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A visit from a previous Somnus employee

12th May 2016


We were delighted to welcome Norman Hinch, a previous Somnus employee, back to the Somnus factory this week. Norman joined us with his daughter Jayne for a tour of the factory as well as a browse through our archives, so that he could see how Somnus had changed since he worked here over fifty years ago.

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Jason, Norman and Jayne in the Somnus showroom

Norman started working for Somnus in June 1950 as an electrical engineer and was part of the development team, moving from the site at Carlton Mills to a brand new factory in West Park, before ultimately leaving in 1972 when the factory was closed down.

William Rhodes was Chairman at the time Norman worked for the business, and Norman remembered him well. He said William was a gentleman who knew everyone’s name and would often speak with employees on the factory floor.

Norman recognised the tape edging machines and tufting presses in the archive folders and was surprised to learn that those processes had changed little since his time at Somnus. After the tour he remarked that we have the same basic principle today when constructing a mattress but many of the processes were much more modern and streamlined, for example, pocketing the springs was very much a manual process during his time at Somnus. The all natural, raw materials came in bails as they do today but were mixed and ‘fluffed’ with compressed air. A big part of the workforce (around 60 girls) were involved in making the jiffy tapes, which we are now able to buy in. As a Somnus employee Norman was involved in developing a machine to automate the flag stitching of handles, whereas before it had been done by hand on a line. As you can see in the photo, the new factory that was built was modern even by our standards – borders and panels would go from the sewing room to the floor by miniature ‘train’! He noted that there is much more choice now with many more models, different fabrics and headboards available.

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Norman at the new Somnus factory at West Park
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Norman with a colleague, Reg Mitchell at the Somnus factory. Reg invented the jiffy tuft and worked for Harrison’s after Somnus, making machines for the sewing room.

After the visit, we received a lovely message from Jayne:

May I take this opportunity to thank you once again for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with my father and I today, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you both.

The visit has certainly brought back many memories for my father and has given me an insight into his working life at Somnus.

It was a delight to spend time with Norman, learning more about his experiences working as a Somnus employee and understanding how some of our current manufacturing processes have become much more modern, whilst others remain relatively unchanged.