion of the design department and investment in C.A.D, graphics and D.T.P. publishing software, Furnitubes secure a number of bespoke contracts including historic gate restoration for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets at Spitalfields Market and a café arch for the London Borough of Greenwich at Greenwich Park. Furnitubes also supplied all street furniture for the pedestrianisation of Main Street, Gibraltar.
2000s - Sales, Service and Stock Control
Furnitubes Head Office moves to Royal Hill Greenwich, and a New Medway distribution centre provides substantial efficient warehouse facilities.
2010s - New Website and Corporate Branding
Furnitubes launch a brand new website, with a much improved design and usability
2016 - Product innovation
To mark their 70th Anniversary, Furnitubes launched new vibrant corporate branding. The design team continue to innovate with new product ranges, including a collection of wall-top seating that can be retrofitted to existing walls. The RailRoad range of interchangeable curved and straight modular seating is increasingly popular, with the latest installation at Green Dragon House, Croydon, incorporating RailRoad planters for a new roof garden. The design continue to work closely with architects to create bespoke designs for numerous projects including concept seating for Thomas More Square in London.