The Norfolk bed company by royal appointment to the Queen

Stephen Thompson and Amanda Oldfield, of the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed company, which is being stocked at Jo

Stephen Thompson and Amanda Oldfield, of the Sandringham estate-based Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co, which is being stocked at John Lewis in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

A mug of tea can be the catalyst that helps to solve problems big and small. 

For Amanda Oldfield, a random comment made to her husband, Stephen, led to a whole new business. 

Amanda Oldfield, co-founder of the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co

Amanda Oldfield, co-founder of the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

While furnishing her home, Amanda had ordered two new iron beds for her sons, Harry and Jack. 

She was looking for the sort of beds that she remembered from her childhood – timeless frames that are built to last and can be passed down through the generations and become family heirlooms. 

But when they arrived, Amanda was disappointed with their quality. 

The answer, they realised, was to build their own. 

Today, the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co holds the Royal Warrant and their beds, which are hand-crafted at their workshop on the Sandringham estate, are owned by rock stars, have starred in Broadway productions and are stocked in John Lewis stores across the country. 

Wrought Iron and Brass Bed company stocked at John Lewis.

Beds by Royal Warrant holders, the Norfolk-based Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co are stocked at John Lewis in Norwich - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

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Amanda and Stephen meet the EDP at the Norwich branch in All Saints Green.  

They’ve gone along to see their beds on display in the store’s recently revamped sleep department.  

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our mental and physical wellbeing – and is something that many of us have struggled with, particularly during the pandemic.  

Having the right environment in which to nod off can play a huge part – and a bedroom should be a sanctuary where you can switch off from the day.  

Sony Joseph, sleep specialist at John Lewis Norwich

Sony Joseph, sleep specialist at John Lewis Norwich - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

They have their own sleep specialist, Sony Joseph, and customers can get advice about everything from choosing frames and mattresses to duvets, pillows and lighting.   

Amanda and Stephen are clearly thrilled to see their beds in store.    

“Moons ago, over 20 years ago, I ordered beds for Jack and Harry, our two sons,” explains Amanda.  

“They arrived, they were quite expensive beds, and they wouldn’t have lasted very long at all, so I was not happy with about that,” she says. 

At the same time, Stephen experienced a health scare and was looking for a career change.  

They had been living in Derbyshire, but returned to Norfolk, the place they really called home. 

“When I saw these beds I thought ‘that’s something we can do’. So that’s what we did - we designed a bed and got them made up,” says Amanda.  

Stephen Thompson, co-founder of the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co

Stephen Thompson, co-founder of the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

The entrepreneurial couple got an appointment to pitch to the buyer at John Lewis.

Amanda and Stephen travelled down to their London HQ and by the end of the day they’d secured an order for more than 100 beds to be delivered less than two months later.  

Despite never having manufactured on that scale before, the plucky couple rose to the challenge, refining the operation through trial and error as they went along. 

“It was a case of ignorance is bliss, because you don’t know what you’re actually doing until you do it,” says Amanda. 

“To start with it was very much on a cottage industry scale – I would provide the materials that the beds were made from.” 

Alongside, they set up a factory shop in Norfolk to sell any seconds – something which came into its own when the financial crash struck in 2008, prompting a change in strategy.  

They moved their focus to selling beds directly through their shop and website, expanding their range of designs, which could also be customised to their clients’ bespoke requirements.  

“With the website we’d spread our market from Norfolk and we started to get orders from all over the UK,” says Stephen. 

In time their sons joined them in the business – Harry looks after marketing and their website and Jack heads up production. 

As the company has grown, they’ve needed bigger premises. Their manufacturing base remains on the Sandringham estate, but they moved from Flitcham to Wolferton, and their showroom is now at Swaffham. 

Right from the beginning they’ve wanted their beds to have stories behind them and there is always a personal connection to the names of their designs.  

The Sophie bed by the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co

The Sophie bed by the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co - Credit: Contributed

Sophie was named for their next-door neighbours Charles and Melanie’s first baby girl and Emily for their second. 

“A bed never has a name until it’s been built,” explains Amanda. “Then we’ll make the decision of what the bed’s name and association is going to be.  

“We’ve got a new really fine brass bed. Last year we lost our black lab, Willow. She was really dainty and Harry said we should call it Willow – so we've got the Willow bed.” 

The Lily bed by the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co

The Lily bed by the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co - Credit: Contributed

They have supplied beds for royal residences at Sandringham and beyond – and last year they received the news that they had been awarded the coveted Royal Warrant. 

“You have to have supplied Her Majesty for at least five years, and we’ve done it for seven. We applied and then out of the blue, in April 2021, Harry got an email to say we had been awarded a warrant. Since then, it’s opened other opportunities for us abroad,” says Stephen. 

Particularly memorable commissions include two “inky dinky little brass beds” which were shipped over to New York for the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. 

“They had to look like beds from up in the gods, so they had to be trapezium-shaped,” says Stephen. 

And a canal boat builder asked them to create a special bed with a head in the shape of a ship’s wheel. 

“The biggest bed we’ve ever made for somebody was 10ft by 6ft 6in. They had five children and they had a cinema room and what they used to do was all pile in bed together to watch films,” says Amanda.  

As when they started out, Stephen and the team still deliver beds to customers and assemble them themselves – including to celebrities.

Not that he always realises. 

“Some years ago, I delivered these beds and assembled them and the guy had all these guitars and little discs with plaques on the wall and they said ‘Dad, that is so-and-so, didn’t you realise?’ It was quite funny,” he laughs. 

Amanda and Stephen agree that the key to working together as a family has been to compartmentalise – setting boundaries about when business talk is off the agenda.   

“At the end of the day the most important thing is you are a family,” says Amanda. “And so there are times where one will say to the other three, ‘this isn’t work now, that’s it, we’ve left work, we’re a family now’. 

“The pro is that when anything happens, such as Covid, we can act quite quickly. We don’t have to go to anybody else, we can make a decision and it happens.” 

And they describe their staff as their “extended family”.  

Amanda and Stephen are proud of the fact that their company is flying the flag for manufacturing in Norfolk – and that they’re the only iron bed makers to be recognised by the Guild of Master Craftsmen. 

At work in the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co's workshop on the Sandringham Estate

At work in the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co's workshop on the Sandringham Estate - Credit: Paul Tibbs

Coming full circle, their beds are now stocked by John Lewis again.  

Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co beds come with a lifetime guarantee, are an investment that is built to last and sustainability has been at the heart of what they do, long before it became a buzzword – values which they see as being aligned with what John Lewis does.  

“You can tell the difference between pressed steel and iron beds,” says Amanda. “It’s always what I call the flick factor. You flick a pressed steel bed and it sounds like when you ping a Coke can. When you flick one of our beds you hurt your finger.” 

“The quality is there right from the moment you start cutting the steel,” adds Stephen. 

“When we started sustainability wasn’t bandied about as much as it is now,” says Amanda. “If we buy as much as we can locally, then it keeps the money in Norfolk, so everything we could source in Norfolk we did. 

“When people come to the showroom, they apologise because of the time they’re taking [to decide] and I say no don’t, because it’s got to be right. You’ve got to look at it for a long time and it’s got to make you smile, every time you look at it. So, take as long as you like.” says Amanda. 

For more information about the Wrought Iron and Brass Co visit wroughtironandbrassbed.co.uk 

Visit the sleep department at John Lewis, All Saints Green, Norwich, or visit johnlewis.com  

The newly revamped sleep department at John Lewis Norwich

The newly revamped sleep department at John Lewis Norwich - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme