Tingdene Homes – we have lift off!
One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind
Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969
…but in that same year there was another momentous event. One small step for Jim Gibbard resulted in what we now acknowledge was a giant leap for the whole park home industry in this country... Tingdene!
The Swinging Sixties had been a time of massive change in all aspects of our daily lives. The country was emerging from the austerity and gloom of the post-war 1950s into a period of optimism and freedom of expression. It was also a time of huge fashion changes – bright colours, psychedelia, mini skirts, beehive hairdos, beatniks, Mary Quant, the Beatles, op art, hot pants, the ethnic look.
Momentous events were also happening in Northamptonshire, when Nene Valley Caravans (one of the principal manufacturers of park homes and holiday caravans) was ‘restructured’ and several employees, including Jim Gibbard, found they were redundant.
Jim and his wife Sylvia had three children and a fourth on the way and, in the spirit of the decade, Jim put a positive slant on this dramatic turn of events and decided to join forces with his former Nene Valley colleague – Peter York – to build ‘residential caravans’. That partnership was called Tingdene Homes – the name being the old English word for Finedon, a village local to the Tingdene Homes premises.
From small beginnings
The rapid growth of Tingdene Homes resulted in a move to a new factory – a one and a half acre site on the Finedon Road on the outskirts of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.
One of Tingdene’s most popular models was The Villa (40 years on that name still features in Tingdene’s range). The original Villa was a single unit and its décor was very typical of the late 1960s/early 1970s – bright tangerine-coloured kitchen cupboard doors and bright floral prints.
At this time of Tingdene’s progress and expansion, salesman John Curtis joined the team, along with John Grove and Derek Norman. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1975 when Peter York died of mesathelamioma, an asbestos-related disease which claimed the lives of so many who had worked with this substance during the 1960s, unaware of its hazards.
Recovering from the shock of Peter’s death, Jim and his co-workers forged ahead and arranged a move to a larger (five acre) site in the same area. This was originally leased from the local authority, but Tingdene subsequently bought the freehold and was able to build its own factory units and office accommodation.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
While this activity was going on at Tingdene, how was the rest of the world faring?
It was a period of continued change and economic uncertainty. It also saw the rise of women, greater social awareness and a more caring society. The brightness of the 1960s fashion scene became muted with a move to kaftans and ethnic colours, and fashion became much freer – skirts of all lengths (micro, mini and maxi) were acceptable, trousers for women became ‘acceptable’ and trouser suits became fashionable. Though it was a period of economic downturn in certain areas, it was also a time of great achievement in many fields:
Change to decimal currency
Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals at Munich Olympics
US pulls out of Vietnam
Terracotta army discovered in China
Arthur Ashe was the first black man to win the men’s singles at the Wimbledon tennis championships
First ‘test tube’ baby born
Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first woman prime minister; Mother Teresa of Calcutta won the Nobel peace prize; Sony introduced the ‘Walkman’.
There were some sad moments, too:
The Beatles broke up
Terrorist attack at Munich Olympics; the Watergate drama started
Elvis Presley died.
1970s TINGDENE MILESTONES
• Twin units
In common with the rest of the industry, Tingdene moved towards the production of twin unit (double width) park homes, which quickly became very popular.
• Overstone exhibitions
Tingdene joined other park home manufacturers from the local area to mount annual ‘trade shows’ of new models at Overstone Park, Northampton. Subsequently these exhibitions were open to the general public.
• Roof tiles
were introduced to park homes in this decade (replacing felt and the Hyperlon rubberised roof blankets). These were actually made of metal, but strongly resembled traditional concrete roof tiles, so that they made park homes look more like traditional bungalows. The use of these tiles also meant that the pitch of the roof had to be increased – again resulting in a ‘traditional bungalow’ appearance. The Alpine Lodge – still one of Tingdene’s most popular models – was introduced at this time. However, there was a snag. When these pitched roof homes were transported to parks on low loaders, there were sometimes problems with getting them under some low bridges.
• Fold-down roofs
These were the answer to the transportation problem. Tingdene pioneered a system whereby the roofs of its twin units would fold down flat for transport and once on site could simply be raised to their ‘pitched’ position during the siting process.
