Brandwells Construction was first registered as Brandwells Ltd on 9th April 1973 by myself, Andy Dowden, Executive Chairman, and my then senior partner, Joe Whitter. The business was renamed Brandwells Construction Co Ltd before it commenced trading.
Joe and I had worked together in two previous employments, firstly at Avonmouth Plant & Construction Co. Ltd (APC) and later at Durnfords Construction Ltd (Durnfords), based in central Bristol. At APC, I was a trainee when first assigned to work under Joe, who was a senior Contracts Manager for the Company. Some years later, after I had had a spell as a Site Engineer for Holland and Hannen and Cubitts Ltd, we again came together when Joe left APC and took up the position of Managing Director at Durnfords Construction and invited me to join him as his Contract Manager. After about 7 years of working together, the Company was subject to a takeover, and this is what led to us jointly deciding to branch out on our own. The birth of Brandwells Construction.
The early years
Starting the business from scratch, the first operational base was a third-floor suite of three small offices above the offices of the United Ancient Order of Druids at 8 Perry Road, Clifton, Bristol, from where the business ran until after a year or so, a small yard at Bourneville Road, Whitehall became available and was taken on a leasehold basis. The Company’s early clients were: English and Continental Homes Ltd, Bovis Homes Ltd and United Bristol Hospitals Trust (UBHT), contacts carried over from Durnfords. Between them, enough work was secured to get the business established.
The Company suffered its first major setback when, on 9th September 1975, Joe died of a heart attack, aged 55, whilst on holiday in Jersey leaving me in sole charge of the business with Joe’s widow as the majority shareholder. Thanks to the support of the small team then working in the business, principally Arthur East, who had joined the Company as Secretary from Durnfords, the Company survived this major shock and slowly started to recover its position. By this time, I had been joined by John Stafford, the son of one of Joe’s close friends, who is still a Director and Shareholder to this day.
In the course of working for UBHT, the next significant development was the formation of South West Decorating Services Ltd (SWDS) to undertake the decorating element of the workload, from UBHT and Bristol City Council, also a client by this time, which had grown significantly. John Stafford would go on to eventually take over the running of this new associate company. In late 1985 the opportunity presented itself to acquire a freehold office and yard at Church Lane, St. George, from where the business continues to operate. The businesses relocated to the new premises in early 1986, by which time the annual turnover had reached £3 million.
The business continued to grow, adding new clients along the way, gradually concentrating more on the groundwork element and less on the hospital and council work. M P Kent, Laing Homes, Beazer and Westbury Homes, none of which exist in their then form today, became clients. A landmark contract, the first £1 million job, was South Liberty Trading Estate for M P Kent. Another signature contract was the first Urban Renewal project in Bristol, Lovell Urban Renewals undertook the critically acclaimed redevelopment of the former timber yards, at Baltic Wharf, Cumberland Road, Bristol, and we were their appointed groundworks contractor. This was followed by developments, also for Lovell, at Queen Street, Tower Hill, The Old Perretts Alms Houses on Cumberland Road and the major redevelopment of Buchanans Wharf, which included two multi-storey reinforced concrete framed buildings, a first for the Company.
The company continued to grow and now has established itself as one of the foremost groundworks contractors in the South West, we have attained preferred contractor status with quite a number of our clients. Our clients now include most of the major housing developers: Barratt Homes, Lovell, Redrow, Taylor Wimpey, Linden and Bovis (now Vistry), David Wilson and Bellway as well as a number of smaller regional development companies.
Where we are today
There have been many ups and downs along the way, including recessions, the financial crisis of 2008 and most recently the Covid pandemic but the Company has managed to weather the storms and, thanks to the strong and dedicated team of people who make up the present-day management, not forgetting the now 300 plus operatives who actually do the work, we are stronger than ever. 2022 saw the opening of a South West Regional office at Alphington, Exeter to cope with the growth in our workload in this area and it was also a record year for the Company with turnover hitting an all-time high of over £62 million. 2023 promises to be another challenging year in the wake of the pandemic and as a consequence of the energy crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine, but from its position of strength there is every hope that we will see off that challenge as we have many times in the past.