History

Throughout our proud 177-year history, WB Stubbs (Hawksworth) Limited has evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of its customers, while retaining the strong family values that ensure quality remains the byword for our British-made products.
Our well-designed, finely-crafted goods can be found in some of the leading stables around the world, renowned for their trustworthiness from Australia to Zimbabwe.

The STUBBS ENGLAND label is highly-respected world wide and we guard this privilege by continuing to manufacture all our products in the heart of England. Our skills have been honed and passed down through the generations to include welding and fabrication, plastic moulding, sheetmetal, plastic coating and joinery.
Although now well established as a leading equestrian brand, the starting point for what became WB Stubbs was in the making of agricultural implements. The company was established by Thomas Wade, who set up his works in 1836, and what is thought to be his original Hawksworth workshop still exists today, complete with forge.

"The

STUBBS ENGLAND label is highly respected worldwide and we guard this privilege by continuing to manufacture all our own products in the heart of England."

Chris Bradwell, Managing Director

The roots of our business

It was almost a century earlier that the Wade family’s synonymous association with Hawksworth began when, in 1732, Thomas Wade of Bingham married Jane Green in Hawksworth church. Their son, William, was a carpenter in the village while his son, also William, was Hawksworth’s village constable for many years, and from 1832 the parish clerk.
The latter William Wade had two sons, John and Thomas. John Wade was a farmer and took over as parish clerk and constable in 1850. His brother, Thomas Wade, was born in 1811 at Hawksworth and in 1835 he married Sarah Stubbs. Thomas trained diligently as an engineer and became an agricultural implement maker and our business’ founding father.
But our story would not be complete without explaining the importance of Sarah Stubbs, from which our brand name was derived. She was born in 1807, probably in Bingham, where her parents had married in 1804. By then, the Stubbs name was well known in south Nottinghamshire and several were respected blacksmiths and carpenters.
When she married, Sarah Stubbs already had a son - William Blount Stubbs, who was born in Bingham in 1834. Wade family tradition has is that Thomas Wade was his father, and certainly Thomas raised William in Hawksworth as his son.
Business soon boomed as Thomas’ drive and enthusiasm ensured our company prospered in its early years. By the census of Hawksworth in 1871, three years before he died, Thomas was described as a blacksmith and machine maker employing three men and two apprentices.

The baton is passed on

When William Blount Stubbs became the second generation to run our company, the modern-day name WB Stubbs Limited was adopted. The memoirs of a former employee refer to the terms of his apprenticeship under William Blount Stubbs in 1880 which, typically for that period, record on parchment that the apprentice will not visit taverns or playhouses, play cards or dice, or get married. In return, his master would instruct him in his trade and provide sufficient meat, drink and lodgings. An apprenticeship took at least seven years to complete. Suffice to say our conditions of employment have eased somewhat since then!
William Blount Stubbs married Sarah Hill and their first son, William Ashbridge Stubbs, was born in Hawksworth in 1862. By the census of 1881 he is described as an engine fitter, no doubt working in the business for his father. Their second son, George Stubbs, born in Hawksworth in 1864, was a keen photographer and it is largely thanks to him that many photographs of Hawksworth from around 1900 still remain.

Stubbs’ range goes to print

It was in 1886 – the same year as Sigmund Freud opened his practice in Vienna, the first classified advert was published in the London Times and the English Hockey Association was founded – that we published our first 100-page catalogue. The claim made is still true today: “We make a larger variety of Trucks, Hand Carts, Trolleys, Sack Trucks, Dock Trucks etc than any other firm in the United Kingdom”.
Eventually, William Ashbridge Stubbs married Sally Marsh and took his turn to run our company in Hawksworth. In 1910 he reported “a very busy year” and noted that the old house had been pulled down and replaced by one that had a bathroom and other up-to-date conveniences. He also stated that there was “electric light to all over the house.” William and Sally’s son, Donald Marsh Stubbs, born in 1893, followed his father into the business and eventually became a fourth generation proprietor.  

Time to ‘power up’

The house electrical installation was closely observed by the watchful ‘Donny’ who made a key decision to install electricity into the factory himself, paving the way for a successful modernisation of the business.  Prior to this, all machinery was powered by a big steam engine, through a succession of overhead shafts and belts throughout the works. To ensure a head of steam by 7am, this had to be tended from 4 o’clock in the morning. The old steam engine building now houses our electrical distribution centre.
Back in the 19th century, timber was a very important raw material, with a large proportion coming from a forest behind the factory which, as it is today, was called Progress Works. Logs were hauled up to the sawmill by an overhead dragline and then hoisted on to an immense carriage that carried the logs through a horizontal reciprocating saw. As recently as the year 2000, some of our longer-serving staff could still recall the sound of the incrementally advancing carriage before the saw.
At around the age of 20, Donny went to Canada and there he joined the Winnipeg 90th Rifles, eventually seeing service in the trenches during World War One, where he was taken prisoner.  However, whilst in Canada, he learnt a book keeping system which his daughter Pat, and her successors, still use in our office today.