• Low loader design
Taking the long-term view that all setbacks represent ‘opportunities’, Tingdene then set about designing an ‘even lower’ low loader so that, by the end of the decade, it was possible to transport models with high pitched roofs in place. Tingdene had its own transport company – Tingdene Transport – with three lorries.
• Early models.
There were the S10, Compact, OS3 and C3, followed by a twin – the Villa T3.
The Thatcher decade
The 1980s was the decade of Margaret Thatcher, who was elected in 1979 and ousted in 1990. It saw a revival of capitalism, with consumers becoming more sophisticated in their tastes. Michael Jackson was by far the most popular entertainer of the 1980s and his leather jacket, glove and Moonwalk dance were often imitated.
Rejection of smoking based on health concerns increased throughout the western world. Opposition to nuclear power plants grew, especially after the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl accident. Environmental concerns intensified. In the United Kingdom, environmentally friendly domestic products surged in popularity. Western European countries adopted ‘greener’ policies to cut back on non-recycled waste and increase focus on water and energy conservation efforts.
Tingdene was fortunate to have ‘bucked the trend’ of the 1970s economic downturn (though, in common with other manufacturers, the company witnessed some hard times during the decade).
Better times came in the 1980s. Expansion continued at the Finedon Road factory and in 1984 Tingdene scored a major ‘first’ in the industry – the establishment of its own exhibition centre, where members of the public were able to see a wide range of Tingdene homes, obtain information about parks, finance and insurance and view (and initially buy) various accessories. This was a very professional operation with refreshments constantly ‘on tap’ for visitors and opportunities to see homes being built and discuss individual specifications.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
There were many notable 1980s milestones, including:
Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer; Rupert Murdoch bought The Times and The Sunday Times
Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and Britain went to war; Channel 4 television began transmission
Front seat belts were made compulsory
The Sinclair C5 battery electric vehicle, invented by Sir Clive Sinclair, was launched; Windows programme invented by Microsoft
Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson
Digital mobile phones (expensive and large!) were invented
The Berlin Wall was torn down.
There were some sad moments, too:
John Lennon was shot and killed by a crazed fan
AIDS started to cause concern in the USA; Pope John Paul was shot (and nearly killed)
The space shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off killing all six crew members.
1980s TINGDENE MILESTONES
• Tingdene’s Homemaker Centre Opened
• Chris Gibbard
Jim and Sylvia’s eldest son joined the company and worked his way through the ranks to gain experience in all aspects of park home construction.
• Industry associations
Jim Gibbard became involved in the National Park Home Manufacturers’ Association and the National Caravan Council.
• Tiled Roofs, uPVC door and window frames
Tingdene was one of the first park home manufacturers to adopt this low-maintenance product, which was offered as an optional extra on all Tingdene homes.
• Loft space
This was incorporated into some Tingdene models.
• Dolben Lodge
This twin unit was introduced – and, to date, has proved one of the company’s most successful models.
• Log-clad leisure lodges
Tingdene was the first manufacturer to take a log-clad home to the Overstone Show.
• L-shape home
The York Villa was introduced and named in memory of
• Homes on pontoons
Tingdene supplied several homes mounted on pontoons, intended for marina developments and special contracts.
• Baxi Bermuda
These LPG gas fires with back boilers were introduced into homes.
• Removable tow bars
Fitted to all models.
• Tingdene Parks
Bedwell and Mill Farm Park were purchased.
• Gold Shield Warranty Scheme
This was introduced in 1987 across the industry and Tingdene’s was the first Gold Shield-registered home; it went to a Godfrey Davis park.
• Ideal Home Show
Tingdene was the first manufacturer to take part in the London Ideal Home Show.
• Homebuyer Show
Tingdene participated in this major exhibition.
• Falklands accommodation units
Tingdene was commissioned to build these units.
Markets opened up in France, Spain and Saudi Arabia and various transport methods were used, including packing one home inside another.
• Windows and doors
Tingdene started to manufacture its own windows and doors.
• Charity work
Fund-raising by Tingdene was started by Jim Gibbard, who embarked on sponsored runs and other challenging events. To date Jim and his staff have raised well over £1 million for various good causes.
