Business Address: Watts Group, Althorpe House/High Street, Lydney GL15 5DD
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About Watts Group
Established in 1851, the Watts Group is still a family-owned business and the head office remains in the Gloucestershire town of Lydney, where it was founded.
The Watts Group story began more than 150 years ago when David Lazarus Watts, a widowed carpenter, arrived in Lydney and married Esther Stephens, a local girl. Together they set up a general store and bakery.
Their son Josiah Stephens Watts began the next stage of the Watts story in 1880 when, at the age of 24, he borrowed £300 from his uncle and purchased a small ironmongery shop in Lydney. Along with his wife Clara, Josiah proved to be the driving force behind the Watts Group of today, as the couple’s ambition, inspiration, dedication and pride in owning their own business proved the cornerstone for the success of one of the few great family businesses remaining in Britain today.
Josiah and Clara Watts' initial business served the ironmongery needs of Lydney’s busy docks, railway and tin plate works, but their entrepreneurial spirit ensured that by 1905 they had begun to expand the company and were joined by their sons, Arthur and later John, to make it a family affair.
The early years of motoring
The business established a successful mail delivery service for the surrounding Forest of Dean area and had added a Ford Motor Dealership to the portfolio by 1912. Seven years later Watts opened Lydney’s first purpose-built garage.
After both serving in the First World War, John and Arthur resumed their business activities with a renewed vigour. Arthur bought 200 war surplus heavy vehicles, which he converted or repaired and sold. John started his first scheduled bus service for the towns of Tredegar and Ebbw Vale in South Wales, closely followed by bus services linking the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. The family skills of engineering expertise, well-developed business acumen and a flair for technical sales saw the Watts businesses flourish.
Treading into tyres
Arthur’s association with the pioneering work on the early diesel engines was an inevitable step towards the re-treading of tyres to meet heavy national demand during the Second World War and then into the retailing of pneumatic tyres in subsequent years.
The success led to more than 50 years of impressive growth with new factories and depots being opened; the development of Watts Truck and Van Centres; the addition of urethane products design and manufacturing to the portfolio; and the promotion of highly successful international joint ventures. Thanks to a commitment to customer service, quality innovation and the pursuit of excellence, Watts developed a high performance group of companies serving industry across the world.
Refocusing on the UK
Watts of Lydney Group sold Watts Tyres in 2009, allowing the Group to concentrate on further strengthening its successful Truck and Van sales, service and parts business and its UK manufacturing companies.
The change will allow Watts Group to develop its regional Watts Truck & Van operations without exposure to the risks inherent in the complex international tyre business. Watts Truck & Van offers sales, service and parts through their DAF, Fiat and other franchises in three locations across South Wales, (Cardiff, Swansea, Newport).
Greater focus will also be given to its two specialist manufacturing companies, Watts Urethane and Plysolene. The urethane business has been part of Lydney's landscape and the Watts Group for many years, using local expertise and resources to create world-class products. It is currently helping to save lives in Afghanistan by supplying polyurethane wheels for mine clearance equipment.
Plysolene Ltd, based in West Sussex, has also demonstrated exceptional business performance during what has been a difficult period for UK manufacturers. This Watts Group success story has now diversified into polystyrene sheet extrusion.
A modern company with a sense of history
The Watts Group is a very rare thing - a modern company with a strong sense of history. It respectfully glances back on more than a century of unequalled achievement, yet eagerly looks forward to a future that will surely be even more remarkable than its past. Operating independently since it was founded, Watts has worked hard to produce quality products and a quality of service which is unparalleled in the industry.
The centre of operations remains in Lydney. Up-to-the-minute plant and computer technology coupled with a highly qualified and dedicated workforce ensures the Watts Group's continuing success.
"People are our strength,” insists Watts Group Chairman, John Thurston, who is himself fifth generation Watts family. “We have always relied upon the energy, expertise and enterprise of a truly dedicated workforce. We're proud of the fact that across the Group, our people are capable of accepting responsibilities and are always ready to respond to new challenges and initiatives. For many of us, Watts isn't just a way of working, it's a way of life".
There is a continuing family commitment to Lydney and its people. The company is a major employer in the area and continues to play an important part in the community. And the community is still very much a part of the company.
But as John Thurston concludes: "Watts is steeped in history, but for all our links with the past we are very much a progressive and forward-thinking company. Watts has been in Lydney for more than 100 years and if there is still demand for our products in another 100 years, we'll still be here serving our market.”