Entrepreneur and farmer Bill Bridges knows what’s important when it comes to getting projects completed. “It’s about trust,” he explained. “You need to be able to trust the people you ask to do things to get on and do them.”
That trust has underpinned the relationship that Bill has built up with steel framed building specialists G E White & Sons over the past two years as he has transformed Mynthurst Farm, near Leigh in Surrey.
Bill, who began farming back in 1984, when in his forties, had a vision for the 800-acre farm that didn’t reflect the old and careworn buildings that were there when he moved in. He brought in brothers Gary and Jason with the intention of ‘patching up’ an existing cattle shed, but soon agreed that it really needed replacing.
The G E White & Sons team got to work and did such a good job of replacing the old double span building with a bright and airy single span construction that Bill invited them back to tackle the next project. And the next. And the next…
There is no doubt he will ask the team back in the future, too. “I wouldn’t have anybody else,” he confirmed. “Having someone you can trust working on the things that are important to your business is worth a heck of a lot.”
Bill, whose “brilliant” daughter Billie runs the farm on a day-to-day basis, grows barley and oats on 250 acres at Mynthurst Farm as well as keeping 270 head of beef cattle and around 300 sheep. With other business interests also needing his attention, he needed a reliable company that would get on with the building work while he carried on with the day job.
After they finished the 45m by 20m cattle shed, complete with an extra two metre cantilever to either side, Bill asked G E White & Sons to build a new grain store, an impressive 50m by 30m structure, six metres to the eaves and with a power floated concrete floor from Essex-based specialists Steyson Concrete Floors.
The next project was to turn an unwanted silage clamp into a straw shed, something the G E White & Sons team achieved by adding a new framework and roof onto the existing walls, but it was the next challenge, renovating a sheep shed, that saw Gary and Jason really pull out the stops.
The original plan was simply to replace the old roof lights in the building, but when the brothers investigated, they realised that the asbestos roofing sheets were far beyond their ‘sell by’ dates.
“I decided we would have to refurbish the whole shed, including new Yorkshire boarding, doors and rainwater goods, but I needed it done in a fortnight so that I could get the sheep back indoors,” recalled Bill. It was a challenge, but not one that troubled Gary and Jason, who met the deadline in good time.
The ten-strong G E White & Sons team, which also features dad Geoff, now 76 and retired but still working alongside his sons most days, also builds equestrian and commercial facilities and has built up a strong reputation across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Gary and Jason gave their father’s name to the business in tribute to everything he had taught them when they set it up 17 years ago, but it took them ten years to persuade him to come and work for them – despite the fact that he was already at retirement age. “He’s still out there virtually every day showing the youngsters how it should be done,” commented Gary.
“I once rang him at 6am to check he knew where he was supposed to be working that day and found he was already on site and wondering where we had got to,” added Jason. “We really benefit from his lifetime’s experience and knowledge.”
Gary and Jason’s own years of experience, allied to Geoff’s, gives G E White & Sons an impressive pedigree, and one that shines through in the quality of the work they do, whether creating luxury stables, renovating tired business units or building an impressive new grain store from scratch.
In the equestrian world, prestige projects have included building a new stable block for race horse trainer Gary Moore, an impressive range of buildings at Hickstead Place for top international showjumper Shane Breen and stabling and a hay barn for Clive Cox at John Francome MBE’s yard at Lambourn in Berkshire. Like many other clients, Clive and former national hunt champion jockey John have become personal friends of Gary and Jason.
One commercial project currently reaching completion is the transformation of the Kilmarnock Farm business park in West Sussex for Mark Vickers.
Mark runs the 44-acre business park, which was developed from an old stable block on the farm, which has been in the family since 1950. G E White & Sons has built two new units and completely refurbished ten others, including stripping out asbestos, insulating all the units to current standards and replacing the panelling.
“The team has done a brilliant job of transforming the site,” said Mark. “Gary and Jason are always on the end of a phone if you need them, and they oversee the whole project from start to finish. I can basically just leave them to get on with what needs doing.”
With clients investing a great deal of trust in Gary and Jason’s workmanship and project management skills, they make sure they use trusted suppliers and contractors, working with the likes of Clark Lifting Solutions UK, Southern Sheeting and flooring experts Steyson. Other companies qualifying for a ‘special mention’ are valued groundworks specialists Cook & Son and United Concrete.
While focusing on quality, G E White & sons prides itself on competitive pricing and the brothers continued to invest in their own plant, machinery and equipment, allowing them to be as self-sufficient and responsive as possible.
The brothers also have an eye for design, particularly when dealing with equestrian buildings, delivering a bespoke finish that sets their buildings apart from the competition.
Above all, though, it was their practical, hands-on approach, and their ability to take the project from start to finish, that made life so much easier for Bill Bridges at Mynthurst Farm.
The experience, skills and knowledge of the ten-strong team quickly saw the company established as his ‘go-to’ source for building work across the farm – and he looks set to continue going to them for a while yet.