The Arnold Laver Story
In 1920, Mr Arnold Laver returned home from the Great War in Germany. He announced to his father that, instead of rejoining the family business, he intended to use his savings to start up as a timber merchant. The response was “Don’t come crawling back here when it’s gone.”
He never had to!
The first site was in Heeley, Sheffield where Arnold Laver “took off his coat and fenced it himself”. Customers paid cash in advance so Arnold Laver could buy the wood to fulfil their order. Deliveries were made by hand cart. Within the year the business was doing well enough to buy machinery such as a saw bench and planer, and to buy their first horse, ‘Charlie’, to make deliveries.
What We Do
Growth Through Determination
Determination and sheer hard work saw the business grow. When asked what hours they worked, Arnold Laver always gave the same answer: “24 hours a day, and don’t be late in the morning!”
Billy Walker, one of Arnold Laver’s first employees, remembers:
“We worked long hours, we worked hard, we were keen to see the business succeed. All simply because the man at the top worked just as long, just as hard and was just as determined that the firm would prosper.”
And prosper it did. Before long the Heeley site just wasn’t big enough.
In 1925, Arnold Laver began negotiations to purchase a much larger site on Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Billy Walker remembers his thoughts on first seeing the new site: “…I gazed at this vast empty space and wondered how we were ever going to fill it”. But they soon did and in 1927 the new Olympic Sawmills were up and running.
By 1932, AV Aston of Sheffield had been acquired, and a new yard opened in Chesterfield.
A new office and yard was opened in Hull in 1934, and a garage opened in Sheffield in 1938.
1939 saw Arnold Laver move into Bradford with the purchase of James Rhodes & Co Ltd.
The War Years
After war was declared in 1939, some of the very first bombs to fall in Yorkshire landed on the James Rhodes premises in Bradford!
Arnold Laver storage sheds on the docks in Hull were burned to the ground.
The entire Bramall Lane premises were destroyed during the 1940 Sheffield Blitz.
With restrictions of the import of timber, and inherent difficulties getting timber into Britain by ship because of the Battle of the Atlantic, Arnold Laver turned to home-grown timber, sourced from the Welbeck estate, and woods bought by the company at Embley Park, Killamarsh and Tanfield.
Mr Arnold Laver said:
“You can bomb it, you can burn it, you can blow it up, but when you’ve done it’s still land!”
Expansion in Yorkshire and Beyond
With the post-war period of recovery, expansion into Leeds took place in 1956, and the Chesterfield yard moved premises. The 1950’s also saw Arnold Laver move into the leisure industry with Bessacarr Caravans taken over (with the purchase of Sealand Caravan Park, Ingoldmells, Skegness following on in 1966). The 1960s saw further premises acquired in Hull and Bradford, and moves taking place in Leeds and Hull.
The DIY boom in the 1970s saw Arnold Laver move into the DIY retail sector, with DIY stores opening in Sheffield in 1973, Chesterfield in 1974 and Leeds in 1983.
Arnold Laver Bradford moved to its current home at Manningham Sawmills in 1974, with new offices and mill extensions built on the site in 1986.
Tragedy struck in 1984 when Zetland Mill in Bradford, purchased by Arnold Laver in 1969, was badly damaged by fire, but more businesses were purchased and absorbed into the Arnold Laver Group during the mid 1980s.
The 1990s saw improvements and renovation of the Sheffield and Hull depots, and expansion of the leisure business in Ingoldmells. Arnold Laver also opened depots in Birmingham and Kidderminster in 1995.
The Football Connection
Arnold Laver were the main sponsor of Sheffield United from 1985 to 1995, and Mr Arnold Laver was Director of the club for 30 years.
The South Stand at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane was known as the Arnold Laver Stand for many years, and as well as advertising at Bramall Lane, Arnold Laver advertising hoardings could also be seen pitchside at Hull’s Boothferry Park.
The Laver Family
Although Mr Arnold Laver passed away in 1971, the Laver family have continued to keep the traditional values that he instilled. Alan Laver took over the running of the business from his father and now the third generation of the family, David Laver and Andrew Laver, all help to keep the business growing.
The Timber Trade Journal (TTJ) once said of the company “…it has a comforting old-fashioned commitment to customer service” There is no doubt that these essential family values have helped to build Arnold Laver into the company that it is today – one of the leading Independent timber merchants in the UK.”
The National Timber Group
In 2018 Arnold Laver merged with The National Timber Group to create the largest independent timber distribution business in the UK. With combined revenue approaching £250 million, the new enlarged Group has 52 distribution and processing sites extending from the north of Scotland to London and the South West and over 1300 employees. The transaction is being supported by further investment from Cairngorm Capital Partners LLP.
Andrew Laver explained, “Once we had taken to decision to consolidate our interests, our priority was to find a partner with shared goals and values who would help our timber business to fulfil its potential. Both companies have much in common in terms of heritage, outstanding product quality and a commitment to the highest standards of customer service, which makes this merger a very good fit. I am confident that the business is in very capable hands and that it will continue to thrive and prosper.”
Rob Barclay, Group Chief Executive of The National Timber Group said, “We are delighted to partner with Arnold Laver and welcome them to the Group. The merger is highly complementary – together, we are able extend our presence nationwide, pursue further growth and are well positioned to capitalise on the market leading position we have established. Additionally, our values, vision and commitment to customers are completely aligned, which creates exciting opportunities for us both.”