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Our History

The History of Interserve.

Our history goes back to the 19th century, when brothers Edmund and Augustus Hughes started the business in 1884.

1884 – 1900: The Company is founded

Edmund Hughes in 1887.          1888 dredging

Edmund and Augustus Hughes leave the family business (FA Hughes and Company) and form London and Tilbury Lighterage Company Limited , specialising in transferring cargo between vessels. This marks the beginning of the company that was to become Interserve over a century later.

Edmund eventually becomes Managing Director, a position he holds for the next 30 years.

The new company secures a contract with the Port of London to remove dredged ballast. This contract enhances the company’s growing reputation as a leading dredging contractor.

1900-1910: Domestic and international expansion

1909 Nantes          1906 quarry Maidstone

Geographical expansion starts after the company acquires stone quarries to supply materials for road building.

The company goes international with a contract with the French government for the diversion and improvement of a section of the River Loire, including the removal of five small islands. This is the first move in an international expansion of the dredging business, which over the next 50 years takes the company to Argentina, Palestine, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, India, Pakistan and Burma.

1910-1920: Overseas expansion

1912 Dreadnought Yard          1916 lighterage

By this time the company has significantly increased its business overseas with dredging being carried out in the Mediterranean area of Europe, Canada, South America and Australia.

The company buys Dreadnought Wharf in London for the maintenance and repair of its vessels. During both World Wars, much of the Wharf’s efforts were focussed on the construction and repair of small naval ships for the Admiralty, while the machine shops turned out components for mine-sweepers.

1920-1930: End of an era

1924 East Anglian Roadstone          1930s board

Edmund Hughes dies and is succeeded by his son, Arthur Mumford Hughes, who remains at the helm for 30 years.

The East Anglia Roadstone and Transport Company is formed to meet the demand for greater road use.

1930-1940: Changing landscape

With lighterage in decline, the company continues to dredge on large-scale operations overseas and buys land at Tilbury for the disposal of refuse. In 1938, Tate & Lyle buys the company’s tugs and barges to undertake its own lighterage.

1940-1950: Diversification into construction

1940s & 50s marsh          1940s & 50s Tilbury Construction Co

Michael Charles Hughes becomes Managing Director and is the final link to the company’s founding family.

With most of its fleet under requisition by the Royal Navy, the company enters the civil engineering business and forms the Tilbury Construction Company.

Wasteland bought in the 1930s is acquired by ESSO in 1957 to build a refinery and oil terminal.

In 1955 the Port of London signals its intention to do its own dredging, so the company starts a programme of diversification into civil engineering and building work.

1960-1970: Decline in dredging heralds new horizons

1960s road          1960s sewage farm

In 1964 the Port of London Authority dredging contract finally comes to an end, marking the end of the company as a dredging contractor in the UK. However, diversification in the 1950s has, by now, replaced that revenue stream.

Growth continues with new depots spreading across the South East to service sewage treatment, disposal work, roads, bridges and sea defences.

The building division, Tilbury Building and Tilbury Daws, is brought under one management.

1970 – 1980: Breaking the last link with the past

1973 Tilbury Plant          1976 Michael Hughes

Engineering and building contracts are delivered in both the public and private sectors. Tilbury Plant International is set-up to export used and reconditioned plant.

Road surfacing expands with new plants established and an associate company, RT Roadstone, established.

Michael Hughes dies in 1976, breaking the company’s remaining link with the Hughes family.

1980 – 1990: Marking the Centenary

1998 How          1999 Bandt Kwikform

The company celebrates a centenary since Edmond Hughes founded the original company back in 1884. The 1980 is a period of re-focus and growth, supported by acquisition. The company (now called Tilbury Group plc) reorganises, establishing five divisions: construction, Roadstone, plant, mechanical services and property. 

Lane Brothers (Mansfield) is bought, expanding the Group’s activities into the midlands and the north of England, while the property division assumes greater importance and now comprises Grandwall Properties, originally bought in 1975. 

Repositioning continues with the selling of interests that signalled the end of the Group’s involvement in the roadstone sector, while West Group International is acquired for its contracting and manufacturing activities. By 1986, the Group was made up of two main divisions: construction and property.

1990 – 2000: Expansion in the Middle East

The Group acquires RM Douglas Holdings, a construction and engineering business, and changes its name to Tilbury Douglas Plc. The deal brings with it joint ventures in Oman (Douglas OHI) and in the United Arab Emirates (Khansaheb). Further expansion takes place in the Middle East with the formation of joint venture business Gulf Contracting, based in Qatar.

