logo
icon
Rotate your screen to learn about our history
LOADER IMAGE
start image

Acknowledgements.

With thanks to Ashley Jones, Peter Gower, the family of Geoff Pygall, Arthur Ingram, Pickfords Travel Designer Danny Claridge.

image_1646

Charles I was fighting the English Civil War when Pickfords was established. Oliver Cromwell dominated the English Commonwealth.

Thomas Pickford was first engaged in using packhorses for carrying goods.

1646 saw Pickfords' earliest mention in public records.

1646
A carrier is born
1646
A carrier is born
  • 1646: Pickfords' earliest mention in public records
  • In Adlington, Cheshire, the original Pickford family was engaged in the business of mending roads and used packhorses to carry stone from the quarry
  • Thomas Pickford spotted the opportunity to generate income from the return journey and started to carry goods for other parties. A carrier was born!
start_bg

Matthew Pickford, son of James Pickford. He and his brother, Thomas, invented the ‘Fly wagon’, pictured.

The Pickfords ‘Fly Wagon’ cut the travelling time from Manchester to London down to four and a half days.

The 18th Century
Transport pioneers
1740
Transport Pioneers
  • James Pickford took over the business in the 18th century
  • Pioneering transport by wagon rather than horses, the company prospered and expanded to reach London by 1740
  • Matthew and Thomas, sons of James, invented the ‘Fly wagon’ - a lighter, faster vehicle than the stage coaches of the day which cut the travelling time from Manchester to London down to four and a half days
image_1780

The Napoleonic Wars led to a huge expansion in Pickfords’ business.

In 1780, Matthew Pickford began to route traffic over the new canal system. By 1803, Pickfords owned a fleet of canal boats, wagons and horses and had built its own canal connected facilities.

The 18th Century
Good times and bad
1780
Good times and bad
  • 1780: Matthew Pickford began to route traffic over the new canal system. By 1803, Pickfords owned a fleet of canal boats, wagons and horses and had built its own canal connected facilities
  • The Napoleonic Wars led to a boom in business and subsequent expansion, though by 1817 the good times were followed by a period of decline
  • At the end of the wars cargoes dramatically declined and the Pickford family withdrew
start_bg

Seeing the opportunity to grow Pickfords' fortunes, Baxendale embraced the railway network as a method of transportation at a time when it presented a threat to inland carriers.

The Baxendales continued to serve the company until 1932 when L H Baxendale resigned from the Pickfords board.

Joseph Baxendale was the driving force in the new Pickford & Company, set up in 1817. He rebuilt the company through the following decade.

1817
Baxendale: a transport visionary
1817
Baxendale: a transport visionary
  • Joseph Baxendale was the driving force in the new Pickford & Company, established in 1817
  • Joseph was a formidable character and made a plan to rebuild the company through the following decade
  • He embraced the emerging rail network as a new method of transportation
  • In 1829 Pickfords was restored to its former glory
image_1888

In 1888 a series of murders took place in London’s East End; the perpetrator was never caught.

It was theorised that Jack could have been a Pickfords cart man called Charles Cross who was on his way to Pickfords’ Broad Street depot when he found the body of Polly Nichols. He was never charged.

1888
The Jack the Ripper connection
1888
the Jack the Ripper connection
  • It was theorised that Jack could have been a Pickfords cart man called Charles Cross, found at the scene of the first murder. Cross was on his way to Pickfords’ Broad Street depot when he found the body of the first victim Polly Nichols
  • Cross gave a false name under interrogation - Charles Latchmere, but was never charged leaving the identity of Jack the Ripper a subject of fascination
  • In 2012, a descendent of Charles Latchmere searched the Pickfords archive to find any reference to her relative. No records were found
image_1903

Pickfords was one of the first carriers to use motor vehicles and started running 20 traction engines in 1903.

Between 1918 and 1921, Pickfords’ national fleet included 1,580 horses, 1,900 horse vehicles and 46 motor vehicles.

