Furnishers in Tottenham Court Road, London. Established as a bedroom specialist, the firm was revitalized by Ambrose Heal (1872-1959), who joined the company in 1893 after studying furniture design at the Slade and an apprenticeship with Messrs Plucknett of Warwick, and was responsible for furniture designs from 1896 until his retirement. Although the firm had exhibited earlier, at London in 1851 and 1862 and at Vienna in 1873, it was though Ambrose Heal's involvement with the Arts and Crafts Movement it developed its distinctive simple, vernacular style, which was seen in their first furniture catalogue (1898), and praised by Gleeson White, editor of The Studio. Heals also began to advertise 'artistic textiles'. It exhibited at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society from 1899 and was one of the few British firms to show at the 1900 Centennial Exhibition in Paris.
ir Ambrose Heal was born at Crouch End. His family’s firm, Heal and Sons, was a furnishing company on Tottenham Court Road. At a young age Ambrose was keenly interested in Design, and embraced the Arts and Crafts movement. After spending an apprenticeship with Messrs Plucknett of Warwick, he obtained a post with a mass production furniture manufacturer in London “but left before lunch, disgusted with the level of workmanship and design.” His furniture design attempted to follow the philosophy of Ruskin and Morris, but tried to bring a high level of craftsmanship within the reach of middle class families. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Heal had merged his two ideals; commercial sales and Arts and Crafts design. He did this by embracing the knowledge that in order to expand the company’s sales it would be necessary to introduce an element of mass production. He had the vision to see that the simple construction and plain ornament so integral to the style was perfectly suited to mass production, and enabled Heals and Sons to move to producing a distinctive style of well made furniture. This new style adapted by Ambrose himself, born of good quality and solid design, then largely resolved the problem the purist Arts and Crafts producers were facing: their hand made furniture designed for the common man, was priced out of the common man’s reach.
By many craftsmen of the time he was distrusted and envied because he ran an efficient business and they referred to him as “the long haired chap with the odd notions.” He was also constantly criticised however Heal stuck to his principles. His outlook was Arts and Crafts furniture was not just a fashion of the moment, it was a far deeper-felt way of life to him and effected everything he did. Through this honesty and sincerity he built a devoted clientele.
Even after the slaughter of the First World War where he lost his eldest son killed in Belgium, Heal continued to produce what he described as “good citizens furniture” forging a link between the craftsman and the machine that few others