Wilf Ward - a celebration

From a poor farmer to the leader of a £175 million company, Wilf Ward's journey was a remarkable one. He never once stopped inventing, improving or investing in engineered steel products and solutions. Born in 1916, he died earlier this year.

While working his father's farm near Sherburn, Wilf - ably assisted by his brother Frank as he would be all his life - developed the first of many inventions. The Ward Scruffler dramatically transformed the way farmers weeded their root crops; success of the Scruffler led the brothers to set up a Nissen-hut based production line on the farm during the Second World War.

This was followed in the fifties by production of agricultural buildings using structural steel systems the brothers designed and produced themselves. More complicated 'design and build' projects began in 1957 which helped Ward Brothers Ltd to branch out into new areas. The Nissen hut was superseded by 'Allison Works' - a purpose-designed factory built on land the brothers bought in the middle of Sherburn. Further growth led the brothers to take the financially radical decision to build the UK's longest factory - the quarter mile long Widespan 1 - completed in 1967.

The first venture into metal forming started in 1968 with the invention of a unique cold formed purlin, Multibeam. A further factory, Widespan 2, was built to accommodate the state-of-the-art production line designed to manufacture Multibeam purlins.

In 1979 Ward won the Queen's Award for Export, and four years later Wilf received his OBE. By 1989 Ward became a publicly listed company with 20 trading subsidiaries and a £175 million turnover.

In 1993 Ward Building Systems was bought by The Rugby Group and in 1997 the Ward operation was split into two companies based on the same site. Wilf continued to cast his eye over his beloved creation on a daily basis - he lived within the grounds of the Sherburn site until his death on 19 January 2005. He is survived by his wife Phyllis.

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