More than 400 members of Castle Combe-based construction firm Stonewood Group’s staff and their families recently 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.”
Neill’s 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.
Neill told staff and their families, “I have an almost overwhelming sense of pleasure in seeing a gathering of this kind here tonight. 50 years is a long spell, you don’t think of it as 50 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.
“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.”
Staff from all of the group’s division soaked up the sunshine with their families and enjoyed live music, 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.
It was the second year running the group has held a summer event for staff and families but Ben remarked this year’s was taken to another level because of the anniversary. He said, “It was a very special evening and a chance to see people’s families and spend time with them in a social setting.
“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 added, “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.”
Pictured above: Staff enjoying Stonewood Group’s 50th anniversary celebration at Biddestone Cricket Club