More than 400 members of construction firm Stonewood Group’s staff and their families enjoyed games, music and food at an evening to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The family company, founded by Neill Aitkenhead and partner Tim Saunders in 1972, began, as he told the crowd during an emotional speech at Biddestone Cricket Club, as “a couple of likely lads, an old truck and two rusty acrows”.
His son Matt and his friend Ben Lang – now Chief Executive and Chief Operating officers – joined the firm and eventually took it on in 2009. They built on its reputation for quality and expertise in refurbishing historic buildings and grew the company to its present size of 350 employees across five divisions with offices in Castle Combe, Tormarton in Gloucestershire, Kidlington in Oxfordshire, Castle Carey in Somerset and Exeter in Devon.
When they took on the company it was turning over around £2 million – last September it posted a year end turnover of £60 million.
Mr Aitkenhead senior told staff and their families: “I have an almost overwhelming sense of pleasure in seeing a gathering of this kind here tonight. Fifty years is a long spell, you don’t think of it as fifty years as you go along but if you doubt the journey Stonewood has made, I look around here tonight and realise the journey has been a remarkable one.”
He said the evening should be about looking forward, not backward. “So it is an obvious moment for me to pay tribute to Matt and to Ben, their generation, and the innumerable good people both on site and off who have made it all happen over time,” he added.
Staff from all of the group’s division soaked up the sunshine with their families and enjoyed free food and drinks from a cocktail bar, gin bar and beer and cider tent. Before that they worked up an appetite with an inter-company tug-of-war contest that, unsurprisingly ended in victory for Stonewood Builders’ muscular site team.
Youngsters were entertained with inflatables, gladiator and football games, mini-golf and a candy floss stall, while adults enjoyed a bucking bronco and live music from Corsham band Funk City. There was also a raffle with prizes donated by clients and suppliers.
It was the second year running the group has help a summer event for staff and families but Mr Lang said this year’s was taken to another level because of the anniversary. He said the evening was an idea opportunity to bring people together. “It was a very special evening and a chance to see people’s families and spend time with them in a social setting,” he said.
“We wanted to really reinforce the fact that we are one team, one big family, and celebrate the fact that we have been doing that for 50 years. Finding ways to do that when you are such a big team scattered so wide is harder to do now so it was really lovely to see everyone, as well as some old friends.”
He said the group’s growth is a testament to the way it has stayed true to its ethos. “We’ve always tried to make everyone feel they are important, no matter what division they are in and we are successful because of that collective effort and the energy, drive, innovation and creativity within the group.”