H. Morris & Co. Ltd. was established in 1904 by Harris Morris. Morris Furniture enjoyed a rich and successful history spanning three generations of the Morris family. Born in the late 1800’s Harris Morris steered the Morris Furniture Company through production of a diverse range of products, catering for some of the most prestigious hotels to Cunard luxury ocean liners, cinema seats, domestic and office products. Morris Furniture also provided a valuable contribution throughout the Second World War (1939-45) producing a range of items necessary for the war effort. Whatever time period, Morris Furniture proved to be a valuable, flexible and consistent business, showing an ability to adjust and react not only to the current demands but having the foresight to develop new and innovative products for the years ahead.
Work and leisure
It is often said that a bad workman blames his tools, so it is no surprise that businesses looking to get the very best out of their employees turned to Morris Furniture following its founding at the turn of the century to provide them with the very best in office desks and cabinets. Although no conclusive results were ever produced to confirm that the furniture supplied increased workplace productivity, it was universally accepted that their very presence made offices a more pleasant – and better looking – working environment. By the 1920’s Morris Furniture was fast becoming as much a part of people’s social life as their working lives. When the seminal film ‘The Jazz Singer’ finally brought sound to the world of cinema, amazed audiences found themselves on the edge of seats produced by Morris Furniture as they witnessed the most important technological breakthrough the film industry had made since its inception. Meanwhile, as audiences watched movie stars on comfortable Morris Furniture made chairs in movie theatres, the stars of the silver screen were also likely enjoying the same quality and comfort within the luxury of iconic hotels such as Gleneagles and Turnberry. However, the demand for Morris Furniture products from the most exclusive establishments was by no means limited to dry land. In 1930, during the ambitious construction of what was set to be the world’s most elaborate and grandiose ocean liner - the Queen Mary - there was only one company that builders John Brown & Company trusted to provide first-class cabins with the appropriate level of elegance – Morris Furniture.
The rising son
In 1938, the company saw founder Harris Morris’ son Neil join the business, an arrival which initiated a brand new era of innovative development. As his father before him, Neil was gifted with a natural eye for design and an entrepreneurial mind for business and wasted no time in demonstrating it. Within his first year with the company, Neil had established himself within the industry as a pioneer in woodworking technology and design. Amongst his early achievements was the development of industry changing techniques in the application of laminated wood to shaped tables and chairs.
Fighting the good fight
Shortly after Neil’s arrival in to the company, the dynamic new addition to the company’s goal to change the world of furniture was stalled by events which themselves stood to change the world forever. Like so many British companies between 1939 and 1945, Morris Furniture made an invaluable contribution to the allied war effort. The company opened its Campsie located contract factory in 1940 in order to meet the growing demands of the war effort and manufacturing the mechanisms for the Enfield rifles which were the standard issue arms to British troops. However, the most notable contribution made by the company was the role it played in one of the Second World War’s most famous and daring missions – Operation Chastise. The military manoeuvre, executed by Squadron 633 based in RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and immortalised by the film Dam-Busters, utilised bouncing bombs developed by Barnes Wallis to neutralise strategic targets in Germany, namely hydro-electric power stations. Naturally the ultimate success of the mission hinged upon the effectiveness of Wallis’s designs, so Morris was involved in the top-secret project in the development of the bomb casings to ensure that the mission was accomplished. Having already established firm roots within the maritime industry, Morris Furniture’s involvement with the RAF during the war also led to it manufacturing parts for aeronautical industry. In 1946 the company supplied the first helicopter blades to be made from laminated wood for the Sikorsky Helicopter.
A royal engagement
With the war over and the company’s duty to its country nobly served, Morris Furniture was once again called upon to represent the best of British, but for a much happier purpose. The reputation the company had built for design and craftsmanship saw it become the favoured supplier of the royal family. As a result, in 1947, Morris Furniture was asked to design and fit a special bedroom suite as a wedding gift for HM the Queen and Prince Phillip on behalf of the people of Scotland. The ornate furniture was created from Scots oak taken from within the royal family’s Balmoral estate. Upon completion the suite was exhibited at the company’s showroom to give the Scottish people the opportunity to see their gift to the royal couple before it was sent to their first marital home at Clarence house. Today the furniture resides in Sandringham house, the Queen’s favoured holiday residence.
