Witley Jones Furniture plan for the future appointing new Chairman and Managing Director

Chris Jones has recently moved in to his new role as Chairman of Witley Jones Furniture with Simon Downes being appointed Managing Director.

Chris Jones is appointed Chairman, Witley Jones Furniture

After celebrating 20 years in business with steady growth and a settled management team, it is the perfect time for Chris to hand over the day-to-day running of the family business to Simon ably assisted by his son and Director Matt Jones and Operations Director Tim Whent.

Moving into the role of Chairman, Chris will still be closely involved with the business working 3 days per week and helping the team to plan for the future as well as looking after several key clients.

Simon has been linked to the business for 20 years in one way or another and was the first unofficial company guarantor, eventually buying into the business in 2007. Working alongside Chris, they have built the business to become one of the most reputable bespoke furniture manufacturers in the education sector.

Witley Jones Furniture

Chris Jones commented that “now is the right time for me to step away from the day-to-day running of the company that I started alongside my wife, Jane, in 1997. We were delighted to celebrate 20 years in business on 6th November which marked a huge milestone for the both family and the team that we have assembled over the years.

With the support from myself, Matt and Tim, Simon is now in a position to grow the business whilst working closely with our existing clients.”

Newly appointed Managing Director, Simon Downes is “delighted to have been appointed Managing Director I am looking forward to taking the company to the next level by continuously improving the high quality bespoke furniture that Witley Jones designs manufactures and installs all over the country.

With the exciting recent purchase of two more factory units this completes the plan to streamline our machining, assembly and despatch to meet growing demand and enable us to drive the business forward and to create even more job opportunities in the local area’’

We have also appointed Dave Manser as Business Development manager, having joined the company almost ten years ago. He has worked his way through all departments initially on the factory floor then as lead on site fitter, through the drawing/design office. He has latterly lead our home furniture division Witley Direct as main design consultant so he is ideally qualified to assist old and new clients alike, we wish him every success in his new role.

Swanbourne House Case Study

Science lab Swanbourne House School

Established in 1920, Swanbourne House is an independent, co-educational preparatory boarding and day school for children aged three to thirteen years of age, located on a site of 55 acres in Buckinghamshire.

Witley Jones have worked with Swanbourne House over a number of years on a variety of projects. In 2013 Witley Jones won a contract to provide bespoke pews as part of the first of a number of refurbishment projects planned at the school.  The working relationship continued to grow since with the installation of storage furniture and lockers as well as boarding bedroom furniture in the main school building.

Following open tender, Witley Jones were contacted by the school to provide a wide range of furniture to support the refurbishment of the Fremantle Building, Science and Technology, and the Walker Building, Languages and Computing. Two complete bespoke science laboratories, an art room, a DT room and two computing suites were delivered in addition to a significant amount of loose furniture over the summer 2017.

IT classroom furniture at Swanbourne House

Throughout these projects a close and productive relationship was established with the Business Manager, Paul Jochimsen, the architects and the main contractor to design furniture to the client’s requirement to create a safe and innovative learning environment.

At the outset, the client was keen to see other classrooms and to be able to talk to colleagues in other schools about design and function for the furniture.  Witley Jones arranged for the Headmaster and Business Manager to visit Prior’s Field School who had recently completed a science lab project in their Arnold Building.

At each stage of the design process the Business Manager sought teacher input to mature the final requirement.  This required proactive and agile delivery by the Witley Jones design team who supported the client closely at every step along the design journey. As a consequence each room was tailored to meet the needs of the teachers to enable them to deliver coherent teaching and learning.

Science lab design

The design of the science labs was based on the client’s review of many other schools to mature the requirement and to ask for a lab that had two separate functions in the single room – a theory space and a practical space that was also seamlessly linked to the preparation room.

Witley Jones, for the practical science benches, supplied all taps, sinks, gas taps and electrical pedestal boxes, working alongside the M+E contractors for their integration in the furniture.

For the theory part of the classroom close liaison was maintained with the school’s in-house IT department to ensure all of the IT equipment that was to be fitted was considered during the design and build stage – an example is the mounting of an 80kg CleaverTouch smart TV within he teaching walls being supplied, not only to allow sufficient cabling but also to ensure the structure was robust enough to take the weight.

