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From back in 2006 - Forty years of growth

"As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Astley Hire continues to expand. Alan Guthrie visited the independent's new Leigh headquarters to discover the reasons for its success."

Read the full story of our 40th anniversary by downloading the PDF article below, which appeared in the July 2006 edition of Executive Hire News.

PDF File Forty years of growth (2.96 Mb).

Detailed History

History of Astley Hire Part 1 (1966 to 1968)

Mr & Mrs Dorricott returned from working in the British Camaroons, West Africa, in 1962. Cyril Dorricott had worked there for Dunlop for several years but had decided that with 3 young children who were just about to start school they had better prospects if they returned to England.

They settled in Boothstown, near Manchester, and Cyril went to work for Hireplant who were based on the Astley trading estate, off Chaddock Lane, Astley. At the time Cyril Dorricott was 49 years old and Mildred was 44.

Cyril worked in the stores controlling the requests for plant spares. In 1963 they took another of their big steps by deciding to buy a Hardware and Grocery business which was up for sale in the village of Astley. At the time it was a mining village and the double fronted shop was almost opposite the entrance to the pit. The address was 159/161 Higher Green Lane, Astley, Nr Tyldesley. This would later be the site for Astley Hire.

Cyril Dorricott used to get enquiries for 2" water pumps, but Hireplant were not interested in supplying small plant, as their business was larger operated plant. The motorway network in the North West was just starting to be developed and there was a lot of construction work being carried out. Cyril Dorricott saw an opportunity to hire out water pumps from the shop his wife was running.

He bought his first pump on the 3rd February 1966, it was a Goodenough Pump, serial no B27919-10266, it cost £53 13s 6d. He bought 3 more pumps in 1966 and started off what would later become the Astley Hire equipment fleet. At the time they still traded under the name of C & M Dorricott and one of their first letter heads is entitled "Grocery and Hardware Stores, Agents for Monk's Tours. Pumps for Hire."

Between 1966 and 1968 the pump hire fleet grew, it was very difficult in the early days for Mrs Dorricott to balance the running of a shop, the bringing up of 3 young children and the building of a new business.

History Of Astley Hire Part 2 (1968 To 1972)

In 1968 the business was split betweeen a hardware and grocery shop and the now emerging pump hire business. Mildred Dorricott would receive phone calls from contractors requiring a water pump and she would have to stop whatever she was do and organise the hire, which included making sure the pump was serviced, loading the Morris Minor pickup, and then delivering it to a motorway construction site somewhere in the North West.

Apart from all the other problems was the fact that she had to learn to drive!

Cyril Dorricott would service the pumps in the evening and at weekends to ensure they were available for hire. The rate for hiring a pump was £1 a day.

The workshop was the kitchen table and the storage was the back yard of a terraced house.

The business was built this way from 66 to 68 when in September 68 after a lot of sleepless nights wondering whether or not he should give up full time employment, Cyril left Hireplant to concentrate on building up the business.

Cyril was aged 55 (Mildred was 5 years younger), when most people are thinking of retirement, and without any previos business experience Cyril decided it was now or never!

It was very hard work having little capital to spend and no previous experience to rely on. Every penny was invested back into new pumps. He acquired the nickname 'The Pump Man' and was a recognised figure around the construction sites of Manchester.

Slowly the business grew and more different lines were added, such as grass cutters, rotovators, ladders etc. Hire as a concept was brand new at this stage and tere were only a handful of hire companies in the country.

Business was also new to Cyril and Mildred as they had not run a small business before, except for the shop, which was gone and had been replaced by pumps, gardening and DIY equipment, and one of the first hire shops in the North West was born.

All the work was carried out by Cyril and Mildred, with Cyril doing the services and deliveries with Mildred running the shop (and bringing up the kids), these were exciting times but still very hard, hire turnover was still small and some weekends would be spent cutting other peoples' grass in order to reinvest in equipment.

In 1971/2 Astley Hire's income was £5,314. Capital expenditure was £1,234.15 on new equipment. Expenses included advertising (£170), telephone (£28), bank charges (£14), and Mr Dorricott's wages (£495).

The plant and the machinery purchased in that year included such items as a cement mixer for £64, ths was a Baromix Minor (we can still buy these machines today from the same supplier), extension ladder for £50, 2" water pump for £50, these were always bought from Goodenough Pumps, who ironically were on the Moss Industrial Estate, just a few hundred yards from where we are today (they now no longer exist).

Cyril and Mildred were quick to adapt their business to accomodate new ideas and it was good they did because they soon found out what happens when a new business idea starts to work. Others are quick to follow, others will more capital and experience!

History of Astley Hire Part 3 (1975 to 1978)

The next few years were busy ones for the Dorricotts, as they set about establishing their business. The hire of tools and equipment industry was very much in its early stages, so as well as establishing the business, they had to innovate and learn from the start. It is taken for granted today, but in the 1970's there were few hire companies to benchmark against.

The Astley depot was closed and the business moved to Brooklands Mill, on English St, in Leigh. This was where Michael started to learn the trade, alongside his father, Cyril. The move allowed Astley Hire to begin to create a strong presence in Leigh which has lasted ever since.

The mill premises were not ideal, though, and within 18 months the depot was moved again. The decision was also taken to close the Atherton depot and to combine it with the Leigh depot.

The new Leigh premises were at the rear show room of County Motors on Chapel St. This was the first time that the two brothers Michael and Stephen worked together, as they still do today.

The two brothers have always managed to split the business between them — Michael learnt his side of the business in the workshop, and Stephen on the hire counter. This proved to be the perfect combination, as their strengths and experiences now compliment each other wonderfully.

Stephen has gone on to study accounts and marketing, while Michael has continued to learn about the equipment, health and safety issues, and training. For a short while they were joined in the business by their sister Carole, until she left to start a family.

The business grew steadily over the next few years — the car show room advertised itself more, and customers became increasingly aware of Astley Hire. Advertising in newspapers was then seen as a major method of promotion.

In 1978, it was felt that to take the business forward a full time rep was required. At that time, the main competitor was a company called John Simms. They were based 800 yards away and they had three or four reps, concentrating on the construction market (they would much later be bought out by HSS)

So Astley Hire employed their first full time rep, George Voiels (until this time the selling was being done by Cyril). George came to the business with a lot of experience, having worked for three other hire companies, his last being as sales manager for PB Power Tools.

George proved to be an excellent addition to the team, and the business grew quickly over the next two years. So much so, that a decision was made to move again to bigger premises, this time away from the main road. New, more suitable premises were found on Moss Industrial Estate. The company remained there for over 20 years, until April 2006.


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