The Watts Group is a very rare thing – a modern company yet 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 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 borrowed £300 from his uncle and purchased a small ironmongery shop in Lydney when he was only 24 years old.
Josiah and his wife Clara’s 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 business established a successful mail delivery service for the surrounding Forest of Dean area and added a Ford Motor Dealership to the portfolio. 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 and John started his first scheduled bus service linking the Forest of Dean and Gloucester.
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.
Their success led to more than 50 years of impressive growth in industrial tyres and Watts Industrial Tyres became a significant global player with manufacturing facilities in Sri-Lanka, China and Brazil as well as having depots across the UK, France, Germany, and the
In 1975, the design and manufacturing business Urethane Products was added to the portfolio. This was initially to produce tyres made from polyurethane, but it soon expanded into creating innovative solutions for customer’s needs across diverse range of industries.
In 1999, the Group bought a rubber compounding company which included Plysolene, a plastic sheet extrusion business.
The Group sold Watts polymers in 2007.
The Group sold Watts Industrial Tyres in 2009, allowing the Group to concentrate on further strengthening its other successful businesses without exposure to the risks inherent in the complex international tyre business.
The re-focus allowed the Group to develop its regional Truck & Van operations offering sales, service and parts through DAF, Fiat and other franchises in three locationsacross South Wales, (Cardiff, Swansea, Newport) and greater focus was also given to its two specialist manufacturing companies, Watts Urethane and Plysolene.
The Watts Urethane business is a key part of the Watts Group using local expertise and resources to create world-class products. Its products are wide and varied; from helping to save lives in Afghanistan by supplying polyurethane wheels for mine clearance equipment, through to reducing pedestrian injury with flexi bollards.
Plysolene, based in West Sussex, has also demonstrated exceptional business performance during what has been a difficult period for UK manufacturers of late. This Watts Group success story has now diversified into polystyrene and ABS sheet extrusion.
Althorpe Properties continues to have a wide portfolio of residential and commercial properties across the UK that the Group have invested in and acquired over the years.
Watts Truck and Van now solely focusses on DAF and has recently been awarded UK Dealership of the Year.
“People are our strength” insists Watts Group Chairman, John Thurston, who is himself the fifth generation of the Watts family.
“We have always relied upon the energy, expertise and enterprise of a truly dedicated workforce and we’re proud of the fact that 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.
“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 more than 150 years heritage, and only if we continue matching, and often exceeding, our customers needs for products and services, will we be here for another 150 years.