Darke & Taylor celebrates its Diamond Anniversary in 2018, and the last 60 years have seen the company grow from sole trader status to being one of the larger privately owned building services businesses in the South of England.
We are proud of our heritage and this makes a significant contribution to our unique working environment and company ethos. Over the last 60 years, we’ve continued to develop in response to the changing requirements of our industry. Our long-standing commitment to a sustainable business strategy has enabled us to consolidate our growth and offer long-term career development opportunities.
So how did it all begin and what are the key moments in the company’s history?
On 5th September 1958, electrician John Darke started trading from 62 Divinity Road in Oxford with one apprentice installing pre-payment meters for Oxford City Council. As the work load grew he worked long hours behind the scenes formulating an estimating policy, doing his own administration and book-keeping.
During these early days, the car industry in Oxford was booming, paying high wages and absorbing much of the local skilled workforce. John was struggling to recruit to expand his business until he contacted a Southern Electric Board electrician, Harold Taylor, who he had previously known. John and Harold were able to work well together and reduce a backlog of work and by April 1960 they had formed a partnership called Darke & Taylor.
Within 18 months the business had moved out of John’s home and the lock up garage in Headington used as a stores, moving to a newly refurbished office and stores at 154D Cowley Road in Oxford. Harold’s wife Pat ran the office and during the 1960’s the company saw a period of sustained growth employing electricians from Oxfordshire and Berkshire with the contracts undertaken becoming more varied and larger in size.
During the 1960’s the company became a member of the NIC EIC and the JIB, organisations it remains a member of and takes an active involvement in today.
In July 1969 David Newton joined the firm, working as an Estimator and, as a result of continued growth, the company moved to new offices in Avenue Lane, Cowley, Oxford. In January 1971 Darke & Taylor became a limited company with Messer’s Darke and Taylor becoming the Directors.
On 1st January 1973, Darke & Taylor furthered its ambitions and purchased Oxford based electrical contractor Hill Upton & Company. Hill Upton & Co. was established in 1890 (co-founded by the grandson of Sir Rowland Hill, founder of the Penny Black Stamp) and was one of Oxford’s first electrical installation businesses which also sold some of the first domestic electrical products such as vacuum cleaners and refrigerators to consumers from its shop at Radiant House on George Street in Oxford.
Upon purchasing Hill Upton & Co, Darke & Taylor moved to its premises in Aristotle Lane off Kingston Road in North Oxford, where both businesses operated independently until 1980. During the 1970s the company continued its growth becoming a member of the Electrical Contractors’ Association with David Newton becoming a Director and Shareholder of the Company and Paul McNaughton (future MD of the company) commencing his Apprenticeship aged 16. This period also saw Darke & Taylor taking on responsibility for the overall management and delivery of M&E contracts.
In 1980, Hill Upton & Co was formally incorporated with Darke & Taylor Ltd, effectively doubling the size of the company and making it one of the largest building services contractors in the region. During the 1980s, the company was employing up to 6 school leavers a year onto its apprenticeship scheme and undertaking work as far afield as Cambridge and London and, after 27 years’ service, Harold Taylor retired.
During the 1990s, with a commitment to the direct employment of staff, provision of apprenticeships and high levels of staff retention D&T continued its growth and David Newton was appointed as MD of the company. The company was now firmly established as a significant player in the electrical and building services industry and had formed relationships with a broad range of clients, main contractors and suppliers, many of which it still does business with today.
In 2000 the company moved to new offices on a business park just outside of Oxford in Kidlington and the decade saw D&T progress further with development of its structured network cabling services, and the attainment of ISO14001 Environmental and CHAS and Constructionline Health & Safety Accreditations. John Darke also retired and passed away in 2004 having left a legacy that is a testament to the work he put in during the early days to build a solid base from which Darke & Taylor was able to develop.
In 2008, the senior management team undertook an MBO of the business, with Paul McNaughton becoming the Managing Director and David Newton becoming the Chairman. Succession planning at Darke & Taylor has always involved the phased retirement of senior shareholder directors to enable the smooth, orderly transition of the management of the company to existing employees who understand the business and who, after their own investment in the company, use their experience and capability to ensure its on-going success.
Since 2010 D&T has actively invested in the growth of new services and technologies, in particular developing specialist teams to address the advances and opportunities in electrical renewable and energy efficient technologies (including solar PV, solar thermal, LED lighting, heat pumps, electrical vehicle charging and battery storage), and also fire and security systems, enabling it operate as an industry specialist in the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of the critical systems that protect people and property.
Over recent years, Darke & Taylor has become an award-winning business, with success at both industry and local business awards, highlights including Contractor of the Year at both the ECA Awards and The Electrical Industry Awards, Business of the Year at the Oxfordshire Business Awards, and a number of awards for our Apprenticeship Initiative (more here).
In 2016, Darke & Taylor invested in and relocated to Radiant House (named after the early Hill Upton & Co offices in Oxford) in Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire. From this location the company provides a full range of electrical and building services engineering solutions including design & installation, testing & inspection, energy saving, HVAC & plumbing, fire & security systems, data & audio-visual and planned & reactive maintenance to a wide variety of customers and clients.
The move to the new premises coincided with the development of our “Connected Excellence” Quality Management System and our vision to excel in the design, installation and maintenance of the MEP systems that connect to create fit for purpose building environments. This approach has now achieved ISO9001 accreditation.
In 2018, we celebrate our 60th year, and look back with pride on the past and the amazing journey that the company and so many of our valued staff have been on. We also look forward and this year sees the continuation of the succession planning that the company has put in place, with the appointment of new Managing Directors in Graham Winstone and Simon Newton, the appointment of four new Shareholder Directors and the appointment of Paul McNaughton as our Chairman.
Here’s to another 60 years of Connected Excellence!