Fairhurst Ward Abbotts: Builder that restored Chatsworth House goes bust


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The historic building company behind projects including the restoration of the home of the Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park has gone bust.

Fairhurst Ward Abbotts – which holds a royal warrant as builder and decorator to the Queen – called in Begbies Traynor as administrator this week because of “severe cashflow difficulties”. Around 250 jobs are likely to be lost in a winding down of the business, based in Dartford, Kent.

The company, founded in 1941, has worked on a host of national treasures including the royal palaces, the National Gallery, the Houses of Parliament and the V&A Museum, as well as Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

But its most high-profile recent job was an £8m scheme to restore Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, which opened last year to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

One of the huts where codebreakers led by Alan Turing cracked the Germans’ “unbreakable” Enigma submarine code during the Second World War was converted into a visitor centre. Others were restored to their original wartime design, while complying with modern building standards, under a painstaking procedure involving the removal of walls brick by brick.

Sources said the company, led by managing director Kevin Brush since 2009, “appeared to have lost control of costs across the board” after a period of rapid expansion. Companies House accounts show turnover almost trebling to £70.5m in the year to last August while the business swung from a pre-tax profit of £297,666 to a loss of £1.6m due to “a number of loss-making contracts”.

A spokesman for Begbies Traynor said the company ceased trading “as a result of severe cashflow difficulties which have arisen primarily as a result of trading losses being incurred within certain divisions of the company”.

It added: “The directors had been tirelessly attempting to source new external investment and funding to enable the continuation of trading. However, despite their efforts, no investment has been forthcoming within the timeframe available, and the situation was exacerbated last week by the filing of a winding-up petition by a creditor.”