History & Manufacturing

A Brief History

In 1922 a new type of furniture appeared in Britain with the legend ‘neither cane nor wicker – superior to either’  

The furniture appeared to be similar to fine, traditional hand-crafted wicker but was woven with a wonderful new fibre ‘impervious’, it claimed ,‘to damp and dirt’.

It was ‘hygienic’ and it did not ‘warp’; it was ‘unaffected by heat’. The trade mark was ‘Lloyd Loom’and the new wonder fibre was, quite simply, paper.Lloyd Loom is, strictly speaking, a wicker product but it was sufficiently different to create a new market. It was more than improved wicker; it was a new type of furniture.

Lloyd Loom furniture is smooth to the touch, with no sharp joints in the weave which can snag clothing, it does not bend, distort or creak when used, remarkably strong and durable.

Split rolls of kraft paper being converted into fibre twine (on spools at the base of the photograph). Lusty’s London works, c.1930.

Giant rolls of woven fibre, fresh from the loom, waiting to be taken to the cutting room. Lusty’s London works, c.1930.

Clamping metal strips to the edge of the cut sections of woven fibre.

Spray paint finishing at Lusty’s london works, c 1935.

Applying the woven fibre to a bentwood chair frame.

Who are W. Lusty & Sons?

William Lusty started his buisness in 1872 from a small hardware shop in London’s East End. A jack-of-all trades, he also developed a timber business by salvaging driftwood, from fallen barges, out of the local canal; by the turn of the centenery,

this had become an important local, family industry which specialised in the manufacture and supply of wooden packing cases and beer crates.

During the first world war, the company expanded its business by adapting to make munitions cases.

By 1918 the business had vastly increased its manufacturing capacity and, with capital to invest, required a new product line

The diversification into furniture production was typical of Lusty’s canny opportunism.

When a New York agent for their packing case business read about the Lloyd invention in the American trade journal Packages, and passed the information on to Lusty’s, they were quick to show interest and act.

They swiftly signed up the British rights and Frank Lusty arrived in America in May 1920 to acqaint himself with Lloyd’s system. He stayed at Menominee for four months, during which time he worked on the factory floor, in each section of the plant, in order to obtain a thorough knowledge of the system. Full patent rights and the basic machinery were purchased in 1921 and Lusty’s were in production by the following year. Lusty’s and Lloyd’s would never be in direct competition with each other; instead, they nurtured a friendly and mutually productive association in which development of ideas and design for their furniture would be shared.

Lusty Londons Factory

The Lusty Lloyd Loom factory complex covered covered an area of about 17 acres at Bromley-by-Bow in the East End of London. Situated in a typically urban industrial enviroment it formed a triangular plot, bordered on one side by the Limehouse Cut, a tributary of the Grand Union Canal, with Empson Street and extensive railway sidings forming its other boundaries.

The immediate area was a sprawl of densely packed rows of Victorian houses, where most of Lusty’s employees lived, mixed with other local industry.The contrast, therefore between the american and British factories could not have been greater. The Menominee plant, purpose-built on a green site with plenty of room for expansion; Lusty’s, by contrast, hemmed in, their work largely a confused mass of converted and poorly ordered buildings, without the scope for or possibility of any sort of expansion.

In America, the Menominee plant was a source of local pride. It was a local landmark and actually became a tourist attraction.

Visitors were taken on guided tours and given a complimentary booklet, ‘My trip thru the Lloyd plant’, a touch that was as innovative and inventive in the early 1930s as the furniture it was endorsing.

It is hard to imagine visitors to Lusty’s completing a successful tour of their factory. Nonetheless, despite the apparently chaotic layout, there was no disputing that this was as well equipped and as productive as Menominee.

Former London Transport Bus seen in use by W.Lusty & Sons Ltd of Bromley-by-Bow London E3, as a mobile showroom for their Lloyd Loom range of furniture, until 1961.