Swanbourne House School classroom furniture

In order to ensure this furniture was as hard wearing as possible it was specified that the doors of the furniture supplied to be upgraded to Laminate faced MDF rather than the Melamine Faced MDF used for the carcases. We were able to source a laminate to match the melamine used for the carcases. The science bench worktops were specified for Trespa which was recommended by Witley Jones.

Paul Jochimsen, Business Manager at Swanbourne House commented on the personal and close interaction with Matt Jones:

“His knowledge and leadership of the design team have been key to us over the past 8 months for our latest build projects and  without which we would not have achieved such a satisfactory result.  Also and as part of our due diligence prior to letting the contract it was very pleasing to note other customers comments about Witley Jones and the warmth with which they spoke about the Company.  This was a key ingredient in deciding to place the contract with Whitley Jones.

The work last summer has taken the school forward significantly and we are very proud of the new facilities which place us at the cutting edge in education.  We look forward to continuing to work closely with Witley Jones as the refurbishment programme continues.  As a result I am more than happy to strongly recommend Witley Jones to others. ”

Witley Jones assist Prior’s Field School their Largest Capital Project

Prior’s Field School is a vibrant and successful independent girls boarding and day school, set in 42 acres of stunning Surrey countryside located just south of Guildford.  It is a place where individuality is celebrated and uniqueness embraced, a happy positive place where 450 pupils, aged 11 to 18 enjoy learning.

Science laboratory in Prior's Field School Arnold Building

Witley Jones have worked with the school for a number of years, on a variety of projects, from small single classroom refurbishments to the construction of the Arnold Building, their largest capital project in the School’s history.

“Witley Jones’ attention to detail is exemplary, with the same level of focus going into each project, regardless of size.” commented Leonie Ranson, Bursar at Prior’s Field School.

The Arnold Building comprises eight state of the art Science laboratories, a Music School (including an eighty seater recital room with adjacent recording studio), a Food Technology Suite and several general classrooms.

The initial design intent for the project was driven by the School and their architect NBW Architects. We were tasked with manufacturing and installing furniture throughout the Arnold Building.

During the design and manufacture of the furniture for the Science labs, a key design feature was to ensure that the lab furniture was compliant with CLEAPPS, an educational industry standard adopted to ensure that laboratories are a safe and effective learning environment.

The designs for the laboratory furniture were achieved after extensive consultation with the school’s teaching staff and involved double sided fixed student desks with a theory side facing the front of the classroom and a practical side complete with integrated storage for apparatus. The labs in the building were quite wide and to ensure that all students had a good view of the teacher, demonstration benches and interactive smartboard the desks were angled at each end.

A secondary design consideration was the School’s requirement to maximize the availability of suitable storage space requiring us to take a more considered approach to layout and furniture specifications; in many cases a bespoke solution was required.

The project was carried out in 2 phases, which was managed by the main contractor W. Stirland and the School. The first phase and larger section of construction, was carried out whilst the school continued to use their existing Science labs for lessons. The school then occupied the new part of the building whilst the original structure was extensively remodelled.

“Communication from Witley Jones was excellent throughout all stages of the project, from the initial discussion around design, through to installation and aftercare.”

“All projects face difficulties, but Witley Jones communicated and dealt with every issue or question immediately. We are delighted that the furniture provided by Witley Jones was manufactured to perfectly meet our specifications and finite requirements resulting in a truly bespoke final product.” Leonie Ranson, Bursar at Prior’s Field School.

Celebrating Our 20th Year in Business

Witley Jones Furniture

The family run company based in Stourport, set up back in 1997 by Chris and Jane Jones, manufacture bespoke furniture primarily for independent schools from our Sandy Lane Industrial estate factories employing 35 staff.

Life began at Chris and Jane’s kitchen table in Stourport, having worked for HH Bushell for many years Chris was ideally placed to take up the challenge after the sudden death of Hubert Bushell and his experience in those years buying and selling ex-MOD furniture into the education sector was to prove invaluable in the coming years.

