A leading hire company from Leigh that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary has been hailed as the “backbone of the local economy”.
Leigh MP Andy Burnham was speaking after a visit to Astley Hire, which employs 25 people.
He was taken on a guided tour of the premises at Lloyd Court, Jury St, Leigh, by commercial director Stephen Dorricott and his brother Michael, operations director.
They told the MP that their newest division, hiring out industrial cleaning equipment, launched 18 months ago, was proving to be a big success.
The company has adapted and grown ever since their parents, Cyril and Mildred Dorricott, first started hiring water pumps to motorway construction contractors, out of the family’s grocery and hardware shop in Astley, in 1966.
Now half a century later Astley Hire has six divisions, hiring and servicing industrial access, cleaning, cooling and heating equipment, scaffolding and tools to trade and industry customers across the North West, including household names Heinz, McVities and Patak’s.
Two top-of-the-range cherry pickers, which reach a maximum 60ft height, were among the impressive array of access equipment.
Mr Burnham said: “I’m very pleased and very proud that such a strong local company is celebrating its 50th anniversary, employing so many local people. Astley Hire is clearly a very good employer and a model to others.
“I’m very impressed. You can just tell when you walk in the place. It’s orderly, it’s well managed, the staff take pride in their job, and that says a lot about the company and the way it’s been run.
“The Leigh economy has changed but companies like Astley Hire are the backbone of it and they still apply the right values to the way things should be done and they’re very much in tune with what people here think, so that’s why we’re so proud of them.”
Mr Burnham was also shown the exhibition of photographs, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia from across five decades, starting with a photo of company founders Cyril and Mildred Dorricott taken back in 1966.
At the time, Cyril was working for a company that hired out large construction equipment, and spotted there was growing demand for water pups for motorway contractors, which were too small for the company to offer.
He made the decision to start hiring them himself, from the family’s grocery and hardware shop in Astley.
Cyril became known as “the pump man”, spending his evenings and weekends servicing the machines, while Mildred took orders and made deliveries in their Morris Minor pick up.
The fledgling business quickly grew and in 1968 Cyril committed full time to Astley Hire, increasingly adding to the range of tools and equipment, and eventually the grocery business was phased out.
Photos from the 50th anniversary exhibition feature the grocery and hardware shop where it all began, Mildred in the Morris Minor delivery van, and son Stephen at the company’s first workshop, after he and Michael joined in 1973 and 1974, as they finished school.
Original pages from the company’s first invoice book, handwritten in an exercise book, which cost 6d, show how much times have changed.
A photo taken in the 1980s shows the company’s first ever computer, at the offices in Leigh, after a move in 1977 to larger premises there to store and service a wider variety of equipment.
The company is proud of its strong roots in the local community and still has a poster and Rugby League Programme for a game between Leigh and New Zealand, which Astley Hire sponsored in November 1980 – as well as a signed ball from the game.
Stephen, who was Chairman of the Hire Association Europe for two years, says the company is now looking forward to the next decade, and continuing to build on his parents’ legacy.
He said: “It was great to have Andy here to mark this special milestone in the company’s history and the staff appreciated it.
“The secret of our success is giving out customers the quality, reliability and value for money they want.
“All our divisions are complementary and the new cleaning equipment division is doing really well.
“We’re always aiming for the same type of customer base and that’s the industrial user – we don’t do DIY and we don’t do heavy construction.
“A lot of our clients are in the food manufacturing industry and so we now clean our equipment to the required standard for food production before it goes to those factories.
“We are the only hire firm in the North West to be registered with the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Food Safety Management system.”
Brother Michael added: “We’re just determined to try to carry on the business that our parents started and to make it a success.
“We take a pride in what we do and think that any business that is successful has great staff and we appreciate our staff.
“We’re very proud that the services and products we provide are the best possible quality, and that’s why our clients keep coming back.
“It’s wonderful to look back at the last 50 years and know our parents would be proud of what’s been achieved here in Leigh, we’ve got clients all over the North West stretching right up to Cumbria and down to Stoke, and we’re always looking to build on that to meet the growing demand for hire equipment.”
For more information about Astley Hire visit: www.astleyhire.co.uk