Company History

The family firm of F Cuff and Sons was established in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, by Frederick Cuff. Born in 1866, he grew up in Alweston, and began working for John Jesty, the Village carpenter and wheelwright. In 1884 he entered a four year apprenticeship as a wheelwright for George Yelland in Sherborne, and continued to work there until he started his own business back at Alweston in 1897. Five years later he took over the premises of his former employer, John Jesty, and moved his business to its current location.

The move to larger premises enabled him to employ a smith and two carpenters to cope with the ever increasing demand for his services. The huge numbers of horses in the area ensured a constant demand for shoeing, this with the need for ironwork for wagons, repairs to farm implements and the sharpening and tempering of pick axes for builders meant that the forge was always busy. In the carpenters shop much of the work involved the building and repairing of wagons and carts for farmers and trades people. Maintenance work for local estates was also carried out and among the other tasks performed in the workshop was the making of ladders, doors, windows, staircases, gates, water pumps and furniture of all kinds. It was usual in most country districts for the village carpenter to make coffins, and soon undertaking was added to the range of services.

Frederick's two sons, Frank and Arthur, both left school at the age of fourteen, and started work at home in 1908 and 1910 respectively. The carpenter's and blacksmith's shops both remained much as they had over the previous generation and nearly all the tasks had to be done by hand in the time honoured ways. Very little existed in the way of machinery, and what there was needed manpower to make it work. The working day from Monday to Friday was from six in the morning until six in the evening with breaks for breakfast and dinner. Saturday was a half day worked from six until one o'clock. The door of the carpenter's shop was always hooked back wide open during working hours to gain as much natural light as possible, and in the absence of any heating the winter chill could only be countered by working faster with the saw or plane.

Both Frank and Arthur saw service in the Great War, Frank with the Dorset Yeomanry and Arthur with the Dorset Regiment. With the end of the war both returned safely home and the business carried on in much the same way. Soon change became inevitable and a range of machinery was acquired which was driven from a Petter oil engine via belts pulleys and shafting until the arrival of electricity in 1942. The end of the Second World War brought sweeping changes to country life and the disappearance of some of the more traditional crafts. More emphasis was place on the joinery side of the business, with the last wheels being made in 1958.

Following the retirement of Frank and Arthur in 1966, Arthur's eldest son Nigel took over a business much in need of modernisation. Repairs were made to the buildings and changes were made to the type of services offered. The joinery side of the business was expanded with the design and manufacture of fitted kitchens and furniture being added. The reputation of the business grew, and when in 1985 Nigel's eldest son David joined the business it was decided to expand further and bring the facilities up to date. A new workshop was built in 1989 and the workforce increased. Due to the shortage of skilled joiners it was decided to offer apprenticeships, a policy which still operates today and has resulted in half of the current workforce being trained in-house.

Nigel retired in 2000 leaving David to plan further expansion. An extension was added to the workshop, woodworking machines have been upgraded and added to, and the workforce has steadily grown with a balance of new talent and trainees. The current workforce of fourteen, comprises joiners, cabinet makers, carpenters, painters and decorators, allowing joinery and furniture to be made fitted and finished completely "in house" with only a small group of trusted subcontractors being occasionally used to supplement our own labour.

The future looks bright for F Cuff and Sons: with a broad and loyal customer base, penetration into new and exciting markets and a reputation of which we are justifiably proud, we are sure that Frederick would approve.