Ben Richmond has always been in the engine room of the construction company set up by his late father John, and now he’s also very much in the driving seat.
J D Richmond and Son Ltd was incorporated in 2008, but John and his workforce had been known for quality construction projects across the South East since the early seventies and the man himself was active in the business until very recently.
“Everyone knew dad. He was a real character and together we built up a strong customer base among farmers, particularly in the dairy sector,” Ben recalled. “I joined him in 1992, when I left school, but he was always the front man and I know he is missed by a lot of people.”
Ben took over at the helm of the business in February, shortly before his father died at the age of 72. “He left a great legacy of agricultural and industrial buildings, and I am proud to be continuing where he left off,” Ben said. “J D Richmond and Son has built an impressive reputation and a strong order book based on word-of-mouth recommendations and returning customers, and I’m making sure that continues.”
It’s a tribute to the company’s outstanding focus on quality workmanship that its impressive customer base includes both Waitrose and the Royal Farms at Windsor, the location for some fond family memories.
“I was working building a silage clamp at Windsor in 1992 when the late Duke of Edinburgh came past in a racing pony and trap,” Ben recalled. “He said ‘hello’ as he went past and I said ‘hello’ back – and then added ‘your royal highness’ as he disappeared into the distance.
“On another occasion dad was working in the heather garden at Windsor Great Park and found that someone had moved the security fencing from around an area we were working in, so he went through to find a chap wandering around the site. He was about to tell him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t supposed to be there when he realised it was Prince Philip.”
J D Richmond and Son, which has a ten-strong full time workforce, created much of the showpiece Waitrose & Partners Farm on the Leckford Estate in Hampshire from what was a greenfield site. The team installed rotary milking parlours, silage clamps, lagoons, washdown systems and calf sheds amongst other things, and did the groundworks for a fruit store on the site.
Based in Horsham, West Sussex, the company also built Plumpton College’s dairy unit over a three year period between 2010 and 2012, a project that included constructing a teaching block, handling area, loose yards, slurry tank, dung midden, silage clamps and a straights store.
Many customers have been regulars for more than 30 years, including T and M Gue at Huddlestone Farm, near Steyning in West Sussex. The Gues have used J D Richmond and Son since 1989, and the team recently completed the construction work related to a new installation of eight robotic milkers.
Ben, whose sister Victoria has been part of the team since 2017, looking after the vitally important admin side of the business, also keeps Sussex cattle – bred at the Royal Farm – at the company’s base at Dalehurst Farm. He also keeps British Whites and has bought an adjacent plot on which he plans to keep Golden Guernsey goats.
“Dad wanted a dairy for goats’ milk so that we could make cheese, and I am committed to carrying on the project,” said Ben. “It seems to be a growing market and I am looking forward to a new challenge.”
J D Richmond and Son does all kind of agricultural construction, from planning and groundworks through to erecting and fitting out steel-framed buildings. The company has also worked for vineyards including Nyetimber at West Chiltington, erecting two new buildings.
“From silage clamps and rotary milking parlours to beef units and other general buildings, we can tackle any agricultural or industrial project,” said Ben. “We do power-floated floors, and we even built an aircraft hangar at the Goodwood Estate.”
The company has a range of well-maintained machinery in house, including excavators up to 30 tonnes, dumpers, rollers, telehandlers, a concrete crusher, cherry picker and scissor lift. “We have the equipment and manpower to tackle any job. More importantly, we have an overriding ambition to do an excellent job and make sure the client is happy when we leave,” said Ben.