Burgoynes Lyonshall

Burgoynes celebrate centenary

If it had been around in his day, William Henry Burgoyne would probably have had his own television show telling the rest of us how to be a business success story. For more than a century ago he was a real life entrepreneur trying his hand at any trade. He even provided his home village, Lyonshall, with its first electricity and piped water supply.

He was a stone mason, coal merchant, farmer, haulier – and the man to see if you wanted to hire a marquee for a special event. One explanation for such industriousness is that he had six sons (and one daughter) to find work for. But whatever the reason, William was a shining example of the Victorian ethic of hard work and innovation.

The fruits of that labour are celebrated this year as ‘Burgoynes of Lyonshall’ marks its Centenary – an occasion for the family, its employees and the whole village to enjoy, although in these recessionary times there will be no costly shindigs. However, land has been given for a new children’s playground. As company chairman, Andrew Burgoyne, explained, “We celebrate our past, but it is to the future we must look.”

Sadly the centenary year celebrations have been overshadowed by the recent sudden loss of David Burgoyne. David will always be remembered for his warm friendly personality, meticulous standards and his dedication to the company.

The foundation of the Burgoyne family ‘empire’ has been built on transport, marquee hire, farming and warehousing, providing 70 jobs plus 20 taken on for summer seasonal work helping erect marquees at agricultural shows and major events across the UK. The Burgoyne name is synonymous with marquees. Putting them all up will fill ten football pitches. Millions of us have used them. Brides dream of a marquee on the lawn at home for their wedding reception.  Bookings are up, so the marquee gangs have a busy season ahead.

Bob, eldest of the six sons, expanded the marquee business after spending a lot of time sleeping under canvass in World War 1, and seeing its potential. His son, Reg, now 85, is patriarch of the family, with his son, David a fourth generation director. Peter, 69, and chairman for 23 years, is the son of Pryce whilst current chairman, Andrew, 65, is the son of Fred. The other three were Ernest, who went into the electricity industry, becoming a senior MEB manager, Jack, who died early and Bill who became a Shropshire farmer.

The reins of the business remain firmly in the hands of the family and its ethos of steady rather than spectacular growth, but two years ago the day to day running of the firm was handed over to a new Group Chief Executive, Malcolm Thompson, 42, who had arrived in Lyonshall 15 years ago after taking a job as a manager and later director at Kington’s Nash quarry. “The structure of the company allows us to make quick decisions and move forward, a useful strategy in these difficult financial times, but we have no plans to diversify further. The philosophy of sticking to what you know best has served the business well over the years,” he said .

One development that paid off handsomely was the decision in 2006 to join the nationwide Pallet Track, a network of transport firms providing a next day collection/delivery service for pallet loaded goods across the UK and parts of Europe – a bit like Royal Mail delivering letters – and seeing an 80% annual growth in the number of pallets handled by a dedicated fleet of five vehicles. At very competitive rates, local manufacturers are finding it a cost efficient way to move their goods, with satellite tracking of the pallets an extra bonus.

Whilst this new venture is doing well, the traditional road haulage division with its 16 strong fleet of green/white liveried lorries is feeling the pinch of recession. “It’s going to be a challenging year and we are working closely with our customers to achieve cost efficiencies,” said Malcolm. The knack is finding a load for the return trip. The answer?  Farms need fertiliser - and Burgoynes are the biggest importers of it into the county. A link with farming has been a constant thread throughout the company’s history. Hiring marquees to the big agricultural shows is a lynch-pin as, too, is the use of marquees for farming family weddings. “A successful farming industry in Herefordshire is important to us as a company,” said chairman Andrew, who is also responsible for its 400 acre mixed farming enterprise, the latest venture being growing apples on a  wire system to be hand picked for the fresh pressed juice market.

Andrew Burgoyne summed up: “We are a company proud of our history, but trading in today’s highly competitive world. We have great confidence in the future.”