The history of Pickfords

Pickfords Removals was established in the 17th century and has been moving homes for generations.

By popular belief within the company, the Pickfords family of Adlington, South of Manchester, and later of nearby Poynton, first entered the wagon trade in the 17th century.

There is a tantalising mention of a Will Pickford, a carrier, working in the area in the 1630s, although there is no solid link to date that connects the present firm and Mr Will Pickford. Will Pickford, carrier, working in the area of Adlington, south of Manchester (no verified connection with the company).

1642 - 1651 - The Civil War - Thomas Pickford, yeoman farmer, has his lands sequestered for co-operating with the Cavaliers.

1646 -  Pickfords family engaged in the business of mending roads. The family owns a quarry, moving stone by means of a train of packhorses. Instead of returning to the quarry empty, the horses carry goods for others, making Pickfords a carrier.

1695 - Weights to be carried by carriers are limited by an Act of Parliament to minimise damage to roads.

1720 - James Pickford, the London to Manchester waggoner, has headquarters in London at Blossoms Inn in Lawrence Lane and at the Bell Inn in Wood Street, Cheapside.

1756 - James Pickford dies and his wife Martha and sons, Thomas and Matthew, take over the running of the business.

1768 - Martha Pickford moves the company headquarters to 'The Bear' Inn in Basinghall Street, London. Matthew Pickford leads the company during this time.

1771 - Pickfords invents the fly wagon, named for its speed, to carry goods and passengers. The fly wagon makes the London to Manchester journey in four and half days, travelling just over 42 miles a day.

1776 - Matthew   Pickford buys the company of carrier William Bass of Burton, who carries ale for Benjamin Printon. Bass moves from carrying to brewing with the proceeds and founds the Bass brewing empire, which existed until the late '90s. Today Bass is owned by Coors Brewers Ltd.

1777 - James Pickford's son Matthew runs daily services six days a week between Manchester and London.

1778 - Matthew joins the emergent boom in the canal trade by arranging to carry goods by barge as well as wagon.

1779 -  Matthew and brother, Thomas Pickford, have by this time accumulated: 50 wagons; 400 horses; 28 barges.

1800 - Pickfords' Manchester to London service runs six days a week and carries passengers (working on Sunday banned by law) to Swan with Two Necks Inn in Lad Lane, London.

The Fare to London is three pounds, three shillings to travel inside and one pound, eleven shillings and six pence for an outside seat.

Pickfords' Complement is now: 262 horses; 11 road depots; 8 canal depots.

1803 - Matthew Pickford writes to the Duke of York to offer the services of Pickfords to the army should Napoleon invade, which is rewarded by a letter of sincere appreciation from the Duke.1803Pickfords' canal services reach Birmingham.

Warehouses and wharves are built at Paddington, Deptford, Brentford and City Basin in London.

There are two classes of services from Pickfords: -Fly boats travelling day and night with two steerers and two drivers (for the horses) at 3 to 3 ½ mph, covering 40-miles a day in stages with fresh horses at each stage.
-By barge at 25 miles per day with two men resting at night.

1807 - Thomas and Matthew and their sons, James and Matthew, run the company.

1809 - There is a national slump due to the cost of Napoleonic wars and loss of trade.

1810 - 1815 - The London to Manchester journey now takes thirty-six hours.

1814 - Following successive years of decline, the company reaches the point of bankruptcy. The Pickfords family saves the company but sacrifices their connection with it by selling out to new owners - Joseph Baxendale, Charles Inman and Zachary Langton. Baxendale becomes the next great leader of the company with his family remaining active in the company for almost 120 years.

1816 - Joseph Baxendale, Zachary Langton, Charles Inman and Hugh Hornby Burley take ownership of company from the Pickfords family.

Joseph Baxendale takes charge of the canal and road networks and vigorously cuts down on waste and negligent operations. The company starts to rise from near bankruptcy.

1817 - Baxendale takes a keen interest in the possible emergence of railways. Subsequently he joins the board of several railway companies and holds shares in docks, harbours and other ventures that would help further the fortunes of Pickfords. The company's wagons run on most of the new railways lines as soon as they open. This starts a long argument with most railway owners who feel that all railway rolling stock should be theirs and not the carriers.

1829- Stephenson's Rocket wins the Rainhill trials and heralds the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line, the nation's first public railway.

1829 - Pickfords is restored to its full former glory.

1830 - Earliest use of steam traction engines for road haulage takes place.

1840 - The Company finally withdraws from the declining canal business.

1872 - Joseph Baxendale dies aged 84 leaving company in the hands of his sons.

1872 - Railway goods traffic grows by 900 percent. The numbers of carmen, carters and carriers in Britain grows from 67 651 (1861) to 272 960 (1901).

1890 - The Pickfords finally breaks with London and North-Western Railway over the use of Pickfords' own wagons. The trucks become property of the railway company.

1901 - The first steam tractors are used to tow pantechnicons on road.

1903 - Eleven steam wagons are purchased from S. Hindley & Son of Bourton in Dorset.