Slowdown and recovery
In England, the first part of this decade was notable for the tumbling house prices that slowed down the residential market (and in turn the park homes market). It wasn’t until the end of the decade that the recovery started.
From that point onwards the park home industry saw its fortunes improve and the massive progress made at that time (both in terms of the quality of the homes and the demand for them) continues to this day.
Tingdene used the ‘quiet’ period in the early 1990s to upgrade their homes by improving insulation and introducing materials requiring less maintenance. In this way they ensured that park homes were no longer a cheap housing alternative but desirable homes especially suited to mature people.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
These were some of the most notable events of the decade:
Margaret Thatcher resigns; Nelson Mandela released from prison; The Three Tenors perform during the World Cup soccer final; the Hubble Space telescope is launched into orbit
The Soviet Union ends – 15 separate republics emerge; first address to US Congress by a British monarch
Betty Boothroyd is first woman to be made Speaker of the House of Commons; Neil Kinnock resigns as leader of the Labour Party, replaced by John Smith
First cross-Channel train runs through the tunnel between England and France; Nelson Mandela inaugurated as president of South Africa
John Smith dies and Tony Blair becomes leader of the Labour Party
Nerve gas attack on Tokyo subway
Mad cow disease hits Britain
Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule; Hale-Bop comet visible; scientists clone sheep; Labour wins general election, Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister
US President Clinton impeached; Viagra on market
Total eclipse of the sun witnessed in Europe and south Asia; launch of ‘euro’ – the new European currency.
And there were some sad moments, too:
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated
Princess Diana killed in Paris car crash
Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland.
1990s TINGDENE MILESTONES
• Deene Cottage
Sensing that there would be a demand for a park home that looked like ‘a cottage in the country’, Tingdene designed this lovely home with rustic-style décor, beams and deep bay windows. It proved popular from the time it was launched, and it is still one of the company’s best sellers.
• UPVC windows and doors, Decra roofs, central heating
Now installed as standard on all models.
Tingdene took the ‘green movement’ on board and all aspects of manufacture and the homes themselves reflected this culture.
• Tingdene Estates
In 1995 Jim and Chris Gibbard set up Tingdene Estates, which owns and operates both residential and leisure parks. The company also took on the management of parks on behalf of some park owners.
• Oaklands/Grange parks, Woodhall Spa
Tingdene purchased these parks in 1993 and John Curtis (one of the company’s first employees) took semi-retirement and went to manage them; he now owns these parks.
• Management buy-out
Jim Gibbard invited the existing management team (Chris Gibbard, Ian Wilkins and Nick Burgess) to buy the manufacturing side of the business. This went ahead in 1999.
• Matthew Gibbard
Jim’s youngest son joined the Group and is involved with the parks side of the business. Matthew now runs Tingdene Parks Ltd, which owns 17 parks and 7 marinas in the UK.
• Traditional holiday homes
Two models were introduced – the Ultimate and the Solent.
• Open weekends
Held at the Exhibition Centre and on parks, the popularity of these events has increased over the years.
A new millennium
The first year of the 21st century and the first century leap year since 1600 was designated as the International Year for the Culture of Peace. Fears that computers would not correctly shift from 1999 to 2000 proved unfounded.
Tingdene was even more innovative in this decade and launched the first-ever two-storey park/leisure home – the Vertical Twin. This period also saw more park acquisitions (including diversification into marinas), and the establishment of various ancillary services, both for prospective residents and park owners.
