Once this country’s’ standard bearer for good, honest furniture, more recently a forgotten relic, Minty is quickly becoming the worst kept secret in British collectables Based originally in Oxford, Minty furniture quickly earned a reputation for quality and comfort. Products made at its small factory in St Clement’s were exported all over the world. The founder of the firm was Mr N E E Minty, who was born in locally in 1860. He opened a shop at 45 High Street in 1880. In a workshop at the back, he produced a wicker chair, known as the Varsity, which quickly became a must-have’ item, at home and overseas. It was said that every undergraduate in Oxford had one!
It was the first of a range of products which were to make Minty a household name.
Increasing business led to the purchase of 44 High Street and later the shop was enlarged by the removal of the workshop to a factory in Cherwell Street, St Clement’s.
During the First World War, Minty turned its skills to work of national importance and made canvas goods for the armed forces, including stretchers and tents.
After the war, the Cherwell Street works reverted to upholstery and cabinet production, but the experience gained in tent- making was not wasted. Mr Minty continued to make tents and marquees and set up a subsidiary department dealing in the hire of white linen tents for agricultural shows, college balls, wedding receptions and other functions.
Minty shops were opened in London in 1920 and Manchester in 1932 and the firm appointed selling agents in other major towns, making Minty settees amongst the most popular and widespread in the land right up until the 1960’s.
The factory, which had been enlarged to cope with increased demand, was turned over to war work again during the Second World War and produced tents, aircraft covers, mobile repair units and various items of wooden equipment.
Mr Minty, who died in 1934, was succeeded as chairman by Mr B B Bowles, who had joined the firm as a junior and had risen to managing director. The Minty family link was maintained by Mr Minty’s son Edward, who became the general manager.
The firm continued to flourish, but production was hampered by operations being spread around five separate buildings, three of which had two floors.
A new £100,000 purpose- built factory and showroom opened on the Horspath Road industrial estate, in Cowley, in 1966. But in 1992, in the face of difficult trading conditions, the firm went into receivership. Two years later, it was sold for £1.1m to rival Cornwell Parker and the factory was closed, ending more than a century of Minty production in Oxford.
Today a lucky find in a charity or antiques store can result in a considerable payout; such is the strength of the collectors market for original Minty furniture. Recognized not only for its quirkily British sense of style but also for its contribution to the war effort during some of the most trying years in this nations history, the Minty name is set to grow and grow over the next few years as we continue to look back in time for interior inspiration. Pairing original furniture with the modern take on Art Nouveau fabrics and wall coverings will a real style statement that is rooted in classic design.