For those interested in the detail of the company’s past, here’s a potted history:
J P Westall Limited can lay claim to a heritage which stretches back before the outbreak of the Second World War when William Walker set up his plumbing business in Hexham – we believe sometime during the mid-1930s.
Shortly after the war John Park Westall (known as ‘Jack’) took over the business which then became known simply as ‘J P Westall’. Coincidentally one of the company’s longest serving employees joined the business at around the same time – Billy Batey, much loved and fondly remembered by his customers, ‘joined up’ during the war as a young lad of 14 and stayed with the company for the next 50 years!
Jack worked hard to build the business and during the next 30 years the company established an enviable reputation for the excellence of its work – introducing novelties like running water and central heating to homes and businesses up and down the Tyne Valley. A notable example of this work during the 1950s was the plumbing of Ridley Hall – an 18th Century country house then in the ownership of the local authority – and the installation of a central heating system in the property – an undertaking of considerable proportions!
And whilst the business grew, Jack was also preparing the next generation to take on the family business. His youngest son Philip knew exactly what he wanted to do when he left school, in fact he was so keen to join his Dad’s business that he would spend his school holidays working with Jack and as soon as he was able, he left school and began his apprenticeship.
The business at this stage was based in a range of buildings in Glovers Place in Hexham and Philip has fond memories of having to sprint from the workshop, up stairs and along the street to the office to answer the phone when it rang – and often failing to make it in time!
1986 saw Jack retire from the business and pass the mantle on to Philip, who soon realised that if he was to grow the business beyond the handful of loyal staff it employed at that point, he needed someone he could trust and rely on in the office so he could concentrate on finding and winning new business.
The obvious choice for the role was his brother Peter who was at that time a housemaster at Haydon Bridge High School – ironically living and working in Ridley Hall and enjoying the benefits of Jack’s handiwork. Peter’s arrival laid the foundations for the business to begin to experience a period of sustained growth, and in the early 90s the decision was taken to invest in a new location – and so the business relocated to its current home on Burn Lane.
As the company’s reputation grew so did the workload, and with the arrival of a second estimator to help price and run jobs the workforce grew to a peak of some 22 staff in the mid-noughties. Prestigious projects were entrusted to the company – including the installation of a new and modern plumbing system in the National Trust’s flagship Cragside House – where the new pipework had to be carefully routed and concealed so as to conserve the original pipework and avoid detracting from the carefully preserved look and feel of a bygone era – high quality and demanding work which is typical of the kind of work Westall’s excels at.
At times the workload seemed overwhelming – when Philip tendered for major contracts at all three of our local high schools (Haydon Bridge, Queen Elizabeth & Prudhoe) little did he realise they were all going to land in brief succession – meaning a huge workload and a tight deadline – all were successfully delivered on time and on budget; testament to the team spirit and resourcefulness which still characterises the business today.
In 2014 Philip & Peter decided that it was time to think about taking life a little easier – at some point anyway – and began to explore the potential to pass the business on to someone prepared to commit to continuing the work begun by Jack 70 years previously, and to maintain the highest standards of craftsmanship whilst ensuring that the existing workforce would be secure and customers would continue to be valued.
After extensive and careful negotiations the business was acquired by the Northumbrian Property Services Group Limited in July 2015.
Peter stayed with the business until Christmas 2015 in order to ensure a smooth transition to the new team, and Philip remains with the business in a part-time role – thus providing continuity and much-valued technical advice and assistance. We hope that this arrangement will continue for the foreseeable future.
And so begins a new chapter in our long and distinguished history….