Another significant event was the retirement (from the park home manufacturing side of the business) of Tingdene’s founder, Jim Gibbard.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
A lot has happened since the turn of the century:
George W Bush elected US president; Dr Harold Shipman foundaguilty of murdering 15 patients between 1995 and 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment
9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers and the Pentagon in Washington; foot and mouth crisis hits UK; Labour Party wins General Election
Start of Iraq war; Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations
Statue of Saddam Hussein pulled down in Baghdad; highest temperature ever recorded in Britain – 38.5 degrees C (101.3 degrees F); England win rugby World Cup
Launch of RMS Queen Mary II; terrorist attacks in Madrid; 60th anniversary of D-Day; Floods severely damage Boscastle in Cornwall; tsunami hits south east Asia, resulting in 289,000 deaths; Bush re-elected as US president
Ellen MacArthur completed her solo record-breaking circumnavigation of the world; wedding of Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker-Bowles; MG Rover in receivership; Labour Party wins General Election with reduced majority; Trafalgar 200 celebrations; Make Poverty History campaign; England cricket team wins the Ashes
Charles Kennedy resigns as Lib-Dem leader; stampede at Haj kills 362 Muslims; 250th anniversary of death of Mozart; avian flu scares in UK; last Top of the Pops broadcast; racing driver Michael Schumacher retires
Tony Blair resigns as Prime Minister; the last Harry Potter book was published; Madeleine McCann’s mystery disappearance
Election of Barack Obama as US president; UK government nationalises Northern Rock and part-nationalises three other banks; beginning of world recession caused by sub-prime mortgages; Bill Gates steps down as chairman of Microsoft
Inauguration of Barack Obama; miracle rescue of aircraft which crashed into New York’s Hudson river; swine flu.
There were some sad moments, too:
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy died of a heart attack at the age of 49; George Harrison (Beatles) died
Princess Margaret died; John Thaw died; Queen Mother died, aged 101
Suicide of Dr David Kelly
Peter Ustinov died; Ronald Reagan died; Christopher Reeve (Superman) died
Pope John Paul II died; Sir John Mills died; Edward Heath died; George Best died
Sir Freddie Laker died
Michael Jackson died.
2000s TINGDENE MILESTONES
This ‘trade counter’ was established at Tingdene’s headquarters so that the building trade (and other park home manufacturers) could buy components ‘off the shelf’. The name is an anagram of Tingdene.
• Beachcomber and Everglade
Innovative roof terraces were features of these holiday homes.
• Semi-detached homes
Another innovation, enabling two households to occupy one plot.
• Platinum Seal Warranty
Tingdene introduced an insurance backed warranty for both park homes and leisure homes, replacing the Gold Shield warranty previously provided. This scheme is independent from Tingdene and administered by an external company.
• Vertical twins
Tingdene bravely launched a two-storey home – which was, in fact, a twin unit on its side, with steel frame construction ensuring compliance with fire regulations. This proved popular in leisure hiring applications when the living accommodation was on the first floor, where views could be enjoyed from an integral balcony.
Another innovative design, suitable for leisure or residential use which incorporated an indoor atrium garden and a ‘built-in bicycle shed’.
• Warreners Lodge
Taking advantage of the increase in the maximum width of park/leisure homes to 22ft, this popular model is in traditional wood styling with vaulted ceilings.
• Mulso Lodge
This home was introduced earlier this year when house prices were falling rapidly. With an ex-works price tag of about £60,000, an attractive and innovative layout with good quality furniture and equipment, Tingdene felt that this might tempt those thinking of a move to a park home to perhaps accept a lower offer on their bricks and mortar and thus get the ‘housing chains’ moving again.
• Ideal Home Show
Tingdene participated on a generic ‘industry’ stand at this show. The exhibit was designed to promote both park home and leisure lodge living. Professor David Bellamy, who has taken a keen interest in Tingdene’s green initiatives, was there to promote the lifestyles.
This very comprehensive estate agency style service is housed within Tingdene’s exhibition centre.
• Assisted Move Scheme
In association with a leading estate agent, Connells, Tingdene set up this service to help customers to expedite the sale of their bricks and mortar and the move to a park home.
• County shows
Tingdene has displayed its park and leisure homes in various parts of the country for several summers past.
Set up in 2009 after Tingdene purchased a building system which allows modules to be built in steel and capable of being stacked up to 10 floors. Projects have been completed on housing using this system up to sustainable code 4.
40 years on and Tingdene has established itself as the market leader – a brand that is known throughout the UK.
For the future, Tingdene is certain to continue to deliver quality homes, excellent service levels and competitive pricing.
Tingdene is also committed to investing in innovation, and the recent acquisition of Futureform Building Systems will surely see it leading the way in all sectors of the building industry, including the construction of traditional housing, hotels and offices.
Tingdene Group, Bradfield Road, Finedon Road Inductrail Estate, Wellingborough, Northants NN8 4HB. Tel: 01933 230130
This review was published in our November 2009 issue of Park & Holiday Homes magazine. To order our latest issue please click here.
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