Shepherd Group History


Back in 1890, a 35-year old joiner, Frederick Shepherd set up his own business, which quickly achieved success in speculative house building. He was later assisted by two sons, William, the elder, and Frederick Welton.

By the time Frederick Welton, who had trained as a bricklayer, joined the business around 1900, work was being undertaken outside York and a recession in the market for new houses led to a diversification into general contracting jobs.

William Shepherd decided to emigrate to America in 1910. Henceforward, the business was known as F Shepherd and Son, and was incorporated as a private company in 1924.

The founding Frederick Shepherd died in 1930, although Frederick Welton had been a driving force in the company for some time and had been instrumental in developing the firm's main premises at Blue Bridge Lane, beside the River Ouse, which were to remain the Shepherd head office premises until 1995.

Post-war Expansion

By the time World War II broke out, F Shepherd & Son Ltd was a substantial builder, with a workforce of around 700, engaged on projects in many parts of the north east of England.

After the end of the war, the chance to expand contracting operations was seized, both by opening new offices and acquiring existing local companies in new areas.

The strategy was successful and the company continued to expand under the direction of four of Frederick Welton's sons: Peter (later Sir Peter), Donald, Michael and Colin. Other substantial operations such as Shepherd Building Service, Shepherd Homes, Shepherd Engineering Services, Shepherd Development Co and Mechplant took on major roles of their own.

Manufacturing Innovation

Experience in handling cement in bulk on sites led to the formation of Portasilo Ltd in 1953, to design and manufacture portable cement silos.

This was a major industry innovation. Arguably a still bigger one came in 1961 with a growing awareness of the inadequacy of building site accommodation. A new type of unit was developed, with telescopic legs. This accommodation was built to a high standard, could be positioned easily, and moved quickly to a new site. These PORTAKABIN units were immediately marketed outside the Shepherd business, and indeed outside the construction industry, and they rapidly became famous. Initially, these revolutionary cabins were made by Shepherd Woodwork Ltd but a new company, Portakabin Ltd, was soon formed and a purpose-built manufacturing facility developed at Huntington in York.

Business Re-structured

In 1962 the structure of the business was reorganised. A new holding company, Shepherd Building Group Limited, was formed.

By the end of the 1970s, the Shepherd Building Group had become one of the 500 largest companies in the UK. Remarkably, this had been achieved without recourse to raising capital from the public, and the Group remains an unquoted company.

In May 2015, Shepherd Group sold its Shepherd Homes business to Galliford Try. Shepherd Group had been reviewing its operations to ensure each business was in the best possible position to take advantage of future trading opportunities. This led to the opportunity to sell Shepherd Homes to Galliford Try who added it to their existing house building business, Linden Homes.

On 01 September 2015 Shepherd Group completed the sale of two of its remaining Built Environment businesses to Wates Group - the interests involved were Shepherd Engineering Services and Shepherd FM, its facilities management company. In addition to this, Wates Group also acquired a significant number of contracts and frameworks from Shepherd Construction Limited.

Shepherd Group and Wates Group are both established family-owned businesses which share similar values and culture. When concluded the deal would create a UK leader in the construction and property services sector with a distinct, outstanding engineering services capability. The combined business interests would have a broad geographic footprint, and the scale and sector strength to deliver exemplary service for clients.In particular:

Following the sale, Shepherd Group continued to pursue the Group Board's strategy of focusing future investment on the areas of the Group with significant sustainable development opportunities. In particular, the sale enabled Shepherd Group to further develop the UK and European expansion of its successful Portakabin business.

Shepherd Group remains one of the largest wholly family-owned private companies in the UK. Its essential character as a family business remains strong.

Today the Group’s operations comprise two Divisions:

Portakabin Group
Portakabin, Yorkon, Paton Plant, Allspace, Konstructa, Foremans, Oecon 

Shepherd Group Engineering
Portasilo and Portastor

Shepherd Group also retains some commercial development interests through its Shepherd Developments business as well as maintenance and completion responsibility for a number of contracts and projects in Shepherd Construction Ltd.

More information about the individual operating companies is available under the drop-down main  menu on the Home page of this website.

Frederick Welton Shepherd 1885-1957 Frederick Shepherd 1854-1930