Waterbed began it all 40 years ago

Peter Benyon and Kay Wallace celebrating forty years of the Natural Bed Company
Peter Benyon and Kay Wallace celebrating forty years of the Natural Bed Company

When it came to naming those first shops selling clothes, furniture and other items from more exotic parts of the world than Sheffield, inspiration came from Bob Dylan.

First came Freewheelin’ in Nether Green, then Another Side on the other side of the road. Two shops became one as Bringing It All Back Home opened in Glossop Road, with a wholefood cafe.

This month Dylan fan Peter Bennion is celebrating 40 years in business in Sheffield.

For the past 27 years, he has designed and made beds and the shop has become a cornerstone of the Devonshire Quarter. The Futon Shop became The Natural Bed Company.

It’s the type of independent and distinctive shop that Sheffielders hold close to their hearts, judging by the reaction to the plans to redevelop the part of the block accommodating Peter’s business.

He has long steered away from the mainstream and supported different cultures at the same time. More recently, he has done his bit for the local economy with bed frame workshops in Effingham Street, Attercliffe.

It’s sustainable timber, just as it was with the first bed at Freewheelin’ 40 years ago – a waterbed made from recycled roof joists, sold alongside hand-made pottery, lampshade, candles, rugs and bedspreads. Another Side concentrated on clothes.

Peter, from Leeds, took the plunge into retail after three years in the anatomy department of Sheffield University.

“At the time, people were opening slightly alternative shops. I started to go to places like Morocco to bring in our own handmade goods. Bringing It All Back Home, especially, gave us the chance to travel to places we loved in India, Morocco, Afghanistan and South America. I’ve been to India almost 30 times and for 12 years or so have trekked in the Himalayas with my wife, Bev. We’ve just come back from five weeks in Tibet where we walked around Mt Kailash.”

From every bed sold, £1 goes to a project to help Tibetan refugees.

Since 1976, Peter has had Kay Wallace as a business partner. She has just retired, but continues as a consultant.

Peter reflects: “It’s been very difficult trading in Sheffield, but I have enjoyed it thoroughly. There is a lot of personal history. We still get people saying they bought their wedding dress from Bringing It All Back Home!”

And he recalls: “In the backroom at Freewheelin’ we used to sell Bob Dylan bootleg records I imported from California. People used to come up every week to see what was new. Bob introduced me to many lifelong friends. Hard to believe that’s 40 years ago.”

l Those were the days: Page 30