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About Us > History
In 2010, Hale & Co at Drybrook in
Gloucestershire celebrated 50 years of incorporation and some 100
years of trading. During this substantial period of development, it has
established itself as the largest supplier of products to the Building and
Home Improvement sector in the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas.
The Hale family originally worked on the current site as blacksmiths,
diversifying into sawmills and eventually expanding into other areas of the
building supply trade.
John the Blacksmith and friends at Nailbridge
Nailbridge in early 1900s
In 1891, John Hale, a blacksmith, married
Gertrude Baldwin, the daughter of a local colliery manager, and had two
sons, the eldest, Leslie, born in 1894, and the younger one, Frederick, born
in 1896. Leslie went into the business at Nailbridge with his father and
started up a sawmill providing timber for the local mining industry. By this
time Nailbridge was a real hive of industrial activity with a tramway and
railway passing through the hamlet.
Sawmill at Nailbridge - John & Fred with
John & Gertrude Hale with sons, Frederick &
younger son, was to be one of the first pupils at the new Grammar School in
Cinderford. He had natural business acumen and this was to stand him in good
stead in the years to come. He joined his father and brother in the
blacksmith and sawmill business and, with the death of his father, John, and
following his brother’s emigration to America, Frederick was left to carry
on the Hale family business at Nailbridge.
Fred Hale married Clara Cook (née Brain) who
already had one son Chris. Fred and Clara Hale then had two sons and one
daughter. Being a very astute man, Fred Hale was always on the lookout for
some commercial project that would pay and that with the spasmodic work
available at the collieries in the 1920s, many of the Forest men used to do
a lot of work around their homes.
Nailbridge Sawmills & Yard
Fred & Clara
Old Shop & Trade Counter
|So Fred Hale began
to stock things that these men might need: nails, screws, a bag of
cement….., so the builders’ merchant side of the business developed and
Hales of Drybrook became a well-known establishment.
In 1940, Roderick James (Jim) Hale left school and, after spending some time
at the local Northern United Colliery, went to work for his father, having
previously spent most of his free time helping out in the business. When
Fred Hale died in 1953, Jim became responsible for the business of Hales and
was later to be joined by his half-brother, Chris Cook.
Dorrie Hale with fellow counter staff, Eric Lane
& Adrian Nash
Jim Hale serving customer, Ray Boseley, with
some Rugby cement
Customer Geoff Morman with employees, Harold
England & Doug Jones
|When Jim Hale took
over, the works consisted of two corrugated iron sheds, the original
blacksmith’s shop and just one employee. In contrast, there is now a vast
range of building materials at Hale & Co from sand and cement, to bathrooms
and kitchens, and the company now employs over 45 staff.
Jim Hale with the first order of timber imported
direct from Russia
Dorrie Hale collecting paperwork from the yard
|Jim married Dorrie
Preddy and they had two sons, Roger and Leslie. Dorrie put in a great deal
of her time helping out with the clerical work and serving on the trade
counter and the two boys helped out in their school holidays. The business
continued to grow based on the on-going reputation for good service,
reliability and integrity.
Jim Hale inspecting a new vehicle
Leslie & Roger Hale "on duty" in their
|Dorrie died in
1985 at a comparatively early age; she had worked hard in the business and a
great deal of its success was due to her endeavours.
Happily Jim carried on the business with his
eldest son, Roger, taking a very active part in the management. In fact,
Jim, his sons, Roger and Leslie and grandson, Jon, opened a new Store &
Showroom in 1995 which completed a building programme that had spanned over
Sadly Jim died in 1996 after giving the
majority of his life to the business, but it continued to prosper at Nailbridge under
the leadership of his two sons.
Present day management is under the control
of Leslie Hale (who became Managing Director when Roger Hale retired in June
2000), Jake Hale (Director & General Manager) and Mike Bennett (Company Operations Manager).
Roger’s son, Steve is now working in the
business as Transport Supervisor, and Leslie’s eldest son, Jake, returned to develop the new Tool
Hire venture in April 2011 before becoming General Manager in 2012 and
Director in 2014.
Roger’s eldest son, Jon, his youngest
daughter, Becky, his grandchildren, Jacoba and Ty, and Leslie’s other son, Sam, also all help out from time to
So it would seem that the future of Hales of
Drybrook is ensured for many years to come.
Roger, Jim & Leslie Hale