As part of Heal’s 200, we have has replaced the old ‘sign of the four poster’ with a faithful reproduction. Once considered a modern logo, the emblem now acts as a symbol of our heritage and reminds us how much tastes and styles have changed over the last two hundred years. The new sign now hangs proudly outside our flagship store on Tottenham Court Road, celebrating the fact that the Fitzrovia location has been our home for two centuries.
Heal’s and the Four Poster Bed
From the as early as the 19th century, Heal’s was to become synonymous with the symbol of the four-poster bed. Heal’s itself started as a bedding manufacturer and was the first retailer to introduce French-style feather-filled mattresses to London. From the 1840s, a Heal’s bed was regarded by the middle classes as the best that money could buy.
Innovative from the outset, John Harris Heal, the founder of Heal’s, bought advertising space in Charles Dickens’ novels that were issued in monthly shilling parts. Heal & Son promoted its French mattresses in the Pickwick Papers. Despite poor initial sales, Dickens’ 1836 novel catapulted to fame, becoming the publishing sensation of the century. Heal & Son was one of the first companies to see the advertising potential and made regular appearances. Adverts became larger and more elaborate, eventually taking the shape of expensive full-page notices promoting the company’s bedroom furniture.
Ambrose Heal, John Harris’ grandson, joined the family business in 1893. One of his earliest contributions was to adopt a recognisable corporate identity, long before the concept was commonplace amongst retailers. He settled upon a four poster bed with a chequered border which went on to feature on marketing material in various versions all the way through to 1984.
A sign was erected outside the Tottenham Court Road store in the 1920s and became known as meeting place for Londoners, akin to the clock at Waterloo station. “At the sign of the four poster” became the ideal spot to meet for a first date. It was taken down several years ago to preserve the original but can currently be found inside the Tottenham Court Road store.
The new Sign of the Four Poster
As part of our Heal’s 200 celebrations, a new sign has been made by the West London charity, the Goldfinger Factory. Featuring the iconic four poster insignia, the sign is true to the original but reflects Heal’s today – ‘195’ has been replaced with ‘196’ to reflect our up to date address and its frame commemorates our 200th year.
We asked Hanna Sunny Whaler, a sign painter and illustrator, to take on the task of producing the new sign. As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting up and coming talent, Hana was the perfect choice. She designs and creates signage by hand from beginning to end using traditional techniques and tricks of the trade that have been passed down the generations.
Having graduated from Falmouth University in 2014, she moved to Bristol and travelled as a sole trader around the South West. She recently relocated to South East London and works from her studio and on-location for a wide variety of clients within the city and beyond its borders.
You can see the new sign in all its glory at our Tottenham Court Road store where it has now taken up its permanent position outside our flagship.