The business was formed with another former HH Bushell employee Ray Teague who specialised in the manufacturing side of the business. Simon Downes assumed the role of unofficial company guarantor in the first days of Witley Jones, eventually buying into the business some 10 years later when Ray decided to retire.

Simon Downes joins Witley Jones Furniture

We steadily outgrew their first premises, moving to our existing site 14 years ago. The business has continued to grow, recently acquiring a further two factory units on the estate to make room for the ever growing workforce and machinery.

The family ethos has seen Chris and Janes children Matt and Lucy join the business. Matt has worked across all areas of the company since he was a young boy, helping out during school holidays and time off at University. He has a real in depth knowledge of the all aspects of the business. Lucy is studying hard to become the next financial director of the company and with all three of Simon’s sons working during time off from studying. The true meaning of a family business is realised.

A loyal workforce is vital and both Matt and then Operations manager Tim Whent were appointed Directors of the business in 2016, Tim nearing ten years of service runs all parts of production and despatch and his wealth of experience is invaluable in the day to day running of the business

From its humble beginnings at the kitchen table, we have built a firm reputation for supplying high quality bespoke furniture to some of Britain’s most prestigious independent schools including Winchester, Epsom, Marlborough, Bromsgrove and Radley to name but a few as well as exporting to Dubai, Sudan, France and Switzerland.

Witley Jones school furniture range“I am delighted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Witley Jones and this wouldn’t have been without the help and support of Jane, the family, Simon and our team. We continually strive to produce the highest quality furniture for our clients, building strong long-term relationships with all of our clients because without them we wouldn’t be here today.

Over the last 20 years, we have prudently invested in both machinery and more importantly people to build strong foundations in order to grow the company, innovate our offering and support the local economy, we are all extremely proud of what we have achieved” – Chris Jones, Chairman, Witley Jones Furniture.

 

Chris’ son and Director, Matt Jones is “immensely proud of my parents for their hard work and dedication over the past 20 years, starting Witley Jones Furniture from an office in the dining room at home and turning it into to the multi million pound business we have today and I very much look forward to building on their legacy over the next 20 years and beyond.”

Opening Doors of Business initiative showcases career opportunities in the Wyre Forest

Opening Doors of Business banner

Witley Jones welcomed students from King Charles School to our Stourport factory as part of the Opening Doors of Business week, a ReWyre initiative supported by the ContinU Trust and local Stourport firm, OGL Computer.

We opened our doors to local students as part of the project for them to experience life at our Sandy Lane site where we have been manufacturing bespoke furniture for over 30 years.

It is the second year that the project has been running after starting in 2016 in conjunction with Wyre Forest District Council as part of the ReWyre agenda to create a positive environment for businesses, people and investors to prosper in the area.

The aim of the project is to provide high school students with an insight into the day-to-day life of local businesses and meet the faces behind them.

Bridging the skills gap is a topic discussed at great length on a national level, the Opening Doors of Business initiative is a way of tackling this problem in the Wyre Forest and prepare tomorrow’s talent for the world of work. It is a great way of giving a flavour of what to expect and provide the students with the opportunity to see the career opportunities that are on their door step.

“As proud manufacturers in the Wyre forest, we appreciated the opportunity of showing off our business to some of its younger citizens.” commented Chris Jones, Managing Director, Witley Jones.

“We are always looking to recruit form the local area and hopefully this visit may well have sparked some interest from the next generation of workers.”

“The ReWyre initiative gives local schoolchildren the opportunity to view the inner operations of Wyre Forest businesses. The visit to Witley Jones enabled the pupils to see first-hand how furniture for schools is designed and manufactured. Such visits are invaluable as they will help the pupils decide on their future choice of career. I’m grateful to Witley Jones for ‘opening up their doors’ and I’ve had very positive feedback from the visit.” – Neil Morris, ReWyre Chairman

