So how has our family business survived through two World Wars, economic depressions and most challenging of all – changing times? We believe it is because we have had the courage to find new markets and opportunities.
In 1880 the first steps were taken towards creating the W&P we know today, when George Wightman and James Palmer purchased the site and business, a Blacksmiths and Wheelwrights in Lewes, East Sussex. Deliveries were made every quarter throughout Sussex by horse and cart.
1915 – WIGHTMAN & PARRISH BEGAN
Fast forward 35 years to 1915 and the first Parrish came onto the scene. Fredrick Parrish, great-grandfather of our current MD, joined the business and Wightman & Parrish was born.
In 1922, Eric Parrish (son of Fredrick) joined the company as an apprentice, aged 16. During his career at W&P, upon realising the Blacksmith’s trade was in decline, he developed the builder’s merchant aspect. He was appointed Managing Director in 1933. Eric was well respected locally and was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Lewes and high profile roles included mayor, magistrate and Chair of Lewes Petty Sessional Division.
Faced with the challenges of a second World War, great credit should be given to Eric’s mother, Catherine Parrish, who stepped in to run the company while her son was serving in the army during WW2.
1959 – MICHAEL PARRISH JOINED THE BOARD
Moving on a decade or so, Michael Parrish (son of Eric), our current Chairman, joined the board in 1959. 56 years later and still going strong, he remains an active part of the business. As part of his mark on the firm, he developed the retail side of things, while his wife Pam managed pricing and payroll.
1968 – BUSINESS BOOMS
A turning point came in 1968, when Sussex Police Authority established their headquarters in Lewes. Michael visited them to ask if W&P could quote for their business. “Although the job went out to tender and we didn’t know a thing about industrial cleaning products, we quoted and won the contract. That was the start of the business as we know it today,” he recalls.Thanks to this contract, by 1976 W&P had outgrown its Lewes premises, after extensively looking, a warehouse was purchased in the nearby town of Hailsham. All the staff went with the company in its move, with the pledge that their transport to the new location would be paid. Michael Parrish honoured this for 25 years until the last person from Lewes retired.
1995 – NICHOLAS PARRISH JOINS THE BUSINESS
In 1995 our current MD joined the family business, Nicholas Parrish, Michael’s son, came on board as Sales & Marketing Director. He added a new branch to the business in the form of healthcare equipment and in 2005 was appointed as Managing Director.
Our success has been hard work and not without its ups and downs, as you’d expect when spanning three centuries, but the ethos of the company has remained the same, to adapt to customers’ changing needs and to recognize the importance of having a strong, developed and fulfilled workforce.We’ll leave the last words to our Chairman Michael Parrish: “A company is only as good as the people it employs and we are extremely grateful and lucky to employ the people that we do.”