The story about the Bradford family and the company they founded can be traced back to the mid-16th Century.
The Bradfords were Yeoman and Freeholders in Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset.
The first to appear in the parish register was of one Nicholas Bradford who was born during the reign of Henry VIII and died in 1586 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Probably the first Bradford to have started trading other than purely as a result of farming, was one William Bradford, born 1750, who lived at Thorney.
William Bradford owned quarries at Pibsbury, which produced lime for fertiliser, and chartered small vessels to carry Welsh coal to Bridgwater.
During the reign of George III, William Bradford married Ann Richards, who was the granddaughter of William Richards, the Lord of the Manor of Stapleton in 1650. She joined her husband in the running of the business and took over from him when he died in 1806. Shortly after this she was joined by her son Job.
In 1819, Ann died, and in the following six or seven years barge traffic became more and more profitable along canals which were being built on a large scale, prior to the advent of the railway.
By this time, the Great Western Railway line had been opened from Taunton to Yeovil, and Jabez started the Yeovil branch of the business in 1853. His brother William Theophilus Bradford joined him in the business, whilst their brother, John Wesley Bradford remained with his father at Thorney.
Between 1850 and 1870
Brunel and his engineers were driving railway systems across the face of England and the Bradford Company expanded along the lines of the railways.
The new means of transport for heavy goods. Branches were opened at Martock, Montacute, Somerton, and Sherborne, and along other railway lines at Yetminster, Crewkerne, Chard, and Ilminster, followed in about 1870 with a branch being opened at Bridport.
Although operational for some 120 years, Bradfords were only incorporated in 1893. At some point between 1770 and 1893, it had changed from “Job Bradford and Sons” to just “Bradford and Sons”.
Coal importers purchased at Seaton, Lyme Regis, Exeter and Weymouth. Theo’s son Stanley joined the company in 1898, two years before the relief of Mafeking.
Purchase of coal and corn Chandlers’ businesses in Bournemouth, Poole, Corfe castle, Bere Regis and Bridgwater, and subsequently a controlling interest in George Hooper & Company, a timber importing company at Bridgwater. This was done to enable the rest of the group to have access to the timber imported.
First World War, and the tremendous changes which occurred. The 1920s and the Depression, which followed in the 30s, times that were very difficult. However the company contrived to weather the storm, based principally on the distribution of coal and the servicing of the agricultural communities.
Philip, the son of Stanley Bradford, joined the board in 1936 and from this time until the outbreak of the Second World War there was a considerable boom in the building and timber sections of the company.
After the War, the building trade slowly got into its stride on the relaxation of the many governing regulations.
R.J. Luff Limited joined the group in 1959 adding to the existing agricultural business in Axminster.
The mid-Sixties saw the closing down of one of our oldest traditional enterprises, that of growing willows, which had been introduced in the very early days of the company’s history.
In 1963, Bradfords made a substantial investment in an animal feeds compounding mill and seed-cleaning plant on a green field site close to Crewkerne station but ceased processing its own seed in 1972. The mill was razed in the late 2000s and was developed for housing in 2011 as part of the redevelopment of Crewkerne branch and the neighbouring fleet workshop.
The 70’s were when Bradfords added the ‘light side’ of the builder’s merchant trade to the range of existing ‘heavy’ products. Modern showrooms opened at Sherborne, Ilminster, Crewkerne, Seaton and Yeovil.
1971 saw a completely new look Bradfords. The small branches were replaced by seven larger-scale branches at Bridport, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Lyme Regis, Seaton, Sherborne and Yeovil. Additional re-organisation was achieved with a crop services division.
Possibly, the most revolutionary development of the reorganisation was the welcome arrival to the main board of directors not called Bradford.
In 1977, the animal feeds manufacturing business was sold to BOCMS, and the remaining group was restructured, establishing separate trading companies of Bradfords Agriculture Limited, Bradfords Building Supplies Limited, Bradfords Coal Limited, Miller & Lilley Limited, and Burt & Sons Limited.
Bradfords seek and appoint non-family, non-executive directors with a wide experience in commerce and industry.
In 1983 new branches were opened at Exeter and Taunton. Slades of Evercreech, was purchased.
Snows Timber of Glastonbury was acquired in 1985, The combination of a specialist timber merchant along with the established builders merchants helped to strengthen the group. The acquisition of F.J Reeve, another timber merchant, in Andover in 1996 gave this part of the business reach across the entire South of England.
Further acquisitions in 1990 with the purchase of May & Wills in Redruth and Kemps in Ross-on-Wye. A branch was opened in Ledbury in 1998 along with a further acquisition (Underwoods) in 2000 giving another two branches in Malvern and Worcester.
2001 BHIS at Redruth was brought into the building supplies network. Quickly followed up with the purchase of CE Curtis in early 2002 adding two branches at Laira Bridge and Plympton and another in Liskeard.
New branches opened in Newton Abbott, Trowbridge and Weston-Super-Mare.
The company purchased Crendon Timber Engineering Limited; a well-established roof truss manufacturing business and leading provider of roofing services operating from four facilities in Long Crendon, Bristol, Piddlehinton and Castleford.
the company purchased W.J. Handrahan & Son Limited an established timber importer and processing business operating from facilities at Dudley and Mansfield. The company also purchased Totem Timber Limited a builders merchants in St. Austell.
10 kitchen and bathrooms showrooms were modernised across branches of Bradfords Building Supplies.
A new ‘super branch’ was opened in Exmouth and vehicles using the updated branding were rolled out across the group.
BBS acquires Blandford Timber and launches online trading website.
Hilton Building Supplies, Julian’s Building Supplies, Ashmead Building Supplies and YPS acquired. Crendon acquires a new factory in Bridgend and opens a new site in Exeter.
Bude BBS branch opens, 11 YPS ‘implant’ branches opened, sale of Aspect Roofing.
BBS acquires Crockers Builders Merchant in Dawlish and Landmark Building Supplies in Paignton, Crendon Posi Joist facility opened at BBS Exeter, YPS grows to 22 implanted branches.