Early 20th Century
The motor age begins
1903
The motor age begins
  • Pickfords was one of the first carriers to use motor vehicles and started running 20 traction engines in 1903
  • 1910; Pickfords entered the travel business, investing in a fleet of motor coaches and ran “Seeing Britain” tours to Devon and Cornwall and later the Continent
  • Between 1918 and 1921, Pickfords’ national fleet included 1,580 horses, 1,900 horse vehicles and 46 motor vehicles
image_1907

Pickfords’ Heavy Haulage division was established in 1907 and operated until the decline of UK manufacturing compelled Pickfords to close the division in the 1990s.

In the 1930s, 40s and and 50s Pickfords became one of the leading national providers of industrial haulage, known for moving the ‘largest, longest and widest’ of loads.

1907
Heavy haulage
1907
Heavy haulage
  • Pickfords’ Heavy Haulage division was established in 1907
  • Quickly built a reputation for being able to move any type of heavy industrial load
  • The adoption of Diamond Ts and the latest Scammel vehicles saw Pickfords moving everything from enormous generators, boats, propeller blades, aircraft and locomotives
  • The decline of manufacturing compelled Pickfords to close the division in the 1990s
image_1914

In circa 1920, two years after the war ended, Pickfords was sold to the Hayes Wharf Cartage Company Limited.

A Pickfords van is overrun by enemy action in 1914. Like the London buses, Pickfords vehicles carried the materials of war as well as troops to the front in France.

The Great War changed the way people and businesses went about their daily lives to help the war effort.

1914 - 1918
The first world war
1914
The first world war
  • Most of Pickfords’ resources were requisitioned for the Great War from 1914 to 1918
  • Pickfords’ vehicles carried the materials of war as well as troops to the front in France
  • In circa 1920, Pickfords was sold to the Hayes Wharf Cartage Company Limited
image_1939

During WWII, fuel rationing, air raids, bomb damage, shortages of timber, steel and rubber, government directives and the collapse of many established markets all challenged Pickfords’ ability to operate its business.

Pickfords was very active during WWII and sent lighters between the Solent ports and the Isle of Wight to evacuate the beaches at Dunkirk.

1939 - 1944
The second world war
1939
The second world war
  • The British government was forced to mobilise resources to support the war effort
  • Pickfords helped transport the sections of the Mulberry harbours from throughout the UK to the South Coast in advance of D-Day
  • Fuel rationing, air raids, bomb damage, shortages of timber, steel and rubber, government directives and the collapse of many established markets all challenged Pickfords’ ability to operate its business
image_1945

When the war ended, the labour government introduced nationalisation to ensure a co-ordinated approach to production and supply of national services.

After Pickfords became part of the new British Transport Commission, vehicles from other companies began to appear in its fleet, increasing the number of vehicles to over 5,000.

Nine foreman packers from Pickfords South Wales in 1939, with a combined 276 years’ experience!

circa 1945
Nationalisation
1945
Nationalisation
  • The Hays Wharf Cartage Company Ltd, of which Pickfords was a part, was acquired by the British Transport Commission
  • In 1947 the public operating company BRS (Pickfords) was established. By this time the fleet had reached over 5,000 vehicles
  • During this period removal teams wore formal jackets and ties, aprons and sturdy working boots
image_1957

Big Charlie, the largest elephant in captivity, being loaded onto a Pickfords container.

Big Charlie proved to be notoriously bad tempered and dangerous. His move from Ayr to Yorkshire was handled by Pickfords Glasgow and was the subject of a book which was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in 2008.

In 1957 Billy Butlin offered £1,000 for the safe transport of Charlie, the largest elephant in captivity, from Ayr to Yorkshire.

1957
The bad tempered load
1957
The bad tempered load
  • In 1957 Billy Butlin offered £1,000 for the safe transport of Charlie, the largest elephant in captivity, from Ayr to Yorkshire
  • Pickfords Glasgow was selected to provide a low loader and a purpose built crate. The journey took three days and Charlie proved to be notoriously bad tempered and dangerous. Charlie’s move was the subject of a book which was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in 2008
start_bg

Pickfords became privatised under Margaret Thatcher.

