John Williams & Company was established in 1870, although the origins are obscure and could date back as far as 1822 with a ‘Williams’ in Bangor, North Wales. It was incorporated as John Williams & Company Rotherhithe Ltd. in 1931. This name was changed in 1993 to John Williams & Company Ltd. and in 2004 the present company John Williams & Company (Contracting) Ltd. was formed.
The Greenwood family, who owned the company until 2004, had been associated with the business since 1890. At that time the company was located at Crown Wharf, Chelsea as large dealers in cement. The development as roofing contractors and quarried slate merchandise traders began around the turn of the century when the firm owned depots in North Wales, Faversham, Newhaven, Southampton docks and Rotherhithe in London, which was the main location and head office.
Pictures from the archives - 1900s
Originally slate was transported by ship and the premises at Rotherhithe was ideally situated with its own wharf on the river Thames where barges full of Welsh slate could unload. In addition to selling and fixing roofing slate the company processed slate for manufactured products such as steps, window cills, mortuary slabs and panels for electrical switch gear.
Shortly after the First World war the company also acquired a clay manufacturing business at Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire. The Greenwood pantile survives even to this day as part of the Goxhill range of tiles.
Pictures from the archives - 1920s
The period since the Second World War has seen many ups and downs. The Bangor slate works and Barton-upon-Humber tilery were closed but the contracting operations expanded in Kent and Sussex. These also developed from pitched roofing into flat roofing, ceramic wall and floor tiling as well as general small building works.
Pictures from the archives - 1950-1980
In the 1970’s there was a revival of interest in natural roofing slate among architects and planners and the company was able to take advantage of this. Apprentices were trained at our depots in Rotherhithe and Dover, many of them the sons or grandsons of existing employees. In 1974 the company acquired the business of Gordon H Richards, a quarry main agent in Caernarfon. In the same year the yard of an old established builder ‘Harman’ in Lympne near Hythe Kent was acquired and the Dover depot moved from its rented accommodation into the premises they still operate from today. Further developments in North Wales came when part of the business of another old established firm, J. G. Tuxford, based in Conwy was taken over in 1986.
The decline of the post-war building boom took its toll on the Industry and the company decided to concentrate on its core strengths in the refurbishment market using traditional materials and quality craftsmanship. This decision stood the company well during the severe recession of the early 1990’s when many other businesses failed.
Such is the company’s reputation that staff have always been in demand to talk at seminars and to display their skills and knowledge at heritage and craft events. The company’s commitment to its employees was recognised in 2000 with the awarding of Investor in People status to our Kent office at Lympne. This status has been maintained ever since and in 2015 our 15 year Investor in People certificate was awarded.
Pictures from the archives - 1980 to Present
Chairman and Managing Director John Greenwood retired in 2004 and with no direct descendents to take on the company the business at Lympne was sold to the branch Managing Director John Howland who has worked for the company since 1974. Gordon H Richards was successfully sold and continues to trade independently. Tuxford-Williams of Wales was closed. In 2006 the company became TrustMark approved – TrustMark is the Government endorsed standards scheme that vets contractors and provides accreditation designed to give proof of quality & standards for the domestic customer. On the 15th April 2011 John Williams & Company were approved for the CompetentRoofer scheme. This is a regulated self certification for roofing meaning that the majority of any roofing work that requires Building Regulations can now be signed off by the Company rather than going through the local authority. In December 2013 John Howland’s son Shaun was promoted to Company Director and in 2014 the land and offices, previously owned and rented by John Greenwood, were purchased by the Company to ensure there would be a secure future at the premesis.
Today John Williams & Company (Contracting) Ltd. continues to thrive. Quality remains the top priority and by devoting resources to training and development the traditions of the past become the standards of the present.