Our story began in the heart of London’s East End, where William Hudson identified an opportunity in the distribution of cornice poles and curtain fittings. As the business expanded, it opened branches across the UK. After William’s untimely death in 1930, his sons, Reg and Leslie, took over the reins.
The Advent of Television
Leslie formed Wood & Metal Industries, initially focusing on steel curtain rails. With the advent of television, the company found success with the Seymour Television Table, a hit both domestically and in continental Europe. Leslie’s son, Neville, joined the thriving family business, contributing to its continued success.
The Pivot to Education
After a market shift, the company moved from living room furniture to bedroom storage, launching the Pacta flat-packed wardrobe, which included a large plastic tray for storing clothes. However, economic troubles in 1967 led to the collapse of the consumer market, and subsequently the company.
The Formation of Gratnells
Rising from the ashes of the previous company, Leslie and Neville began anew, creating Gratnells, a name derived from the first letters of Leslie’s three sons’ names: Graham, Trevor, and Neville. The new focus was schools, especially science classrooms, where a new curriculum demanded students conduct their own experiments, thus increasing the need for equipment storage.
The Innovation of the Tray System
The development of the education curriculum to incorporate the Nuffield Science Project brought about a need for equipment storage in schools. Using the Pacta tray, Leslie and Neville devised a globally patented adjustable system which they unveiled at the Association for Science Education’s annual conference.
Welcome to the USA
The company brings its tray storage system to the US market for the first time.
Becoming the Leading Tray Manufacturer
With UK schools standardising their furniture sizes, Gratnells purchased an injection moulding machine to produce a smaller tray, marking the first steps towards becoming the world’s leading school tray manufacturer.
Recognition and Expansion
Gratnells tray designs were recognised by the influential international education body, Worlddidac, with a silver award. This spurred further growth and expansion into larger premises and 24-hour production, paving the way for worldwide distribution.
With Neville’s eldest son, Murray, joining the company from the BBC, Gratnells took the world by storm, reaching markets in America, Australia, and the Far East. They expanded their product range and moved into a larger, high-tech manufacturing site in Harlow.
In 2011, Murray Hudson succeeded his father as Managing Director of Gratnells.
The introduction of the SmartCase offered an efficient solution for mobile storage. Recognising the specific needs of Primary Education, the Callero range was introduced and gained significant traction throughout the year. The addition of the Jumbo tray to the N range and the under-desk S1 tray illustrated Gratnells’ dedication to adaptability and serving diverse market requirements.
Innovation and Expansion
In 2016, Gratnells launched new products such as Gratnells Stage, Gratnells PowerTray and PowerTrolley, further expanding the company’s international presence.
Expansion in the US
Began with product introductions like the Gratnells Rover and newer Callero versions. The company intensified global efforts by relaunching their American business based in Clearwater, Florida.
Worldwide Sales Growth
Emphasis on technology with a new laser cutting machine. Introduction of divisions for injection moulding and powder coating. The company took pride as international sales surpassed UK sales for the first time.
Gratnells was awarded the prestigious Manufacturing Guild Mark from The Furniture Makers’ Company and successfully passed the ISO 9001:2015 certification. Murray Hudson published a leading book on the impact of school design, “Planning Learning Spaces.”
Navigating the Pandemic
Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, Gratnells continued to innovate, launching new products like the revolutionary Learnometer and the Callero Shield antimicrobial storage range. They also supplied 500 medical trolleys to the Nightingale Hospital in London.
Despite ongoing challenges due to the global pandemic, Gratnells continues to manufacture and deliver its full product range, remaining a family-owned company committed to providing personal service.
First Manufacturing Base Outside the UK
Gratnells establishes new warehousing, office and manufacturing in St Louis, MO.
From its humble beginnings in London’s East End to becoming a global leader in school tray storage, Gratnells carries on the legacy of William Hudson, continuing to innovate and adapt to the changing needs of the market.