Pickfords’ MD Geoff Pygall was instrumental in facilitating the purchase from the government. He began working at Pickfords at the age of 14.

Pickfords employees were encouraged to invest in shares of the company.

1982
A national treasure
1982
A national treasure
  • In 1963 BRS (Pickfords) Ltd became part of the National Freight Consortium (NFC). In 1982 Margaret Thatcher announced that NFC was to be denationalised, the first privatisation of a state owned industry
  • Pickfords’ MD Geoff Pygall was instrumental in facilitating the purchase from the government
  • Staff were encouraged to invest in the NFC and the company became an employee owned business
  • NFC went on to become one of the market leading logistics and moving services companies in the world, employing 37,000 people in 31 countries
image_1984

Through the housing boom of the late 80s and early 90s, Pickfords grew to 120 branches.

The company enjoyed high street presence via its Pickfords Travel business of travel agents.

The 80s and early 90s
The housing boom
1984
The housing boom
  • Through the housing boom of the late 80s and early 90s, Pickfords grew to 120 branches
  • The company enjoyed high street presence via its Pickfords Travel business of travel agents
  • Pickfords Records Management was added to its portfolio of business services
  • The first international acquisition was Downards in Australia in 1984, rebranded Downard Pickfords
image_1988

Pickfords became a recognised brand across Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Far East, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Pickfords became the largest moving company in the world by 1989.

1988 and 1989
Pickfords around the world
1988
Pickfords around the world
  • NFC acquired Allied Van Lines in 1988, the largest removals network in the USA
  • The Allied Pickfords brand was licensed in all major relocation markets and became recognised across the globe
  • Pickfords became the largest moving company in the world by 1989
image_1999

MD Kevin Pickford, who can trace his antecedents back to the original Pickford family, was instrumental in steering the company through the change of ownership.

Yogesh Mehta, a veteran of the removals industry, bought Pickfords’ moving operations in the UK in 2008.

Late 90s, early 00s
A new chapter
1999
a new chapter
  • 1999: Pickfords was acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and became part of SIRVA Inc
  • SIRVA’s relocation arm went on to become one of the largest relocation companies in the world
  • SIRVA experienced difficulties during the US recession and sold Pickfords’ moving operations in the UK to Yogesh Mehta in 2008
  • MD Kevin Pickford was instrumental in steering the company through the change of ownership
image_2011

Managing Director Russell Start worked closely with TV Production company Tiger Aspect to create the format of an observational documentary.

The programme ‘The Removal Men’ was screened on Channel 5 across two series, reaching over 1 million viewers per episode.

2011
Pickfords on the box
2011
Pickfords on the box
  • In 2011, production company Tiger Aspect approached Pickfords to make a TV programme
  • Channel 5’s ‘The Removal Men’ was commissioned as an observational documentary about the removal men, their daily challenges and the customers they served
  • Pickfords returned in 2012 for a second series, reaching over 1 million viewers per episode
start_bg

In 2016, Pickfords opened its doors in Sweden and Canada.

In 2014, Pickfords was appointed logistics provider to The Paddington Trail ahead of the new Paddington film, helping raise £930,000 for the NSPCC.

In 2014 Pickfords created Pickfords Gold, specialising in complex moves and high specification homes.

In 2015 Pickfords Man and Van was launched, designed as the ideal service for small, local moves on a budget.

In 2015, Pickfords created Pickfords Pet Shipping, complete with the motto ‘Moving every member of the family’.

Pickfords today
Exciting times
TODAY
Exciting times
  • In 2014 Pickfords was appointed to be logistics provider to The Paddington Trail ahead of the new Paddington film, helping raise £930,000 for the NSPCC
  • In 2014 Pickfords introduced Pickfords Gold, a service specialising in complex moves for high specification homes
  • In 2016 Pickfords opened its doors in Sweden and Canada