A look at Numatic’s iconic Henry vacuum cleaner
It is often said that Britain has no manufacturing industry to speak of. Most of our cars are in foreign hands though some of them are produced on our own shores. The railways, Association Football, and cricket, have been exported far and wide and improved upon outside our island. If you say our manufacturing output sucks, this could be true of Numatic’s products in another sense. In this case, we refer to Henry, the first of a series of iconic vacuum cleaners manufactured and created by Numatic.
Numatic International was formed by Chris Duncan in 1969, situated in the Somerset town of Chard. The company employs 700 people and continues to manufacture their vacuum cleaners in England. Hoover and Dyson, however, have ceased manufacturing in the UK with Numatic’s British origin a selling point. The Henry vacuum cleaner made its debut in 1981. Designed by illustrator and Industrial Designer Mike Walsh, its smiley face and bowler hat stands out from any of the other vacuum cleaners on the market. Its nose is the hose attachment.
Since its debut, seven million Henrys have been sold around the world, and it is not hard to see why. Firstly, its quintessentially English nature (the bowler hat and sense of humour) has made the vacuum some sort of an institution. There is no shortage of YouTube clips featuring Henry and Co. as figures of fun (there’s even one ‘taking’ illegal substances). Another is its intuitive design, with the cable winder on top of its bowler hat. Thirdly is its performance, which makes for an excellent cleaner for home and industrial use.
The success of Henry led to a number of spin-offs, and a girlfriend. Its opposite number is Hetty (shortened from Henrietta), which is the same as Henry on a technical level, though in pink. In green, and designed for removing pet hairs with ease, is Harry (denoted with a paw on the front of its hat). There is also the Henry Xtra, a more heavy duty version of the original vacuum cleaner, and Henry Micro (so-called owing to its MicroTex filtration system). For more cost-conscious consumers, there is James (an all-yellow cleaner sans bowler hat).
Veering towards industrial markets are the two wet and dry cleaners, Charles, and George. Charles, in blue, is ideal for home use, whereas George (in green), is good for professional use. As well as Henry and Co. for home and small business markets, Numatic International also manufacture sit-on industrial machines and cylindrical cleaners. These are marketed under the Floorcare and Procare names.
Though not manufactured by Numatic International, there is also a desktop version of Henry. Instead of a wall socket, this little fellow is priced £9.99 and takes 3 x AA batteries.
Why we love Henry
Henry is a legend in the world of vacuum cleaning and is more than a cheery face. It is one of a few vacuum cleaners where style is combined with substance. It is a fun machine to work with. Apart from changes in energy efficiency (the latest models are ‘A’ graded appliance), its design has changed little from 1981, yet stands the test of time today.
In households, community centres, schools, libraries, and offices, you’re likely to come across a Henry or their siblings. Its unique design is a brand icon in its own right as well as its performance.
Clean Hire, 11 April 2016.