In July 1955, two men set out from Winchester in an old lorry armed with just a few tools and £40 in cash.

Their mission was to secure a presence for the engineering firm Conder 'somewhere north of Watford'. After a site survey in Lichfield, the duo of Fred Duckworth and Jack Goldsmith needed somewhere to sleep for the night and their hunt took them to Burton.

Burton, that night, appeared to be a friendly town and within a few days the pair found themselves a temporary office at Peel House, the former home of one branch of the Peel family. The Conder empire had started in a very small way a few years earlier.

The firm began life in 1947 with the renting of a village forge at Kingsworthy in Winchester for just 65 pence a week by Mr RT Cole and Mr JG Pinder.

The talented duo tackled almost anything from mending pots and pans to making earth scoops.

Their office was a shepherd's hut measuring just 8ft by 4ft and one of their first project were roof trusses for a chicken house for farmer Mr J Bridger.

Mr Cole designed some rather unusual roof trusses and the building was voted a great success.

The same farmer also wanted somewhere to store course grains and this was the beginnings of the company known as Conder Steel Silos.

Conder became a limited company in 1953 and with a few jobs now on the order books, the duo moved to a new workshop on an industrial estate in Winchester.

The construction of the new workshop aroused some interest and farmers came along with orders for agricultural buildings.

This simple form of portal frame construction was developed using calculations based on the 'Plastic Theory' developed by Professor Baker from Cambridge University.

It was over the next few years that the firm expanded rapidly and a team of engineers and executives was built up – including Mr Duckworth and Mr Winchester, which leads on to their trip in a lorry to Burton in 1955.

During 1961 and 1962, associated companies were set up in Australia, Nigeria, and Malaya with many new products developed. A flourishing export business soon covered more than 30 countries with Conder soon creating one building a day.

During the company's early years in Burton, the works established itself at an old railway sidings, off Branston Road. This quickly escalated to a covered unit at the Branston Road site, but expansion was so rapid that by 1960 this was too small. It was during the Easter period of 1964 that the company moved to Wellington Road (formerly known as Wellington Street extension) – where it remained for close to 50 years.

Images from 1972 show times gone by in Marchington

The first phase of the company's building programme at Wellington Road included a single storey office which became the prototype for what became known as the 'Kingsworthy building system'.

Household names were now relying on Conder for their buildings with orders flooding in from Allied Breweries, JCB, Bass, Marmite, Nestle, Pirelli, Rolls-Royce, Ford, ICI and Boots.

During the 1970s, the premises at Wellington Road was extended several times and new machinery was installed including a £250,000 paint bay.

In May 1973, the chairman of Conder Midlands revealed how a £334,000 investment would drastically modernise the business.

Loading a Conder lorry in May 1973.
Loading a Conder lorry in May 1973.

Speaking at a meeting of Burton shareholders, Mr RT Cole explained how the philosophy of the steel-framed building business was to give value for money and create buildings for a better environment.

The investment hoped to give greater ease of work and 'reduce arduous tasks to a minimum through new and improved steel preparation and shot blasting facilities'.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Cole disclosed that orders placed within the first five months of 1973 already exceeded £4 million and this figure was an extension of the last four years' growth which averaged 40 per cent per annum.

By 1980 it was time to celebrate the company's silver jubilee. The company was much older than 25 years – this was just to mark 25 years in the town. On the occasion of the jubilee, the managing director of the time, John Davies, released the following announcement.

Mr Davies said: "At a silver jubilee it is natural to wish to look back. I joined Conder in 1969 and was appointed managing director of Conder Midlands in 1975 , and so relative to 25 years, I am not able to look back all that far.

"The ingredients of our present success however, are firmly rooted in the past and have been a common theme throughout the 25 years. These include, probably above all else, our good staff and good products.

"We have set ourselves high standards of service to our customers and are part of a lively group of companies from whom we get great support and encouragement. We have an open style of management with an emphasis on team work and a partnership of management and staff.

"As a consequence we are dedicated to making sure we provide what our customers' need on time.

At work in the Conder offices in August 1997.
At work in the Conder offices in August 1997.

"It is not too much to say that we all enjoy our work and that the company as a whole is proud of its achievements and looks forward, with confidence, to the future.

"We live in difficult, daunting times for the construction industry but with our hard work and application I am sure we will prosper and that young people with us today will be able to celebrate another 25 years in Burton at our golden jubilee.

"On Friday September 26, 1980, we will be entertaining our customers, suppliers and representatives and on the Saturday, our Conder staff and their families."

Thankfully, Conder managed to celebrate its golden jubilee in the town in 2005 – but bad news followed in 2008 with job losses and then the final closure in 2009.

In August 2009 the Burton Mail reported on how the workforce was being made redundant because of a downturn in orders prompted by the recession. At the time, the managing director Jason Hensman said that the company would continue to operate and would complete all its ongoing projects.

Tesco wanted the Wellington Road site in 2010 but this failed to materialise.

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