One of Uckfield’s longest-established companies celebrated its 75th anniversary last month.
C J Thorne & Co Ltd provides civil engineering services to the water industry, public authorities and major industrial clients throughout the South East.
The firm was founded in 1939 by Charles James Thorne, (CJ) born in 1901, who had a reputation as a wheeler dealer from an early age.
He was never the model employee, moving from job to job and never comfortable working for someone else. This culminated in him purchasing a two lorry haulage firm operating from rented premises in Eastbourne in 1939, the foundation stone of what became a successful civil engineering firm.
He quickly built up the business as a maintenance depot and acquired plant and equipment that enabled him to establish the earth moving side of the business. Local authorities were awarding contracts at that time for things like school playing fields and the company established a reputation for having skilled plant operators and equipment such as bulldozers and excavators.
While this was being expanded, CJ continued wheeling and dealing. One venture was with someone from Ealing Studios that resulted in him constructing replicas of the snow sledges used by Scott of the Antarctic in 1912 for a film to be made with John Mills. The success of this led to the company supplying much of the military equipment for films such as Ice Cold in Alex, the Heroes of Telemark and Dunkirk.
In the late 1940s, the old brick yard at Union Point was purchased and offices and a workshop built from where the company has operated since. A current major project is the £5m restoration of the King’s Road Arches, part of the regeneration of Brighton seafront, recently chosen by the Institution of Civil Engineers as the flagship project in the South East for its promotional ‘This is Civil Engineering’ scheme designed to promote interest in the industry.
Another prestigious recent project was rebuilding the Sheffield Park Gardens cascade and lake restoration which won the ICE South East Small Project award. The firm also did the enabling work for the £6-million ESCC works on the Hailsham by-pass (County’s largest single expenditure on roads in the past 15 years.)
The company held an anniversary party at Lampool Farm, Fairwarp, home of Chairman Richard Thorne.
It was attended by employees and their partners who enjoyed a hog roast, photo booth, swimming and dancing to local band, Ice Cream Bikinis.