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Uncovering the oldest family firms across Essex

by Kim Aaronricks

  • Inaugural research identifies long standing family firms across Essex which date back as far as 1631
  • The oldest family business in Essex is M Lucking & Sons
  • The oldest 25 family firms in Essex have cumulatively traded for 4,620 years

Family Business United continues to champion the family business sector and has published the findings from its inaugural research, sponsored by Rickard Luckin, to identify the oldest family firms in Essex. With the oldest family business dating back to 1631 and a 391 year history to date, and the cumulative trading of the oldest 25 family firms being 4,620 years, there are some great examples of family firms across the county that have stood the test of time.

As Paul Andrews, founder of Family Business United explains; “These businesses have been around for many years and have certainly managed to beat the curse of ‘rags to rags in three generations’ that is often referred to. In fact, these family firms have managed to survive an industrial revolution, world wars, the creation of the internet and much more besides. What they clearly all have in common is the ability to remain relevant as a business over time, innovating and evolving throughout their journey in order to survive.”

“There is a real mix of businesses represented too, from funeral directors to butchers, millers to thatchers and retailers to builders’ merchants. All of these family firms have a real narrative, a story to tell and have been witness to many historical milestones along the way.”

“It is also interesting to note that the oldest comprise a number of funeral directors, clearly linking businesses to communities historically and where generations of family members have, and continue, to serve families in the areas where they are based.”

The oldest family firms in Essex*:

Rank Year founded Name of business Nature of business Location
1 1631 M Lucking & Sons Funeral Directors Chelmsford
2 1740 T Pennack & Sons Funeral Directors Chelmsford
3 1765 Cants of Colchester Rose Growers Colchester
4 1769 Richard Haward Oysters Cultivating Oysters Mersea
5 1818 John J Smith Stonemasons & Funeral Services Funeral Directors & Stonemasons Colchester
6 1820 P.S. Shelley Master Thatcher Ltd Thatcher Hockley
7 1824 W & H Marriage & Sons Ltd Flour Millers Chelmsford
8 1826 Gray & Sons (Chelmsford) Ltd Owners of Public Houses & Beer Wholesalers Chelmsford
9 1830 Fish Brothers Group Jewellers & Pawnbrokers Romford
10 1838 Kent Blaxill Builders Merchants Colchester
11= 1850 Warsop Stebbing Manufacturers of Cricket Bats Chelmsford
11= 1850 Collier & Catchpole Builders Merchants Colchester
13 1854 Manns Music Retailers Colchester
14 1857 P.G. Oxley Ltd Funeral Directors Walton-on-the-Naze
15 1867 S Stibbard & Sons Funeral Directors Hadleigh
16 1869 Sadlers Taxis Taxi Firm Epping Forest
17 1871 CJ Townrow Retailers Braintree
18 1872 Daniel Robinson & Sons Funeral Directors Stansted
19 1875 Nicholls & Clarke Limited Builders Merchants Benfleet
20 1881 T Cribb & Sons Funeral Directors Benfleet
21 1882 Maldon Salt Salt Producers Maldon
22 1884 FR Shadbolt & Sons Ltd Door Manufacturers Braintree
23 1885 Wilkin & Sons Manufacturers of Preserves Tiptree
24 1886 Hatfields Furniture Retailers Colchester
25 1888 Church’s Butchers Butchers Epping Forest

M Lucking & Sons, the funeral directors based in Chelmsford, are the oldest family business in Essex. As Darren Lucking comments, “We are so proud that the business is still running today as it was all the way back in 1631, including the fact that we are still joiners which was how the business started all those years ago. One of the reasons we continue as a successful business is because of the old fashioned, quality customer service that is so often missing in a lot of companies today. Also, the care we genuinely show our families and the quality of the products that are made within our workshops and our stonemasonry business help us to do what we have done for generations.”

Paul Shelley is a sixth generation Master Thatcher and is delighted to be one of the oldest family firms in Essex. He added that “being a sixth generation family business is massive and it means so much to me and my family. Continuing a tradition as we do is all the more special as it was something that was started by my ancestors over 200 years ago. I am delighted to be continuing the family tradition.”

James Boustead , Director at Rickard Luckin, sponsors of this inaugural report adds, “Through this research, we have uncovered family businesses, both large and small, which have been at the heart of the Essex economy for many generations. These family firms have been central to our local communities and their history and heritage should be celebrated. To be able to include a firm that started during the reign of Charles I is particularly poignant at this moment in the country’s history.”

“Collectively they represent great ambassadors for the family business sector and it has been a fantastic project to uncover these businesses, find out about the journey they have been on and to celebrate the family business model as one of longevity and ongoing contribution to the communities in which they operate so many years since they were founded,” continues James.

Paul Andrews, concluded: “In order to stand the test of time, any business needs to ensure that it moves with the times, innovates where possible and continues to evolve to ensure it remains relevant too. Good governance, communication and shared vision and values help but undoubtedly, the long term view taken by many family members who act as custodians of their business for future generations, helps them plan to continue their businesses from generation to generation.”

For a copy of the report please contact

* Family Business United have conducted extensive research in order to compile this report. However, as there is no legal requirement to disclose a business as a family business at Companies House, it is possible that we may have missed a long standing family firm. If that is the case, please do contact Paul Andrews via  and we will update the research accordingly.

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Revealed - The oldest family firms across Essex

Working with Family Business United we’ve been searching for the oldest family firms across Essex. Along the way we’ve discovered some fascinating stories at some truly inspirational family firms, from funeral directors to butchers, millers to thatchers and retailers to builders’ merchants.


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