Celebrating 150 Years

We are delighted to be celebrating our 150th anniversary in 2018! The Kingerlee business is all about people, and over the last 150 years we’ve built thousands of high quality buildings in and around Oxford, and across the South East, for people to live, work and be entertained in.

We are currently working through archives with the help of Oxford Historian Liz Woolley, and Film Maker John Tolson, to put together a complete company history. Here is just a snap shot of the story we have so far.

Thomas Henry Kingerlee, who was born in 1842, took over his father's plumbing and glazing business and established the Kingerlee building company in 1868 from the family home at Butcher’s Row in Banbury. We were delighted to be able to refurbish this building recently, for Banbury based Charity StyleAcre.

Thomas Kingerlee then moved to Oxford in 1883 and soon established a thriving business in the city with offices and a large builder's merchant on Queen Street. This was at a time when the city was expanding rapidly: its population doubled between 1851 and 1901 and its footprint quadrupled as the suburbs grew up all around the city’s medieval core. In 1883 there were already at least 36 other builders in the city; by 1887 there were almost fifty.

Kingerlee had a joinery shop on Abbey Road and a yard on Mill Street in west Oxford, and their own brickworks just north of Wolvercote, and many of the company’s buildings were built using bricks made there from the Oxford clay. Like many other brickworks it went out of business during the Depression of the 1930s.

Many houses were built in west Oxford where Helen Road and Henry Road were named after two of Thomas's children and where Thomas Kingerlee and his family lived in what is now the River Hotel on the Botley Road. More houses were built in south and east Oxford and then later back in west Oxford in the area that became New Botley.

The business was expanding rapidly and by the late 1880s he was employing several hundred men. No other Oxford employer (apart from the University Press) operated on such a scale. By the mid 1930s the company had built over 700 new houses throughout the city’s suburbs, making it by far the city’s largest developer.

Many other important projects were completed in this period too and those still standing in Oxford include The New Theatre in George Street, Frank Cooper's Marmalade Factory (now the Jam Factory) on Frideswide Square, The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel at 35 Queen Street, and the Oxford Picture Palace (now the Ultimate Picture Palace) on Jeune Street off the Cowley Road in east Oxford.

Kingerlee built not only in Oxford but all over the country. Business expanded such that by the First World War Kingerlee had premises in London: a depot on the Uxbridge Road in Shepherd’s Bush and an office at 139 Oxford Street. They built many buildings in the capital including the Kilburn Empire, the Imperial Buildings on Kingsway, the Putney Ropeworks and several banks. Kingerlee also carved, assembled and installed the oak panelling in the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

In 1928 Kingerlee began to work at Pressed Steel in Cowley, the American-owned factory which provided body parts to the adjacent Morris car works. Over the next 55 years Kingerlee erected most of the buildings at the expanding factory including, in 1960, the Apprentice Building and Paint Shop which still remain.

The company continued to thrive and consolidate through the twentieth century although with the arrival of the internal combustion engine, two World Wars and the Great Depression, things were certainly never dull. During the latter part of that century the company concentrated on general contracting, playing its part in rebuilding after the Second World War and responding to the boom years in the sixties and seventies.

In 1970 the Company re-started its development business, building amongst others, a number of prominent apartment blocks in North Oxford creating more than 200 new homes in all, and the new studios and offices for Radio Oxford in the Banbury Road.

Thomas Kingerlee died in the 1920s but by then his two sons and a grandson had joined the business and continued to manage the variety of activities, including a Joinery Workshop and a Builders Merchant. Subsequent generations followed them into the business and today two of Thomas Kingerlee’s great great grandsons are involved, David Kingerlee and Richard Wilsdon, David succeeding his older brother Jonathan as Chairman. Jonathan led the more recent growth of the business, embracing larger development and building contracts, managed from the new Head Office and Yard facility at Kidlington, until his untimely passing in 2015.

In the late 1990s we moved to our current purpose built premises at Langford Locks in Kidlington which houses our Head Office, Joinery Division and Plant workshop. Since the move to Kidlington the profile of the business has grown, seeing us carrying out a number of major projects. These include the Kingerlee developments at the former Morrells Brewery site, the Stream Edge site at Park End Street, Barcote Park in Buckland, Lechlade Manor, and Shaftesbury Hall, Cheltenham. These projects were the catalyst for the growth of the construction business portfolio, leading to further large projects for The Rothschild Foundation, St John’s College, Pembroke College and a number of bespoke private houses, one of which won The Grand Designs House of the Year Award in 2015. Many of these projects have been strongly supported by our award winning Joinery Division who have been producing bespoke high quality joinery items as long as Kingerlee Ltd has been in existence.

Whilst our ties with the Oxford area are strong, we now operate up to a 75 mile radius from our head office, with projects currently on site in Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties. 2018 sees us celebrating the huge milestone that is 150 years of trading. The ambition of the company for the future is to continue to carry forward our reputation for high quality building of both large and small projects, without losing sight of our heritage and values.

Left to right: Four generations of the Kingerlee family to run the firm: (left to right) Henry Stephen Kingerlee, Thomas Henry Kingerlee (the founder), Thomas Henry (Tom) Kingerlee, Stanley John (Jack) Kingerlee.


 One of the many Kingerlee projects at Pressed Steel in Cowley.


T.H Kingerlee's former family home at Butchers Row, Banbury, following an extensive refurbishment by Kingerlee in 2015 for charity StyleAcre.

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