The farm boasts 300 acres of beautiful Yorkshire pasture and arable land, and is home to a flock of Texel, Suffolk, Zwartble and Wensleydale sheep, which are reared in exchange for their woolly fleeces. The farm also produces hemp and flax fibres which are processed on-site, before being transported to the Harrison Spinks factory down the road in Leeds, where they are carded and blended with other natural materials to make sumptuous natural mattress upholstery fillings.
Naturally you can find Harrison Spinks luxury mattresses in each of the 19 bedrooms of the manor, so I was very excited to be spending the night there after a fantastic but tiring day at Herbert Parkinson. There has been a real explosion of mattress brands on the market in the past few years, and I know it can seem like a minefield to navigate through to find the one most suited to your needs and – critically – your budget. I’m not going to lie, Harrison Spinks’ mattresses are at the premium end of the market and I was eager to find out just what goes into the product to make it worthy of the price tag.
We checked into the manor in the late afternoon and were shown to our rooms, with plenty of time to kick back and relax before dinner. I massively lucked out with my beautiful master bedroom, with freestanding bathtub perfectly situated right under the window for taking in the spectacular views across the farm.
The Grade II listed manor was built in 1770, and has been lovingly restored to provide luxury self catering accommodation and a unique barn venue for weddings and other celebrations. We pretty much had the run of the place during our overnight stay, and I had a lot of fun exploring each of the rooms in the manor house, west wing and servant’s quarters, before we assembled downstairs for dinner in the grand ballroom and treated to the most delicious and leisurely 3-course meal.
The following morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep on the luxury 12,000 pocket spring mattress in my room, we reconvened in the ballroom for a hearty breakfast, before heading out to discover the farm and the origins of my night of blissful slumber.
Harrison Spink’s luxury mattresses use moisture absorbing hemp fibres which are harvested on their 300 acres of Yorkshire farmland. They always get a few raised eyebrows when they talk about their hemp crops, but its resilience and durability make it the perfect natural fibre for their mattresses. The hemp and flax crops produce super absorbent fibres that help to absorb moisture from the mattress while you sleep, keeping you cool and dry. It is also naturally resistant to mildew, helping to keep beds fresh and hygienic.
John, the farm’s hemp production manager, explained that the rich Yorkshire soil and climate create the perfect conditions to grow hemp and flax linen from seed, and that growing it locally significantly reduces the impact on the environment because the fibres only need to be transported 18 miles up the road to the factory. On top of this, the fibres are 100% recyclable at the end of the mattress’ life. So, as John would say, instead of asking ‘why hemp?’, a better question quite frankly is ‘why not?’
After we’d had some fun frolicking through the hemp fields in the early morning sun, it was time to meet some of the farm’s star attractions! The flock of Zwartbles, Suffolk, Texel and Wensleydale sheep, as well as Alpacas and Angora goats, are all bred for their beautiful soft, springy and naturally supportive wool coats, used in Harrison Spinks’ Natural Collection for John Lewis & Partners.
Wool is a sustainable natural mattress filling, which can be fully recycled at the end of the mattress’ life. Sheep wool is antibacterial and inherently fire retardant, with natural wicking properties to help regulate body temperature. Similarly, alpaca wool is soft and durable with excellent wicking properties, whilst also being warmer and hypoallergenic. Lastly Angora goats, like Bea here, produce mohair which is smoother and softer than sheep’s wool, with a fine silky texture.
Then it was time to head up the road to the Innovation Centre and Mattress Factory!
Innovation is at the heart of the Harrison Spinks brand, and they see themselves as the Nasa of the bed world; forever pushing the boundaries of engineering principles to develop truly ground-breaking technology. Every Harrison Spinks mattress benefits from an innovative and sustainable Cortec® pocket spring design for enhanced comfort and support. These tiny pocket springs are produced in a blanket sheet format and adapt to your body as you sleep, relieving any pressure. These springs are closest to the natural filling layers and the perforated fabric pushes air through the mattress allowing it to breathe for your comfort.
More springs mean more comfort: just as you increase the megapixels on your camera to get a clearer picture, the more tiny springs there are in a mattress the more they contour to your body to relieve pressure and give you a better night’s sleep. Harrison Spinks have worked with British Steel to develop the unique grade of steel rod that allows them to draw ultra-fine wire on site, significantly reducing the weight of the springs in their mattresses, as well as reducing their carbon emissions by eliminating the need for transporting the components.
They’ve also brought weaving back to the North of England, with investment in state of the art looms that allow them to produce 90% of their mattress fabric in-house. These are produced by weaving a viscose fibre made of cellulose from trees and finished only using steam, removing the need for harsh chemicals. Unsurprisingly, their pioneering ethos has already been recognised twice with two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in Innovation in 2013 and 2018.
We also got to step out on the production floor to see one of their luxury natural collection mattresses being constructed. There’s no such thing as a ‘standard person’, which is why at Harrison Spinks there’s no such thing as a standard bed. Outside and in, it’s designed around you, right down to the last stitch.
It was fascinating to see how many people were involved in the production chain, with each having their own specific set of skills and expertise to contribute and ensure the final product is the highest quality possible. The art of side stitching, for example, takes years of training to ensure an expert stitch that offers maximum support across the entire sleeping surface. We were given the opportunity to try it out and trust me, pushing that thick needle through the dense natural fillings quickly and accurately is pretty darn impossible for a novice. Gary, however, can complete an entire mattress in minutes.
Likewise, tape edging delivers the important finishing touch in the building of Harrison Spinks mattresses, and Mikey made the whole process look pretty effortless. We watched him whizz the machine around the exterior of the mattress, pumping the foot pedal whilst moving the machine around the contours, angling the tape into the perfect straight line, all the while forcing the overflowing layers of mattress filling expertly inside to completely bind the layers within. Naturally that graceful ease he demonstrated took years to perfect.
The high level of personalisation available at Harrison Spinks is testament to the expert skill levels of every craft person in the production chain. For example, if you and your partner have different requirements for the firmness of your mattress – achieved by varying the tensions in the revolution spring – each side can be personally tailored much in the same way as Herbert Parkinson could create a half/half duvet with differing togs for couples who like different levels of warmth in bed – to ensure you both have a restful nights sleep laying side by side.
We’ve all had a terrible night’s sleep on what we would consider poor quality mattresses, but have you ever considered why?
If a mattress is too soft for you, it puts severe pressure on your lower back, which is not only uncomfortable but can cause a lot of stiffness the following day. Conversely, when a mattress is too firm for your body it can create pressure around the shoulders, hips and knees, again causing a restless night.
It’s important to make sure you don’t spend repetitive nights sleeping on a mattress that is not suited to your body or sleep style, or the long term negative effect on your health will be cumulative. Taking time to visit a mattress showroom and trying out all of the options properly (i.e. actually lying down and resting awhile in different positions) can pay dividends in your future health and wellbeing, and ensure you are making the right financial investment in your mattress.
I have to say I found my visit with Harrison Spinks to be incredibly eye-opening and I don’t think I’ll ever look at my mattress in quite the same away again! I was so impressed, not only by the level of technology and innovation that goes into each of their mattresses, but also the brand’s commitment to sustainability and planet positive processes throughout the entire production chain.
To sleep on a premium quality mattress produced entirely in the North of England, that helps support local craftspeople and generate skilled Northern employment opportunities, is a fantastic investment all round in my opinion and one I hope I’ll be able to make as I develop a ‘forever home’ in the future.
I was hosted at Hornington Manor and Harrison Spinks as a guest of John Lewis & Partners. All thoughts and views are, as always, my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.