Shepherd Group is one of the leading family-owned private businesses in the UK. It was founded in 1890 in York and its head office remains in the City.

The Group’s long history and success has been driven by passion, ambition, professionalism, innovation and outstanding customer service through manufacturing and distribution operations in the UK and Europe. Following a significant strategic restructure in 2015, Shepherd Group is purely focused on its flagship business, Portakabin, Europe’s market-leading modular building innovator.

Employing more than 2,200 people across seven European countries, Portakabin creates hospitals, schools, laboratories, universities and factories for every need. As the pioneers of modular construction, Portakabin can deliver permanent-quality buildings of any size, for sale or hire, to fulfil any application, up to 70% faster than using traditional construction, delivering on time and on budget.

Portakabin embodies the values of Shepherd Group and its family shareholders; Visionary Stewardship, Integrity & Respect and Pride in Quality.


We’ve travelled a long way since 1961 and so have our buildings.

Today, hiring a precision engineered Portakabin building is as easy as a phone call and buying a landmark modular building is up to 70% faster than building a conventional one. Operating in 7 countries, employing more than 2,200 people, Portakabin innovates, develops and delivers exceptional buildings, solving space problems and opening up possibilities for a huge variety of organisations, large and small.

OPEN www.portakabin.com



  • 1890
    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.
  • 1900
    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.
  • 1910
    William Shepherd
    decided to emigrate to
    America in 1910.
  • 1924
    Henceforward, the business was known as F Shepherd and Son, and was incorporated as a private company in 1924.
  • 1930
    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

  • 1939
    By the time World War II broke out, F Shepherd and Son Ltd was a substantial builder, with a workforce of around 700, engaged on projects in many parts of the north east of England.
  • 1945

    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

  • 1953

    Experience in handling cement in bulk on sites led to the formation of Portasilo Ltd in 1953, to design and manufacture portable cement silos. Portasilo would go on to become the UK’s leading supplier of portable cement silos, and also offered customised bulk handling operations for major companies. But it was an entirely new product that dominated Portasilo’s sales by the early 1970s. This was the Portaloo portable toilet unit (originally called Portablu), launched in 1966. Very quickly the product dominated the UK market, manufacturing capacity had to be expanded at Huntington and a separate Portaloo division was formed in 1971. Portasilo’s innovative streak continued with the introduction of the Portastor range of compact and secure storage systems in 1974. New products were under constant development.

  • 1961

    With a growing awareness of the inadequacy of building site accommodation, a new type of unit was developed with telescopic legs. Portasilo 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 but a new company, Portakabin, was soon formed and a purpose-built manufacturing facility developed at Huntington in York.

Business Re-structured

  • 1962
    In 1962 the structure of the business was reorganised. A new holding company, Shepherd Building Group Limited, was formed.
  • 1970
    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.
  • 2015

    As Shepherd Group celebrated its 125th anniversary it took one of the most significant strategic decisions in its long history.

    It followed a thorough review of its operating companies, their strengths and their weaknesses, looking at ways to secure their future and the jobs of the people who work in them by providing a platform for growth.

  • The outcome was a decision to focus future investment on significant sustainable development opportunities such as the continued UK and European expansion of its Portakabin operation.

    At the same time, the Shepherd Group Board recognised that the Group’s construction-related businesses needed scale in order to capitalise on their full potential and the market opportunities arising out of their acknowledged technical capability.

  • The aim was to ensure the best possible future opportunity for all the businesses resulting in strategic decision to sell Shepherd Construction, Shepherd Engineering Services, Shepherd Facilities Management and Shepherd Homes to organisations better able to build on their achievements. The final element of this review was the wind down of the Portasilo and Portastor businesses which concluded in 2019.

  • May 2015

    Shepherd Group agreed to sell its Shepherd Homes business to Galliford Try who would add it to their existing house building business, Linden Homes.

    The transaction represented an exciting opportunity for both the business and its employees for the long-term given that growth and continuing success in the homes market demands ongoing large-scale capital investment which it was felt would be better achieved with a Group which has significant scale in the housing sector as well as a desire to grow its presence in the North.

  • SEP 2015

    On 1 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.

  • 2017
    Portakabin delivers the fastest school ever built in a record-breaking nine weeks for Kensington Aldridge Academy which was directly affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy
  • 2018
    State of the art research laboratories and teaching space delivered by Portakabin for the University of Oxford
  • 2019
    The business’ biggest ever
    marketing campaign launches in the UK,
    Ireland and France
  • 2020
    Following the global pandemic, Portakabin works closely with Governments and healthcare providers across Europe to support those most in need
  • 2021
    Dan Ibbetson joins
    the Shepherd Group board as
    CEO of Portakabin
  • 2022
    Portakabin manufactures
    its 1000th Alta
    building module
  • 2023
    Specialist modular healthcare provider Darwin Group acquired by Portakabin


Today, the Shepherd Group continues to pursue the Group Board’s strategy of focusing future investment on the areas of the Group with significant sustainable development opportunity, its successful Portakabin business being the main benefactor of the strategy. Further UK and European expansion of Portakabin is planned in the years ahead.

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


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