Company History

Stepnell Group

Stepnell’s origins go back to 1867 when John Bosworth set up as a local builder in Daventry, Northamptonshire, to provide construction services to the central arms depot for the British Army at Weedon Barracks and to local authorities. He had at least one other partner (Neale & Bosworth) before he brought his son-in-law Horace Wakeford into partnership following the death of his eldest son in a skating accident.

Bosworth & Wakeford

This new partnership, formed in 1906 as Bosworth & Wakeford, became the operating vehicle for the company’s construction activities until 1928 when it became a limited company registered as Bosworth & Wakeford Ltd.

The Great Depression - commitment to employee welfare

Shortly after the company’s incorporation in 1928, the national economy collapsed and it was during the Great Depression of the 1930s that Bosworth & Wakeford first diversified into development, opening out the Inlands Estate, Daventry to construct semi-detached houses as a means of providing employment for the company's workforce.

The company was able to do this because it was already founded on considerable financial prudence and because the arrival of the BBC in Daventry meant there was a demand for houses to rent. Horace Wakeford was particularly aware of the importance of looking after skilled employees and after the Depression there was a nucleus of extremely capable craftsmen whose loyalty was in a large measure due to the company continuing to employ them through ten years of depression.

Hannah, Horace Wakeford's wife, took a great interest in employees’ welfare and was instrumental in insisting that the company was one of the first to have a Workman’s Compensation Fund to deal with injuries to employees. The firm was also particularly innovative during the Depression and used its modest financial strength to secure work and even to fund important suppliers who had reached the limit of their financial resources.

In the mid-thirties Bosworth & Wakeford branched out into civil engineering - mainly to take advantage of the demand for sewerage treatment and water supply, brought about by various public health acts.

World War II 1939-45

At the outbreak of the Second World War resources were directed to the Gloucester Aircraft Factory and the war effort. Most of the company’s employees were young and immediately called up for military service, while plant and equipment was requisitioned for urgent wartime work.

After extensive involvement in the war effort in maintaining military bases, including the Naval Gunnery building in Coventry, the company continued to develop its reputation for building and civil engineering works largely in the public sector for central and local government organisations as well as utility providers. Regional offices were subsequently established in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and later on the South Coast at Poole.

1946-1975: formation of Stepnell, growth and expansion

In 1946 Bosworth & Wakeford changed its name to Stepnell Estates and immediately transferred its construction activities to a new company with separate shareholdings. The following day this new company changed its name to Bosworth & Wakeford. The effect of this transaction was to separate the property and development from the construction activity. The ‘Stepnell’ name derived from a small copse of trees on a part of the Badby House Estate which the company had acquired.

From 1946 until 1969 all property development was channelled through Stepnell Estates. Initially the work was the post-war reconstruction of Daventry High Street, but soon repeat orders were coming for warehouses from regular clients such as Savoury & Moore and Edmunds Walker.

Stepnell Developments and Stepnell Properties

From the 1950s the company has worked from regional offices in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Dorset. The work at these regional offices has adapted from Ministry of Defence (MoD) work to meet local needs with a growing focus on education and health sector projects.

In the late 50s two new independent companies were formed, Stepnell Developments and Stepnell Properties to deal with the development of the Rokeby Estate, which had been acquired at auction in 1948. Once their original objectives had been achieved, they became property companies and were incorporated into Stepnell Estates. Similarly the company acquired Brackley Builders in 1975 and incorporated all their employees into Stepnell.

The name of Bosworth & Wakeford Limited was resurrected in 1991 as the parent holding company for the construction and development business. Stepnell Estates remains as an ‘Associate’ company.

George Law, Brackley Investments and property development

In 1999 Stepnell bought George Law Ltd of Kidderminster, a civil engineering, building and specialist concrete repair business, which reinforced its position as a general building and civil engineering company.

In 2003 the Group acquired the remaining shares in Brackley Investments Ltd, a medical centre development company that had been set up in 1996 with Stepnell assistance. Since then Brackley Investments has developed more than 50 medical centres over a wide geographical area retaining six as direct investments.

Stepnell today

In 2004 Stepnell established a site based construction team covering Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, working alongside and with the support of employees in Kidderminster, delivering a variety of schemes including high value complex educational projects. 

2014 saw the introduction of a new construction team into offices at Eldon Park, Nottingham strengthening the Stepnell presence within the East Midlands. 

The company today works across the private and public sector where it has developed a strong design and build culture, delivering exemplar projects. Project activities range from the delivery of schools, colleges and nurseries to commercial, industrial and solar park developments. Within the healthcare sector Stepnell projects include hospitals, medical centres, care homes, extra residential care and doctors’ surgeries.

The directors of the company include both fourth and fifth generation family members which demonstrates a continued long-term family commitment to the business. This helps define the ethos of the business and a commitment to building the company for the future, developing successful client relationships, nurturing employees, and providing a high quality, professional service that meets our clients’ requirements and solves their problems.

Stepnell continues to be a financially strong regional contractor with an excellent health, safety and environmental record, competent supply chain and very experienced, technically capable employees.