Trailers and trolleys take off

The early stages of the 20th century saw the manufacturing of various trailers became important to our prosperity, ranging from camping trailers to tent trailers and livestock trailers. The highly-acclaimed ‘Wayside Collapsible Trailer Caravan’ went into production in the 1920s and, never one to miss a trick, Donny boosted sales by selling in Clumber Park on Sundays. Son Billy, 10 years old at the time, was a willing assistant on such sales outings, as the photograph shows.
Our expertise in that particular market is still prevalent today and during the early 1970s they were a seriously strong seller, with horse trailer production, which reached a peak of six per week in the early 1970s, remaining an important line for 30 years.
Another of our mainstays during the first half of the 20th century were trolleys, but the inefficiency of early threshing machines gave us at STUBBS a new market – the Winnowing machines that removed the chaff from the corn – and it proved to be big business. That shelf life was extended in the 1950s when early combine harvesters proved to be similarly ineffective, giving the winnowing machines a rebirth. Staff, now retired, remember production reaching 60 in one year.

Standing the test of time

The skilled craftsmen making these machines used to sign their names and put the date of manufacture inside.  When a local farmer donated his pride and joy to STUBBS in the 1990s, our works manager Frank Slater, himself an ex -joiner, rushed out and quickly started dismantling it, much to the temporary horror of our current managing director Chris Bradwell. Frank was rewarded by finding his own signature and ‘February 1957’ inside – the very month that Chris was born – and it now forms part of his museum!
Donald Stubbs married Helen Howard and their daughter, Patricia Marsh Stubbs, ran the company accounts right up to 2007. Her husband Roy Dexter, who was a very talented engineer and brilliant HR manager, became Works Director. Together they assisted Pat’s brother William Howard Bradwell (Billy) when he took the business over in 1959.  His son Christopher William Robert Bradwell was born in 1957 and he entered the business in 1975. After many years of strong guidance from his father, Pat and Roy, Chris became a remarkable sixth generation of the family to take the reins of our business in the late 1980s.

Turning to trucks

From the 1930s, in addition to being agricultural implement manufacturers, WB Stubbs Limited are described in local trade directories as truck manufacturers, as highlighted by this trade advert of the time.
This was a very grim time, but World War Two brought enormous change. Suddenly, our business was brisk with 65-hour working weeks becoming the rule. Manufacture of sheet-carrying trolleys for British Aluminium, ‘leather' horses for the tanneries and box trolleys for Ransome and Marles Bearings (now NSK) were among the main products. Often, non-priority orders had to be turned down. This upturn slowly saw the end of ‘red’ bank statements which were the product of the 1930s, when we had been glad to make anything.
Exports are very important to us, but the photograph shows this is not new. Modern STUBBS trolleys have been observed in use in Gibraltar in 2012 by Chris, while Billy saw our turn-table trolleys in North Africa as long ago as 1940.  Represented in countries worldwide, our products are more accessible across the globe than ever before.
By the 1960s our company had expanded rapidly and employed around 70 men.  It was at this time that Billy’s entrepreneurial nous saw STUBBS’ manufacture of Stable and Tack Room equipment initiated, thereby securing what was to become a central pillar to our business. His daughter, Judy, complained that the hayracks Billy had purchased for her had broken again, and so he had some strong ones made in the factory (which survive to the present day!) Friends saw them and wanted some too. Recognising that fitness for purpose was the most important criteria in the difficult environment of the stable and yard, quality has always been our creed.

All hands on deck!

We have always stuck together at WB Stubbs Limited, as demonstrated on 15th May 1969 when the Hawksworth premises were badly damaged by a fire at night. At the height of the blaze, 40 firemen worked to put out the fire and many employees turned out to help in the salvage work. Totally undaunted by this set back, all employees reported for work throughout the ensuing weekend, refusing pay, to create workspace. On the Monday morning production restarted!
Our long-serving and loyal staff have always been a great asset of the company. The average years’ service given still exceeds 20 years, with the current MD’s 37 years of service being beaten by four other members of staff. That devotion is reflected in the attention to detail offered by our products.
We are also blessed by loyal customers, many of whom have supported us for decades and one who has been with us for more than 100 years. In a 21st century world that is changing like never before, we believe we can continue to reward that loyalty - and attract new custom - with the kind of sustained excellence that has been the backbone of WB Stubbs Limited through the generations.

 

Moving on...

2014 saw STUBBS first foray 'down under' when we exhibited at Equitana in Melbourne.  A most enthusiastic reception awaited us, often by people who were aware of our brand despite our never having sold there before.  With distributors now established, we look forward to serving a whole new continent.

2015 saw another first - we had our own stand at BETA.  Dazzling the trade with a heavily branded display we were even awarded the 'BEST SMALL TRADE STAND'.  Interest was almost overwhelming and we were busy virtually every minute of the three days.

Thomas Wade 1811-1874

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Wade née Stubbs 1807-1893

 

 

 

 

 

Stubbs’ apprentices in 1897.
Standing L to R: Edward Widnall, Willie Carby, Fred Harston, William Blount Stubbs, William Ashbridge Stubbs. Seated L to R: Harry Russon, Tom Bush, - Striker, Cecil Askew, Jack Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Newcombe delivers the goods from the shop

 

 

 

 

 

1940 A War Department order for the Chilwell depot. Chevrolet lorry with Les Gilbert and Frank Richmond

 

 

 

 

 

1931 Newcastle Royal Show.
Stubbs started making this caravan, which sold for £65, in 1930

 

 

 

 

 

Current Managing Director Chris Bradwell, aged seven

 

 

 

 

 

Beta International 2015Beta International 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Award for Best Small Trade Stand at Beta 2015