Denise Hodgson
Denise Hodgson

From customised sheds and stables to farm shops and cricket pavilions, WS Hodgson has been making timber buildings for four generations. Martin Paul finds out about the history of the Teesdale firm...

A PROMINENT family-run business from Teesdale is closing after 118 years.

WS Hodgson & Co Limited will close on June 30 as managing director Denise Hodgson prepares to retire.

The company, which was started by her great-grandfather William Stanley Hodgson, in 1906, is well known for the manufacture of timber buildings.

Ms Hodgson said: “He used to have poultry and he wanted a hen house built in a certain way but he couldn’t get anyone to do it. So, he did it himself. Then somebody else saw it and said ‘will you build me one’, and that is how it originally started.”

Later her grandfather Joseph Alan took over ownership, before handing it to her father Dennis and aunt Pamela Farrell.

Ms Hodgson had an early start in the business too. She said: “I used to go with my dad in the wagon as a little girl when he used to pick up the timber from the docks. So, I’ve grown up with it and it has been my life all this time.”

Ms Hodgson’s brothers Stephen and Shawn also worked for the firm for a period.

Although it started out by building hen houses, over time the business has diversified to include stables, garages, summerhouses, cricket pavilions, club houses and also farm shops and cafes.

The businesswoman said: “We did quite a few buildings for the Yorkshire Show. We have covered the whole of the country and quite a few years ago we sent some stables over to the Falkland Island – we didn’t put them up, we just sent them with instructions.

“We have sold buildings to royalty and a lot of famous people really.”

Among those the business can count as clients is Princess Anne who ordered stabling.

Ms Hodgson attributes the success of the business to quality of materials used and workmanship, as well as the ability to produce buildings to a client’s specific needs.

She said: “I think one thing that has made it a success is we could make whatever people wanted, you didn’t have to have a standard size. We used to say ‘special is our speciality’ because we could alter the design with making things here.”

Another reason for its success has been its commitment to local people and causes, with Ms Hodgson in 2019 organising a Cupcake Day in 2019 for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of her father.

She said: “We like to give to local charities and have supported them over the years, also supporting the local farmers with prizes for the agricultural shows. I strongly believe if you are in business you should give back to the community.”

Although the business continues to be successful Ms Hodgson has decided to call it a day because there are no opportunities for succession.

She said: “I am 65 and my family aren’t interested in taking over the business, so I am the last Hodgson.

“It is sad because we have been here for so long, four generations.

“It’s a double-edged sword, because it is emotional after all these years but then how long do you go on for?”

Latterley about 12 people worked for the company, but more recently has been working on a skeleton staff as it winds down. The managing director said most staff had found other jobs.

She added: “That was important to me. They are like family so I am pleased they have got a job.

“We have been lucky with staff over the years because we have had staff that have come from school [all the way to their retirement].”

Ms Hodgson plans to travel in her retirement and a trip to New Zealand is on the cards for next year.