The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 5 - February 1991

Our Sponsor's Story

In this feature on our sponsors, G. B. Willbond Ltd., the plumbers' merchants on Faraday Road you will learn of the various changes they have undergone, including a major re-direction in the nature of their business. One constant, however, has been the use of the name G. B. Willbond, even though there has been no actual Willbond involvement for the last fifty years.

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One of G.B. Willbond's lorries in the days when they were based at
St. Peter's Street.

It is doubtful whether we will ever know all the various means of employment that George Baines Willbond undertook but the local directories record at least three. In 1894 he was described as a 'canal boat and nuisance inspector' while the 1902 directory gave his profession as 'sanitary engineer'. Four years later he was similarly described, but by 1908 he had changed again and was now in business as a builders' merchant operating from the Midland Station yard, off Wollaton Road in Old Radford. The business evidently thrived. George B. Willbond died in 1932 and left almost 10,000. His son, Harold Walter Willbond then took over the business.

Running the builders' merchants wasn't really Harold Willbond's cup of tea, so in 1941 he decided to put it up for sale. Frank Burrows, a director of Nottingham Mills Co., a firm of timber merchants, was advised by Lenton builder, Harold Butler, who was well placed to judge, that G. B. Willbond was a good investment. Even though it wasn't exactly their line of business Mr Burrows and his fellow directors decided to purchase it for 900.

Its location beside the sidings at Radford station was extremely convenient given that much of G. B. Willbond's building materials arrived by rail. With the gradual expansion of the business additional storage was sought but as there was no extra space available at the station a site was acquired nearby in St. Peter's Street in 1947. This consisted of a yard and old stable block. The purchase, however, hit a snag. The stables already had a tenant. When approached the occupant admitted they could ask him to leave but they weren't entitled to kick out his horse. A solicitor's advice was sought and to everyone's surprise it was found that the horse did indeed have the protection of the law. Consequently G. B. Willbond had to find the horse alternative stabling before they could move in.

Significant dates thereafter were 1949 when the decision was taken to make G. B. Willbond a limited company and 1953 or thereabouts when a range of plumbing materials was added to their stocks. In the late 1950s G. B. Willbond had to start looking for a replacement for their St. Peter's Street outlet when the City Council declared this part of Radford a redevelopment area. Their present site on Faraday Road which then belonged to the Gas Board was bought and offices and warehousing built. In 1961 they opened for business at Faraday Road and the St. Peter's Street site was sold to the Council.

Plumbing supplies had gradually grown in importance and these were all kept at Faraday Road while the building materials were still based at the station yard. In the mid-seventies, however, the decision was taken to cease trading in building materials and close down the station yard site. Henceforth G. B. Willbond would concentrate all their efforts on the plumbing supplies based at Faraday Road. Additional land and properties had gradually been acquired which allowed Willbond to expand operations at Faraday Road and in 1978 a row of shops on Ilkeston Road was purchased and converted into bathroom and fitted kitchen showrooms. Even as we write both these departments are being enlarged and a new bedroom section added to the complex.

The main bulk of Willbond's business is carried out with the trade but they are always happy to accept orders from the general public. Readers may be interested to learn that Willbond have long held the reputation of keeping a very wide range of stock. If you can't get what you want at G. B Willbond then you probably can't get it anywhere else in Nottingham. The present managing director, Tony Hogg, who took over the business in 1987, is eager to see this reputation upheld and ensure that G. B. Willbond Ltd. maintain their position as Nottingham's leading independent plumbing merchants.

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