1905 - Pickfords compete neck-and-neck in the use of motor cars with their biggest rival Carter Paterson.

1906 - Two Commer cars are purchased.

1907 - Engineering and heavy haulage departments open new premises at Hackford Road, Brixton.

1912 - The wage of a one-horse car-man is 21 shillings per week.1914The Home Removals Service benefits from the war. Many people are relocated and their goods stored for the duration. The Ministry of Munitions uses Pickfords heavy vehicles to move airframes and other war material.

1914 - Most of the fleet requisitioned for war effort, carrying troops to the front.

1914 -1918  Goods vehicles travelling by road increase from 41 000 to 128 000.

1918 -1921 Pickfords Complement now: 1580 horses; 1900 horse vehicles; 46 motor vehicles.1919Removals activity comes to the fore. TheCompany is sold to the Hayes Wharf Cartage Company Limited.

1920 -  The Company starts carrying petrol in tankers.

1921 -  Pickfords establishes a travel company using Crimson Rambler petrol coaches to provide 'Seeing Britain' tours of the UK. Trips to Switzerland start. Pickfords discovers that the Saurer motor company in is Switzerland making high quality, heavy petrol wagons and decides to test-drive them. The decline in the company's use of steam traction for heavy loads begins.

1922 - The First pneumatic tyred vehicles appear in the household removals fleet.

1923 - The company introduces temperature controlled vehicles between Aberdeen and London.

1932 - L.H. Baxendale resigns from Pickfords' board, the last of a long line of Baxendales to serve the company. W.J. Elliott is promoted to General Manager - the fourth great mover in the company's history. Complement now: 509 horses; 866 horse vehicles; 628 motor vehicles.

1933 - The four main UK railway companies buy out the company as a significant part of the Hayes Wharf Cartage Company.

1940 -  Pickfords sent its lighters, the flat bottomed barges built for transporting goods between the Solent ports and the Isle of Wight to join the 'Little Ships' that made their way across the Channel to evacuate the beaches at Dunkirk.

Pickfords breaks down 750 military vehicles at the company vehicle rebuilding facility in Isleworth for export to the front.

1940 - Scientific research laboratories are removed from Christchurch and Swanage to Malvern. Malvern College is moved to Harrow. 1942 - Carter Paterson and Pickfords joins forces to form Joint Parcels Service. Complement now: 1150 motor vehicles; 300 horse vans; 4500 staff.

1944 - Heavy Haulage moves Mulberry's temporary harbour sections to sea launchings prior to D-day landings.

1946  - By the end of the war the Hayes Wharf Cartage Group has its own vehicle servicing and tyre manufacturing companies and absorbs Thos. Cook & Sons Limited, and some forwarding agents for air, sea and land transport. The range and scale of the company is unrivalled - services include parcels delivery, removals, heavy haulage, tank haulage, contract hire and special contracts like servicing grocery multiples.
Pickfords evacuates BBC to Bristol.

1946 - Express Motor and Body Works company at Enfield begins making vehicles for the group. Formerly under the sole control of Carter Paterson, it now comes under the control of Pickfords. Both companies form part of the Hayes Wharf Cartage Group. The wage of a one-horse car-man is four pounds, 11 shillings per week.

Pickfords is nationalised to form part of the British Road Services.

1947 - The public operating company BRS (Pickfords) Limited is established.

1953 - British Transport Commission is dismantled. Pickfords is now in control of the Transport Holding Company.

1963 -  Pickfords becomes part of the National Freight Corporation (NFC), owned by the Treasury.

1969  - Pickfords moves Head office from Finsbury Park to Enfield.

1982 -  NFC was sold to its employees by the Government of the day.  One of the first privatisations of a state owned industry.

1989 -  NFC floats on the London Stock Exchange

1995 -The company moves to new headquarters in Enfield

1999 - Pickfords acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, one of the oldest private equity firms in the world and  becomes part of SIRVA Inc, the largest moving, storage and relocation company in the world

2002 - Kevin Pickford, who can trace his antecedents back to 1750, in the same parish as the Pickford family, becomes MD of Pickfords UK.

2008 - SIRVA  sells Pickfords'  moving operations in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to a private owner.

2009 - Pickfords moves its head office facility to Wembley to new offices with a purpose built, automated container warehouse. 

2010 - As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility Policy,  Pickfords announces partnership with the NSPCC  

2011 - Pickfords launches new environmental waste management services to help companies dispose of redundant furniture in an environmentally friendly manner

2011 - Pickfords is the subject of an observational documentary series on Channel 5 called 'The Removal Men'

2012 - Following the success of the documentary series,  Channel 5 commissions series two and Pickfords is back on TV in October.


did you know?

The Pickfords family owned a quarry and transported stone by packhorses. Instead of returning to the quarry empty,  the company began to carry goods for other companies and became a carrier in 1646.

The vintage Pickfords Vehicles (Scammell Highwayman of the early sixties) are being paraded at the Great Dorset Steam Fair on our YouTube Channel.

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