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About Us

A Brief History of Shire

Shire is the trading name of Dagless Ltd, which was formed in 1945.

In 1945 it was normal for the owner of a company to use his own name, as the name for his company Dagless was no exception. He was a local man who saw the need in a small market town dominated by agriculture to offer a specialist skill of building cold stores in which to store the local produce. The company developed into house building and was responsible for local prestigious housing developments.

Mr Dagless had a private passion for boats and used some of his craftsmen to renovate a 35ft motor yacht . When other yacht owners saw the standard of renovation achieved they asked for their boats to have similar refits. It wasn’t long before word spread further afield and a new industry was formed.

From 1960-1980 the company built some of the finest Motor-Yachts in the world. It was a company that people were very proud to work within and be associated with. Many of these yachts are still in service today recognisable by the Fleur De Lys symbol depicted in gold on their stern.

The Yacht building business carried on successfully until ironically Ted Heath became Prime Minister. He devastated the luxury yacht business by abolishing the marine mortgage and raising VAT to 25% on luxury items. The heart was ripped out of a once very fine business. Survival was the only criteria, the business wound down loosing large sums of money on the way. The premises were put up for sale but due to the deep recession of the time could not be sold and the bank was pressing for repayment of loans.

In exchange for the companies debts the present day owner took over the business in 1981.

The company took on a new direction benefiting from its location adjacent to the port of Wisbech and expertise from the new owner within the timber trade.

The company pioneered the importation of pre-machined timber from planing mills in Sweden and combined this trade with the manufacture of window frames and doors. With limited resources and loan interest rates of some 18% recovery and repayment of debt was slow.

In 1983 the company launched a range of Garden buildings at the NEC Glee exhibition under the trading name of Shire. The range was innovative in terms of design and incorporated features it was well received by the market. As a result Shire were swamped with orders and so lead by this created market the direction of the company changed.

With limited resources and high interest rates it was difficult for Shire to invest the large sums necessary to capitalise on the market they had created. However the company continued to strengthen and grow at a pace determined by the revenue it was generating.

As Shire grew the ‘inherited’ premise became restrictive and so they took advantage in their locality as other businesses put their premises up for sale. The local ‘Pub’, a vacant house and offices, a builders merchants yard were bought so additional factory space could be built.

In 1998 the company was offered a 10 acre site formerly occupied by a PLC timber importing company that is directly opposite their original premise. Shire eventually secured the freehold of this site in 2000 and invested heavily in the planing mill as it required complete renovation and installation of all new machinery to make it into an efficient facility. Two new companies were formed in order to maximise the potential of this asset, Wizzwood Co Ltd and Nene Milling Co Ltd.

Shire now benefit from having within the ‘Group’ of companies specialists in the importation of timber ‘Wizzwood’ and a planing mill ‘Nene’.

Shire has continued to invest in their own plant and equipment and have many specialised one –off machines that aid in the production of their buildings. To ensure accuracy components are first designed on a CAD system samples are then produced checked and signed off. The drawings are then used as templates for all future component production. Where possible machines are computer controlled resulting in a high degree of finish and accuracy. To aid in the assembly of standard sections Shire have invested in a number of automated nailing machines that are controlled by computers determining exact nailing positions.

Shire obtained planning permission for a further 250,000 sq. ft of factory/warehouse space. A new and highly innovative production line for ‘Log Cabins’ was installed during January 2004 with a range launch timed for Glee 2004. The cabin business grew and so more space was required and a site at Sutton Bridge was purchased in 2007. Further new machines were installed along with a new CAD drawing system. Since then even more machines have been added to again to cope with increasing demands on production and in 2014 the CAD system has again been upgraded to make use of the latest technology.

Also in 2007 Shire purchased buildings and land adjacent to the river at our Wisbech site to increase their storage capacity and potential additional production area.

In 2012 Shire began to develop a concept for Eco Park Homes. These are the first mobile homes to meet Full Buildings Regulations and feature a high level of insulation and other energy saving features. These began production in 2013 and staff numbers have already been increased to cope with demand.

The group of companies envisages that they now have production facilities that are second to none and that they are therefore well positioned to ensure future growth for themselves and their loyal customers.

Since 1970 the company has been controlled by the Smeeth family. Mr Edmund Smeeth purchased the company from Mr Dagless. Simon Smeeth took control in the early 80’s and has been managing director ever since. Simon’s two sons – Sam and Ted are directors and working managers of the company. Many of the team at Shire have been with the company for 25 or more years.

Shire are a family owned and run company that cares passionately about its products, customers, service and reputation.