Shepherd Building Group

The Shepherd Building Group Ltd. (trading name Shepherd Group) was one of the largest privately owned construction groups in the UK, but restructured in 2015 to focus on its Portakabin portable buildings businesses.

Shepherd Building Group
PredecessorF. Shepherd & Son
Founded1890 (1890)
FounderFrederick Shepherd
Area served
United Kingdom
Revenuec. £300m (2017)
£14m (2017)
OwnerShepherd Family
Number of employees
c. 1,900
DivisionsConstruction and engineering, manufacturing, property

The Shepherd Group's history can be traced to 1890 when Frederick Shepherd set up a successful building business in York. Growth, through innovation by several generations of the Shepherd family, by acquisition and through geographical expansion, led to the formation of Shepherd Building Group in 1962.


Early history

In 1890, at the age of 35, joiner Frederick Shepherd set up his own business, which rapidly achieved success in speculative house building in York.[1] He was later joined by two sons, William who was the elder, and Frederick Welton, who had trained as a bricklayer. Around 1900, work was being undertaken outside York and a recession in the market for new houses led to a diversification into general contracting jobs. When William Shepherd emigrated to America in 1910 the business became known as F. Shepherd and Son, and it was incorporated as a private company in 1924.[1]

The founding Frederick Shepherd died in 1930. His son, Frederick Welton, was a driving force in the company and had been instrumental in developing the firm's main premises, at Blue Bridge Lane, beside the River Ouse, which remained the Shepherd head office premises until 1995. By the late 1930s the company with a workforce of around 700, had established a major presence throughout Yorkshire and North East England.[2]

When World War II ended, the firm took advantage of opportunities to expand its contracting operations, both by opening new offices and by acquiring existing local companies in new areas. The strategy was successful and the Shepherd company continued to expand under the direction of four of Frederick Welton's sons, Peter (later Sir Peter), Donald, Michael and Colin. The company became Shepherd Construction in 1968 and other operating companies were founded as the business expanded.[1]

Shepherd Group

In 1962 the structure of the business was reorganised when the new holding company, Shepherd Group Ltd, was formed. Then, in the late 1970s, the Shepherd Group became one of the 500 largest companies in the UK. This was achieved without raising public capital and the Group remain an unquoted company. It became one of the largest wholly family-owned private companies in the UK.[3]

In 2009, the group employed 3,200 people at its head office in York, a national network of regional offices, and in 75 hire centres.[4] Its construction arm was handling projects for the public and private sectors, including leisure, commercial, industrial, housing, health, education, retail and research laboratories.[5] The Group's operations were then arranged in three divisions:

  • Shepherd Group Built Environment (Shepherd Construction, Shepherd FM, Shepherd Homes, Shepherd Aligned and SES)
  • Portakabin Group (Portakabin, Allspace, Yorkon, Foremans, Konstructa, Portaloo brands)
  • Shepherd Group Engineering (Portasilo and Portastor)[6][7]

Disposal of built environment businesses

After March 2015 rumours of a takeover of most of the Shepherd Built Environment division by Wates,[8][9][10] in May 2015 it was confirmed that Wates would take over Shepherd Engineering Services (SES), Shepherd Facilities Management and various contracts held by its loss-making Shepherd Construction arm (Wates refused to take on Shepherd’s problematic Colindale mixed residential and retail development), with some 1,200 staff transferring to Wates in September 2015.[11][12] The Wates deal was concluded on 1 October 2015,[13][14] being valued at £9.8m, with Shepherd booking a £2.8m profit after taking account of costs for the sale.[15] Two years later, in September 2018, financial provisions for the Colindale development continued to hamper Shepherd Construction's financial performance, with the company reporting losses of £31.5m, mainly due to extra provisions to complete the retail and high-rise residential project.[16]

In a parallel deal in May 2015, Shepherd Homes, employing 60 people, was acquired by Galliford Try's Linden Homes subsidiary.[17][18]

Reports said the deals would allow Shepherd to focus on developing its Portakabin-related businesses,[11] which made an operating profit of £38.9m on turnover of £408.7m for the 18-month period up to 31 December 2015.[18] In September 2018, the group reported a £14m pre-tax profit, on revenues of nearly £300m, in 2017, buoyed by growth from the Portakabin modular and portable building business, which reported a £51m profit.[16]

Major projects

Shepherd Construction undertook schemes throughout the UK mainland. Its operations were controlled from offices in Birmingham, Leeds and York. Major projects included:


Shepherd Engineering Services was revealed as a subscriber to the UK's Consulting Association, exposed in 2009 for operating an illegal construction industry blacklist, and was among 14 issued with enforcement notices by the UK Information Commissioner's Office.[28]


  1. Morrey, Nicola. "Enacting product-service business models: the role of lean thinking" (PDF). Loughborough University. p. 4. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  2. "Shepherd Building Group: History". Shepherd Building Group. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  3. "Five giants make to track". Insider Media. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  4. "Shepherd Building Group: Investors in People Direct". Investors in People. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  5. "Shepherd Building Group: About Us". Shepherd Building Group. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  6. "Shepherd Construction: About Us". Shepherd Building Group. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  7. "Shepherd Construction: About Us". Shepherd Building Group. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  8. Prior, Grant (4 March 2015). "Wates eyes Shepherd takeover". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  9. Knowlson, Laura (5 March 2015). "New rumours hint at Shepherd Group sell-off". York Press. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  10. "'No comment' on takeover speculation at Shepherd's contracting businesses". Yorkshire Post. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  11. Morby, Aaron (21 May 2015). "Wates to buy most of Shepherd's construction arm". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  12. Richardson, Andy (22 July 2015). "Building firm Shepherd agrees to be bought by Wates". Northern Echo. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  13. "Wates completes takeover of Shepherd divisions". The Construction Index. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  14. Prior, Grant (1 October 2015). "Buyout sees 1200 Shepherd staff join Wates". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  15. Morby, Aaron (24 June 2016). "Shepherd Group suffers £74m hit from sold building arm". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  16. Morby, Aaron (12 September 2018). "Shepherd family still counting cost of construction exit". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  17. "Shepherd sells housing business". Yorkshire Post. 14 May 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  18. "Shepherd results justify construction exit". The Construction Index. 24 June 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  19. "Leek Street Flats – A Social History". South Leeds Life Archive. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  20. "Bishop Auckland Hospital, UK". HICL. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  21. International Gateway Archived 2010-03-15 at the Wayback Machine Liverpool City Council
  22. Commercial District Archived 2010-03-22 at the Wayback Machine Liverpool City Council
  23. UK Activity Report UK Business Park
  24. Morrison to sell old Safeway head office to US firm for £20m The Times, 19 October 2005
  25. "Shepherd Construction gets preferential treatment". York Press. 31 January 2005. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  26. Worlds Tallest Student Block Completes In Leeds Skyscraper News, 26 June 2009
  27. Work restarts on Wakefield Trinity Walk shopping centre Retail Week, 15 January 2010
  28. "Construction blacklist". ICO. ICO. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
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