The sky’s the limit
Buoyed by a reputation for excellence, the company, with Neil Morris at the helm, set about wowing the world in yet another way – cutting edge contemporary design. With post-war rationing placing constraints on manufacturing through a necessity to use lightweight materials, furniture production required something of a creative shot in the arm, and once again the eyes of the industry looked to Morris Furniture for inspiration. Whilst other companies saw the situation as a problem, the visionary Neil Morris saw only an opportunity to alter people’s perceptions of furniture design. The result was the iconic Cloud table - a piece which won numerous design awards and still occupies a proud position today in New York’s prestigious Guggenheim museum alongside the celebrated Bambi Chair. Following the success and recognition of the cloud table, Morris Furniture experienced a period of steady growth within the furniture sector. Branching out into additional areas as diverse as the leisure, commercial, and educational sectors, the firm demonstrated its unrivalled versatility. In fact, in 1955, the company even enjoyed success manufacturing Wurlitzer jukeboxes to supply the USA and support a boom in the market for music boxes. Throughout all this period, and the multitude of products it created, the company remained aware to the needs of the end consumer and made products that addressed both ends of the financial spectrum with both high-end luxury goods as well as entry level items for those on a budget. There was a sense of inclusion that everyone should be able to enjoy the great style and craftsmanship that came with every Morris Furniture product. This was brought further to the attention of the masses in 1958 when the company was actively involved in the promotion of all that was great and good with British furniture in the Festival of Britain.
Best of British
As one of the UK’s most prolific manufacturers of high quality furniture, not to mention a British institution in its own right, when construction began on yet another world beating ocean liner – the QE2 – Morris Furniture’s involvement in the project was almost inevitable. Applying its trademark craftsmanship and exquisite attention to detail, the proud Glaswegian company furnished the first-class cabins and panel work throughout the ship’s corridors and staircases. The elegant fittings were crafted from the finest Birds Eye Maple and served as a fitting adornment to what remains one of the most impressive nautical vessels ever made.
Home to boost
In 1970 the company began another period of expansion in both its contract and metal business and its involvement within the domestic furniture market. Whilst the company had already been supplying the domestic sector for many years, it had not pursued it to the same extent as its contracts business. This direction received a significant boost in 1973, when third generation Robert Morris followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps by joining the business. Robert immediately sought to introduce yet another exciting facet to the firm and place the Morris Furniture name into more homes across the country. However, the view to the domestic market in no way detracted from the company’s esteemed reputation for contract work and Morris Furniture was once again the company of choice for yet another high profile project supplying its peerless office furniture to British Embassies worldwide.
Duo drive demand
Growing success in the domestic market led the company to reassess its focus, and as Morris Furniture approached the centenary anniversary of founder Harris Morris, it was decided that it would place an even greater emphasis upon the commercial furniture market. To facilitate the move and further increase the company’s presence in furniture retail stores across the UK, the company appointed fellow Glaswegian George McGraw as Joint Managing Director. Working alongside Robert Morris, the duo proved to be an inspiring combination and the launch of a new dining range led the company to exciting new levels, expanding the business with Morris products taking pride of place in furniture showrooms across the UK and Ireland. By 1990, Robert and George had seen their visionary efforts come to fruition and the business had expanded tenfold. In fact, such was the demand for Morris products that the company was forced to depart from the original factory built by founder Harris Morris and seek larger premises to accommodate its expanding operation. And so it was then the business acquired a new home at Castlemilk on the south side of Glasgow. The new 300,000sq ft factory stood as a fitting testament to both the enormous demand and the growing ambition of the company.
The company’s move to a larger base of operations not only enabled it to meet the growing demand for its products, but also allowed it to focus even more intently on yet further ambitious expansion. Within six years of its move to Castlemilk, the Morris Group bought the licence to supply G Plan Cabinets, an initiative that would prove highly prosperous indeed. The coming together of these two highly respected brands and their combined reputation for quality furniture made for an incredibly appealing offer to retailers and demand increased yet again. Four years after the company’s investment in G Plan Cabinets, the success it created led to demand becoming so great that it was forced to relocate yet again to further increase its production facilities. Having defined itself within the industry as a business with its eyes fixed firmly on the future, the Morris Group took a significant step in 1999 to lead UK furniture in to the 21st century. The acquisition of Beautility (which would ultimately become Zone) added an extra dimension to the group with products that directly addressed the style, practicality and price points that typified contemporary lifestyles. Featuring bold designs with contrasting details, Beautility’s distinct appeal opened up a whole new market demographic for the Morris Group and the move was met with great approval from retailers and consumers alike. With the strong combination of Morris, G Plan Cabinets and Beautility allowing retailers the freedom to cater to a diverse range of customers from a single supplier base, the benefits triggered yet even more demand for the company’s wares. And so it was that in the year 2000 the Morris Furniture Group found itself making yet another move to satisfy its ever-growing order numbers. Taking residence in a new purpose-built 700,000 sq. ft. facility in the Rutherglen borough of Glasgow, the Morris Group could legitimately claim to be the UK’s largest cabinet manufacturer with unrivalled manufacturing and storage facilities and a fleet of more than 114 lorries delivering throughout the UK every week. The impressive scale of the Morris Furniture Group operation saw it capitalise on the entire UK cabinet market. With Beautility providing a superb array of choice at an entry level price point, Morris Furniture offering quality contemporary and traditional pieces at the mid end, and G Plan Cabinets offering arguably some of the best furniture in the UK market at premium price points, the Morris Furniture name exemplified quality cabinetry.