“The ContinU Trust was delighted that Witley Jones agreed to join the Opening Doors of Business week working with 8 schools across the Wyre Forest.  A group of Year 9 pupils from King Charles 1 School, Kidderminster, enjoyed an excellent visit gaining an insight into the world of work and the specialist skills of this local furniture manufacturer whose products are in schools across the country.  They saw how products were made and learned the various job roles and career routes in the company.  The visit was a great success and the Trust hope to repeat the opportunity for more pupils next year with the support of Witley Jones.”  – Rob Chadwick, King Charles School

Witley Jones secure £100,000 grant to Increase Production

We are delighted to have secured a £100,000 grant from the Worcestershire Growth Fund with the help of Birmingham-based Central Finance, which will now enable us to extend our headquarters.  Witley Jones secure £100k grant

The grant will enable us to expand our floorspace by 5,000 sq ft. and create 11 new jobs for the local area at our current premises on Sandy Lane Industrial Estate.

The variety of work we do here requires significant experience, high-quality workmanship, the very best machinery and technology and more importantly a significant space to house it all.

To continually develop and diversify our products, ensure our products are the highest quality on the market, and keep up with demand, we needed to invest in machinery and additional premises.

To purchase the property was going to be a huge financial commitment for the business, and we had heard of grant funding for manufacturing businesses was available in Worcestershire and called Central Finance directly due to their grant funding success.

The new space will enable us increase production by 20 percent, ensuring that we continue provide bespoke furniture manufacturing services to more schools and businesses across Worcestershire and further afield.

Culford School Case Study

Culford School is a coeducational independent school situated near to Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Culford provides both day and boarding education to over 670 pupils aged between 1 and 18, set in 480 acres of parkland with exemplary sporting facilities.

Culford School

The school were looking to increase in number of girl boarders at Culford and to integrate day pupils into boarding houses.

We were asked by the school to provide assistance with designing the boarding furniture for Old Fitzgerald House.

Witley Jones have been working with Culford since 2003, therefore we have built up a great working relationship with the school which has allowed us to understand their requirements and how they like to work. This demonstrated on projects when we have designed the furniture for their boarding houses and their on site team have fitted the furniture.

In terms of design, we have worked with the school to make the design simple and efficient to make it easier to replicate through the boarding houses.

In some instances, rooms are an identical design with a double room with an alcove on one side of the door for the wardrobes and an alcove on the opposite side for the vanity unit.

boarding school bedroom furniture

We decided with the school to build these units in plain MDF whereas they would usually be Oak Veneered MDF. Only the doors and filler panels were made from Oak Veneer so from the front they look like a nice built in oak veneered units but inside they are plain mdf to save cost.

We also use a specific Laminate worktop with Oak hardwood nosing to give their range of furniture a bespoke feel to their design.

“Witley Jones Furniture were friendly and accommodating throughout the process providing with knowledgeable insight into the design to ensure that the project met our exact requirements and budget.” commented Gavin Reynolds, Assistant Head (Pastoral).

boarding house furniture

 

Radley College Staff enjoy the American Diner Experience in their Staff Room

Radley College is an independent boarding school for boys situated in Abingdon, Oxfordshire set on a 800-acre estate.

Radley College Staff dining room

They were about the embark on a major redevelopment project to increase the capacity of boarders at the school therefore there was a need to extend all areas of the estate. The need for extra space to facilitate the increase in pupils included boarding house, chapels, sports and dining facilities.

In turn, the development plans needed to look at the facilities for staff which resulted in the need to relocate a staff dining room.

It was at this stage that David Anderson, Radley College Estates Bursar, approached us with a brief to transform a rather small space into an environment to fit 22 staff members during their time outside of the classroom in a short space of time. David presented us with an initial idea on how the design of the space could look.

Radley College American Diner staff room

We went away and built up the idea into a plan with scale drawings within three weeks. Once this was approved by the school, we were able to manufacture and install the American Diner themed dining room within 4 weeks.

The design had to be tweaked to allow sufficient room between table and benches so the angle and depths of the backs of the soft seating was altered accordingly.

From the conception of the idea to installation took a total of seven weeks, providing Radley College with an addition, enjoyable environment for staff to spend their downtime helping to facilitate the growth and development of the estate.