How Group is acquired to increase facilities management and engineering capability. MTM, bought as part of How, is combined with the Group’s existing TDfm healthcare services and Tilbury (City) to create Interserve. The acquisition includes Kwikform, a UK market leader in non-industrial access scaffolding, which is merged with RMD to create RMD Kwikform.

Building and Property Group are added in 2000 and the the Group enters the FTSE 250, transferring from the construction sector to Support Services.  

2000-2010: Introducing Interserve

2001 Interserve flag          2003 Adrian Ringrose

Interserve Plc was renamed from the Tilbury Group in 2001. The brand name reflects a commitment to service and delivery across the business.

Adrian Ringrose joins as CEO in 2003. In a strategic move, the Group discontinues several non-core activities to focus on increasing revenue and creating value for shareholders.

Lord Blackwell becomes Chairman in 2004; a year in which we reach a significant milestone by finishing our first £100 million education Private Finance Initiative in Leeds.

2008 Chedi - watergarden          2007 Madina workshop

In 2006, Interserve acquires MacLellan Group, to strengthen access to the private sector facilities management sector and in 2007 overseas profit is greater than that generated in the UK for the first time.

The strategy of making acquisitions that add to and extend services expands with the securing of a 49% share in Qatar-based Madina Group. With its capabilities in engineering, fabrication and high-quality safety training, this represents a broadening of activities in the Middle East to encompass industry and related services, in addition to construction.

In 2008, amid one of the biggest global financial crises, the Group expands into new markets in the Middle East and its RMD Kwikform business moves into new territories such as the USA.

2010, today and beyond

Rigmoving           Healthcare

In 2010 Interserve sets out an aspiration to double Earnings per Share by 2015. RMD Kwikform USA is also formed and in the in the same year the Group takes a share in Occupational Training Institute, a specialist training provider based in Oman.

We announce the sale of PFI assets in 2012 and continue to diversify the activities of the Group with the addition of Advantage Healthcare, providing healthcare to people in their homes, and acquire work provider BEST in West Yorkshire, which continues to thrive today under the name Interserve Learning & Employment.

We launch the Interserve Employee Foundation (IEF) in 2012 to help improve the quality of life and opportunities for people in the communities in which we live and operate, using the skills, capabilities, resources and enthusiasm of Interserve employees. Registered as a charity, the Foundation plays a key role in co-ordinating Interserve’s charitable works - regionally, nationally and internationally.

We launch our new vision and values and continue to embed that message and behaviours across the Group.

Topaz mobile offshore production unit          Paragon

In 2013, we launched our Sustainability plan that sets out a range of exacting and stretching targets based on achieving specific outcomes. The plan is our response to mounting environmental issues, social challenges and economic pressures that are rapidly changing the business landscape and redefining what is required for companies to be successful.

We continue to extend our reach and capabilities both in the Middle East and the UK with acquisitions of oil and gas services companies - The Oman Construction Company (TOCO) and Adyard in the UAE. While in the UK, we buy Paragon, a specialist refurbishment and re-fit company to serve the London market.

Expanding our Middle East footprint once again, we acquire UAE-based Topaz Oil and Gas Ltd. The company, provides oil field maintenance, fabrication and construction services across the Middle East, and now operates under the Adyard brand.

Also in 2013 we form a unique partnership with Groundwork, the national environmental regeneration charity that makes use of surplus equipment and construction materials for community projects across the UK.

The company makes its largest ever acquisition in early 2014, buying Initial Facilities from Rentokil Initial Plc group for £250 million. In March, our shareholders approve the deal to buy the business which has operations in the UK, Ireland and Spain, adding more than 25,000 new employees to Interserve.

After nine years as Interserve chairman, Lord Blackwell steps down in early 2016 and is replaced by Glyn Barker.

After 17 years at Interserve as Chief Executive, Adrian Ringrose leaves the business in August 2017 to pursue the next phase of his career.

Debbie White - Interserve Chief ExecutiveDebbie White joins Interserve as Chief Executive in September 2017 after spending 13 years at Sodexo where, most recently, she served as Chief Executive Officer of Global Healthcare and Global Government, leading its business in Justice, Defence and Government Services and Healthcare globally.

In July 2019, Alan Lovell joined the board as Chairman.

On 31 December 2019 Debbie White stepped down as CEO of Interserve.

Interserve now employs circa 60,500 people worldwide who provide a wide range of services to more than 7,500 clients.