Eezing into a new sector
With the Morris Group’s name synonymous with quality case goods, it came as quite a surprise when, in 2002, the company announced its intention to enter into the upholstery sector. Naturally, for countless retailers who had dealt with Morris for a number of years, the concept of being able to add a new upholstery range bearing the same quality craftsmanship that had defined generations of Morris Furniture products was a tantalizing prospect. Unveiled during that same year’s version of the January show at the Birmingham NEC, Relaxateeze made an instant impact. With a relatively modest collection encompassing three swivel chairs, three action recliners and six club chairs, Relaxateeze announced its arrival by selling more than 4,000 chairs in just four days in what was one of the most impressive debuts in the show’s history. Evidently, the demand for the Morris Group brand clearly stretched outside of the cabinet market, and in the ensuing years Relaxateeze grew from strength to strength, becoming one of the UK’s top manufacturers of reclining chairs. This progression was suitably supported by the addition of accent chairs, sofa beds and action sofas, culminating towards an extensive product portfolio.
Making a difference
Having become renowned for making great furniture for more than a century, in 2006 the Morris Group turned its hand to making something else – a profound difference to the lives of those less fortunate. The Morris Charitable Trust was established to raise funds to support a number of invaluable projects all around the world and is a notable supporter of BuildAid. Through its links with Build Aid, an organisation leading vital construction work in areas devastated by natural disasters, the Morris Charitable Trust played an integral role in building a health facility in Haiti and is currently supporting projects in the Philippines. To help fund these life-changing projects the Morris Charitable Trust hosts regular charitable events throughout the year which continue to generate fantastic annual support. Whether patrons are racing across Europe following navigational clues as part of the Morris Cannonball Run or throwing themselves out of planes as part of the Morris Sky Dive, the Morris Charitable Trust ensures raising money for a good cause has never been more fun.
Another logical move
As an industry leader the Morris Furniture Group was never a business to stay still and in 2011 the company’s drive to move forward led it to make yet another move. Relocating to newly constructed premises in Southcroft Road, Glasgow, the company’s move facilitated extra efficiency to its logistics operation. With a wealth of clients located throughout Scotland and the UK, the new Morris group headquarters was perfectly situated for access to the M74 meaning its fleet of lorries could easily access major arterial road links and make deliveries in an organised and timely fashion. This was just one of many initiatives undertaken by the business throughout its establishment to ensure that its customers received a level of service that matched the level of quality expected of the group.In August 2015, the G Plan license was returned to Sofa Brands International. The Morris, Zone and Relaxateeze brands were sold to Nathan Furniture. Throughout its 131-year journey, the Morris Furniture Group played its part in some of modern history’s defining moments. From the evolution of modern cinema, monumental feats of nautical engineering, vital contributions to the war effort, and the marriage of our longest reigning monarch, the Morris name has been an important part of them all.
Today and beyond
In recent years, H. Morris & Co. Ltd. has diversified into other areas including commercial and residential property and equestrianism.Work continues on the creation of Morris Park in the Polmadie/Rutherglen area, which will have 125 units to let comprising industrial and office space.Morris Equestrian Centre goes from strength to strength, with the creation of the charity, The Daimler Foundation and a Riding School, working with Riding for the Disabled.
Cause for celebration
Throughout its 131-year journey, the Morris Furniture Group played its part in some of modern history’s defining moments. From the evolution of modern cinema, monumental feats of nautical engineering, vital contributions to the war effort, and the marriage of our longest reigning monarch, the Morris name has been an important part of them all.
H. Morris & Co. Ltd. was established in 1904 by Harris Morris. Morris Furniture enjoyed a rich and successful history spanning three generations of the Morris family. Born in the late 1800’s Harris Morris steered the Morris Furniture Company through production of a diverse range of products, catering for some of the most prestigious hotels to Cunard luxury ocean liners.