Centrewire’s origins were originally based in Warrington, Cheshire on 1st April 1980 when the company was founded by Tom Bindoff along with business partner Sue Springhall. The core business lay in wire, particularly Concertina wire for the military along with other wire mesh products – hence the name Centrewire, the name derived from the actual process of laying the first strands of wire on the mesh making machine during the manufacturing process.
Away from business life Tom has always been (and still is for that matter) a very keen walker. Based in Oxford and a volunteer warden for a section of the Ridgeway close to his then home in Lewknor, Tom used to organise walking groups of up to 30 to 40 people at a time. The problem was that there were numerous stiles of various types along the routes and many elder members would find it difficult getting over them along with getting dogs through so getting everyone over at each stile could be a lengthy process.
It occurred to Tom that many stiles where simply just of a bad design and if the steps where better positioned, had extended handles and provision for getting dogs through it would make them more user friendly, safer and more accessible for a wider range of user groups.
Not content to come up with just one alternative design, by 1997 Tom had managed to came up with 12 other possible designs and began a rigorous and exhaustive product testing programme which also included a trails area at the Royal Show that year and an open day at his home in Lewknor. Everyone from all walks of life (no pun intended) were invited to try the stiles and pass comment on their ease of use. From this, all the best features were incorporated into Centrewire’s Icknield Stile kit.
Never one to rest on his Laurels, however, Tom’s attention had also turned to kissing gates. Many existing installations were usually very crude designs, often very small and many cobbled together from whatever the landowner had lying around the workshop. Tom refined a basic design so there were smooth edges and no finger traps with the addition of a latch making them stock proof. However, needing someone to put his designs into reality Tom saw in his local agricultural merchants one day some field gates branded with IAE labels, contacting IAE they agreed to make a gate to his design which ultimately led to orders for another ten, then twenty, marking the beginning of a long and successful relationship between Centrewire and IAE.
It’s long been the Centrewire tradition that any new product is named by where the first examples were installed, for example a Chequers Kissing gate. The first Chequers gate was actually installed by Tom himself within the boundary of the Prime Ministers country house retreat, Chequers. As Tom recalls ‘ I arrived on site early one morning to put the gate in, not realising that the Prime Minster was actually in residence at the time which triggered a security alert’ It just goes to show, there’s never a dull moment in Rights of Way!!
The start of the new millennium got off to a very auspicious start for Centrewire in January 2000 and saw the BBC’s Rural Affairs programme, Countryfile, presented by John Craven, visit the gate demonstration area recently set up by Tom. The feature centred around Toms research into designing access furniture for the countryside to make access easier for a wider range of user groups which hitherto had largely been ignored by most gate manufacturers.
By 2002, Tom’s time was so heavily taken up with gates that the decision was taken to sell on the wire making side of the business, concentrate on gate development and increase the product range. A comprehensive demonstration area and stock yard was by now firmly established at Centrewire HQ based at Lewknor which aroused a lot of interest within RoW and proved to be very popular with many customers and volunteer groups as a training facility for their staff.
Centrewire’s first 25 years has seen some significant changes to Rights of Way and accessibility thinking, notably since the first publication of BS5709 for Gaps, Gates and Stiles in March 1979, revised in 2001, and 2006, under going an update in 2014/15. The standard outlines preferred structure and product specification hierarchy to achieve maximum accessibility for all wishing to enjoy the countryside.
Interestingly, although initially the gate side of Centrewire was originally founded on stiles, over time the rational has changed to now where ever possible removing stiles and replacing with gaps or gates to open up the accessibility of all rights of ways routes, a policy actively pursued by Councils (Funds permitting) and other volunteer groups such as the Chiltern Society across the country.
March 2006 saw Centrewire on the move again from Oxford along with a change of ownership to F. Klucznik & Son t/a Industrial and Agricultural Engineering (IAE ) based in Staffordshire who had been manufacturing the steel gates for Centrewire since those early first prototype gates. Tom remained on board as technical consultant whilst IAE got to grips with the vast array of legislation that surrounds Rights of Way.
Although no longer involved in the day to day aspects of the company, in retirement Toms mission to improve ROW furniture is still as ongoing as ever and continues to also be an active member of the BS working party for Gaps , Gates and Stiles.
Working closely with many user groups over the years has been the major contributing factor to the success of the company through ongoing product research and development alongside investment in the most up to date laser, robotic and profiling machinery ensures that all our products are consistently manufactured to the highest standard, which continually evolve to meet the ever changing needs of the people that matter the most – the end users that use our products to access the Rights of Way network.
We utilise the on site galvanising plant which adds to the efficiency and consistent quality of all our products. All our steel products are galvanised to BS EN ISO 1461.
Due to the recent economic climate change within many council environments and the loss of valuable experience, this has put extra pressure onto those left trying to provide a public service in maintaining the path network to an acceptable and safe level for all.
On a more positive note the Secretary of State has recently ( July 2014) approved the next section on the English Coast Path between Minehead and Brean. The coastal Path is a 2795mile (4500km) project that links all of our open coast in England to which people will have right of access for the first time. The new national trail has been implemented and managed by Natural England. (naturalengland)