Britain’s oldest builder ceases trading

4 July 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Kent-based R Durtnell & Sons, founded in 1591 and reputed to be Britain’s oldest builder, has ceased trading.

Among the projects the contractor had been working on was the £15m refurbishment of the Grade-I-listed Brighton Dome Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre. Brighton & Hove City Council confirmed that the firm had ceased to trade and said it was exploring “practical options” to complete the restoration works.

Construction work on the Corn Exchange, which has the widest span timber frame roof in the country, began in February 2018 but has experienced several unforeseen issues on the historic site, including structural issues with the building’s 200-year-old wooden frame and roof trusses, and the discovery of a Quaker burial ground.

The company also worked on the Turner Contemporary project in Margate, which chairman John Durtnell was "immensely proud" of (see video below).

R Durtnell & Sons’ annual accounts for the year to 31 December 2017 described economic conditions as “very challenging” as it revealed an increase in turnover from £41.6m to £51.9m at the same time as it fell into a £700,000 pre-tax loss.

Its balance sheet showed that net assets fell to £913,000, half the £1.8m in net assets it held the year before. Nonetheless, at the time the directors said they had a “reasonable expectation” that the company had adequate resources to continue trading, including an anticipated £1.5m injection of funding.

R Durtnell & Sons was unavailable for comment.


This will never change, the whole industry in the UK requires a mass shake up with all aspects, no real training or apprenticeships, no investment in the future, very little R and D, constant cost / throat cutting exercises always at the coal face level.

Tony Callaghan, 4 July 2019

So sad to see such an established company that has traded through some of the hardest times fall in a time of expansion increased workload.
Denis Barry MCIOB, Derbyshire.

Denis Barry, 4 July 2019

Found guilty of bid rigging back in 2009

“R Durtnell & Sons, of Brasted, Westerham, was yesterday ordered by the Office of Fair Trading to pay £711,115 for so-called cover pricing.

This involved colluding with other contractors to submit uncompetitive tenders for public sector projects they did not want so that firms could keep coveted "approved contractor" status. The practice, which was claimed to "rip off" taxpayers, was later outlawed.”

Waggler, 4 July 2019

What terrible news. How can a company that’s been around since Shakespeare’s time be allowed to fold. The generations of expertise is second to none. Can we not help prevent this?
Any suggestions anyone?

Peter Robertson, 4 July 2019

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