In 2020, Hale & Co at Drybrook in Gloucestershire celebrated 60 years of incorporation and some 100 years of trading. During this substantial period of development, Hale & Co have established themselves as the largest, independent supplier of products to the Building and Home Improvement sector in the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas.
The Hale family originally worked on the current site as blacksmiths, diversifying into sawmills and eventually expanding into other areas of the building supply trade.
In 1891, John Hale, a blacksmith, married Gertrude Baldwin, the daughter of a local colliery manager, and had two sons, the eldest, Leslie, born in 1894, and the younger one, Frederick, born in 1896. Leslie went into the business at Nailbridge with his father and started up a sawmill providing timber for the local mining industry. By this time Nailbridge was a real hive of industrial activity with a tramway and railway passing through the hamlet.
Frederick, the younger son, was to be one of the first pupils at the new Grammar School in Cinderford. He had natural business acumen and this was to stand him in good stead in the years to come. He joined his father and brother in the blacksmith and sawmill business and, with the death of his father, John, and following his brother’s emigration to America, Frederick was left to carry on the Hale family business at Nailbridge.
Fred Hale married Clara Cook (née Brain) who already had one son Chris. Fred and Clara Hale then had two sons and one daughter. Being a very astute man, Fred Hale was always on the lookout for some commercial project that would pay and that with the spasmodic work available at the collieries in the 1920s, many of the Forest men used to do a lot of work around their homes.
So Fred Hale began to stock things that these men might need: nails, screws, a bag of cement..., so the builders’ merchant side of the business developed and 'Hales of Drybrook' became a well-known establishment.
In 1940, Roderick James (Jim) Hale left school and, after spending some time at the local Northern United Colliery, went to work for his father, having previously spent most of his free time helping out in the business. When Fred Hale died in 1953, Jim became responsible for the business of Hales and was later to be joined by his half-brother, Chris Cook.
When Jim Hale took over, the works consisted of two corrugated iron sheds, the original blacksmith’s shop and just one employee. In contrast, there is now a vast range of building materials at Hale & Co from sand and cement, to bathrooms and kitchens, and the company now employs over 45 staff.
Jim married Dorrie Preddy and they had two sons, Roger and Leslie. Dorrie put in a great deal of her time helping out with the clerical work and serving on the trade counter and the two boys helped out in their school holidays. The business continued to grow based on the on-going reputation for good service, reliability and integrity.
Dorrie died in 1985 at a comparatively early age; she had worked hard in the business and a great deal of its success was due to her endeavours.
Happily Jim carried on the business with his eldest son, Roger, taking a very active part in the management. In fact, Jim, his sons, Roger and Leslie and grandson, Jon, opened a new Store & Showroom in 1995 which completed a building programme that had spanned over 25 years.
Sadly Jim died in 1996 after giving the majority of his life to the business, but it continued to prosper at Nailbridge under the leadership of his two sons.
Leslie’s eldest son, Jake, returned to develop the new Tool Hire venture in April 2011 before becoming General Manager in 2012 and Director in 2014.
Leslie's younger son, Sam, became a Director in 2018.
Present day management is therefore under the control of Leslie Hale (who became Managing Director when Roger Hale retired in June 2000), Jake Hale (Director & General Manager) and Sam Hale (Director).
Additionally, Roger’s son, Steve, works in the business as a HGV Driver and his Granddaughter, Jacoba, is currently undertaking a Business Administration Apprenticeship.
What's more, Roger’s eldest son, Jon, his youngest daughter, Becky and his grandson, Ty, also help out from time to time.
So it would seem that the future of 'Hales of Drybrook' is ensured for many years to come.
Old Shop Counter
Dorrie Hale with fellow counter staff, Eric Lane & Adrian Nash
Old Shop Front
Old Shop & Trade Counter
Sawmill at Nailbridge - John & Fred with audience
Nailbridge Sawmills & Yard
Leslie & Roger
Leslie & Roger Hale 'on duty' in their school holidays
Customer, Geoff Morman with employees, Harold England & Doug Jones
Nailbridge in the early 1900s
Jim & Timber
Jim Hale with the first order of timber imported direct from Russia
John & Family
John & Gertrude Hale with sons, Frederick & Leslie
Jim Hale with Roger & Leslie
Roger, Jim & Leslie Hale
Jim Hale & Renault 50 Series Lorry
Jim Hale inspecting a new vehicle
Jim & Cement
Jim Hale serving customer, Ray Boseley, with some Rugby Cement
Dorrie Hale collecting paperwork from the yard
John the Blacksmith
John the Blacksmith & friends at Nailbridge
Fred & Clara
Fred & Clara Hale