Radley College, Abingdon

See more examples of Seating Furniture

Woldingham School Case Study

Woldingham School is a Catholic boarding and day school for girls, founded 1842 and set in 700- acre estate on the Surrey Downs.

We have been working with the school for over 5 years completing major works in boarding houses, classrooms, the main dining hall as well as specialist study rooms.

Witley Jones have recently worked on three projects at the school including; the Berwick Lower Sixth Boarding House , East Wing staff accommodation and West Wing ICT projects.

 

Berwick Boarding HouseBerwick Boarding House Woldingham School

The accommodation for Berwick Lower Sixth Boarding House was part of a 3-year refurb plan to completely upgrade the rooms, as the building is 25 years old.  

Berwick was a departure from normal school specification, the school wanted a more modern clean look to the furniture.

The challenge was to replace some old high beds with integral desks with low beds but to still give the girls plenty of study and storage space.

We delivered a sample room for the staff and girls to appraise, from this the final design was agreed to ensure all requirements were met.

The room planning was critical as some rooms have awkward eaves and window details along with existing boxing for pipes which had to be taken into account when manufacturing the furniture.

 

East Wing Gap Year Staff Accommodation

The East wing project was a major upgrade for gap year staff accommodation as the space was in need of major improvement.

As the girls in this room are older, we altered the layouts to reflect a more adult look and changed the bed specification to a divan bed with storage, total 4 rooms.

 

West Wing ICT SuiteWoldingham School West Wing ICT Suite

Working with the IT team, we designed a specific layout and manufactured to school pantone colour reference.

The design incorporated cable management and tower box storage and protection to ensure that the suite was neat and tidy as well as meeting health and safety requirements.

The whole scheme was a trial to update other existing ICT suites in the school and has proved a great success with staff and pupils alike.

Woldingham School West Wing ICT Suite

“Witley Jones has proved to be an excellent supplier for Woldingham School. They deliver on time, in budget and can cope with some bursarial ‘fast balls’.

Witley Jones take a keen and detailed  interest in the overall projects, can work easily with other building contractors and the after service, if needed, is excellent.

You do what you say you will do and we have had many years of repeat orders.” commented Niall Campbell, Bursar, Woldingham School

KEMP Hospice delighted with Bespoke Office Furniture

KEMP Hospice Reception Furniture

 

KEMP Hospice, based in Kidderminster, provide a major support system to the local community in Wyre Forest adding quality of life to both patients and carers.

In 2015, the charity extended the hospice and created a new large reception area. We designed and manufactured a bespoke front desk, which needed to be able to stand the test of time, as well as look very attractive to visitors entering the hospice.

During this project, we also manufactured soft seating for waiting rooms and day rooms along with coffee tables and storage furniture.

After reviewing the needs of the reception area earlier this year, Heidi Hawkins, KEMP Hospice CEO, approached us again, to see if we could design a smaller desk, which would match what had been made 2015 in order to increase the reception space.

“We reviewed activity in reception early in 2017 and felt that it would be great to have the opportunity for volunteers and staff from our fundraising team to be able to have a presence in our reception, as a first point of call for fundraising, as this is so important to our charity. We didn’t want to replace our wonderful volunteer reception team, but rather create some additional space.

“Not only did Witley Jones manufacture exactly what we needed, but they unexpectedly made and donated this desk to us, which was incredibly kind. We are completely delighted with, not only our new desk, but with our entire dealings with Witley Jones.” commented Heidi.

KEMP Hospice highlighted 5 Key Witley Jones credentials –

Above all professional: Witley Jones really care that you are happy with what you receive, so spend time with you discussing options and also assessing where you would like the furniture.

Quality: The quality of all the furniture we’ve received from Witley Jones is exceptional. We know because what we originally requested is as good as the day it came, not a scratch or mark anywhere.

Reassuring: You feel assured that you are receiving the very best service and quality products, which have been designed specific to your needs.

Friendly and hands on: Witley Jones are a close knit organisation and if you called them, they would instantly know who you are.

Socially Responsible: We approached Witley Jones with no expectations and they donated our bespoke furniture to us, enabling us to use the cost of the furniture to further support our beneficiaries.