It is an amazing thought, that despite three centuries of being one of the mighty centres of engineering and manufacture, it was actually 1968 – when Peter Hessey left his job as a Chief Engineer – before Sheffield had its First Fork Lift Truck distributor based in the City.
Peter had been working for a company called Conveyancer, who had branches across the country. His employers tried to keep their best engineer on board, by offering him a role as manager of their Bristol location. The family travelled south before making the decision that it was too far from family and friends – and so it was that the future was written.
Being a typical Northern engineer, Pete was embarrassed about his name being over the door. The flash of inspiration that named the company came from a newspaper headline – a story about a bank robbery – at a time when the name given to those who cracked safes was still “Peterman”.
Pete’s wife Iris said “Well, you’re called Peter and you’re a Man, so…”
His reputation as an Engineer quickly won the new company a distributorship for TCM, the oldest Japanese manufacturer of Internal Combustion Engine Fork Lift Trucks. The range gave Petermans an enviable offering of trucks, in both size and variation of handling capabilities.
Going from the legendary strength-to-strength Peterman’s incorporated in 1974 – while already the regions largest hirer of Fork Lift Trucks.
Pete’s son Shaun joined the company in 1984, working his way up from the engineering shop floor to become Managing Director in 1993. His father, having shared the workload with the next generation, became president of the national Fork Lift Truck Association in 1988/89.
Shaun raised the company profile in 1995 by having the team now known as Blue Strawberry Elephant; design the instantly recognizable Peterman colours and logo. A working relationship that is still ongoing today.
Petermans was probably always destined to become main distributors for the original inventors of the hydraulic Fork Lift Truck – and so it was that the company changed over from TCM to Clark in 2001 four years after the 1,000,000 Fork Lift Truck rolled off the Clark production line.
Although other brands are still supplied for specialisms where there isn’t a Clark alternative, 17 years later Petermans are still the most highly regarded Clark distributor for Hire, Sales, Parts and Service in the UK.
Peter Hessey sadly passed away in 2008, but his son carried on the business seamlessly, supported by Peter’s wife and Shaun’s younger sister Angela who started working for the company in 2010.
It has been a half century of enabling the lifting, moving and handling of just about everything that is too heavy or awkward, or in too great a quantity to be moved by hand – from Steel and engineering parts to retail warehousing and shelf stacking – to Film Sets in Stately homes and Shoe Boxes full of Christmas Gifts for Children who have little else to look forward to.
The 25th Anniversary of Shaun becoming Managing Director would be worthy enough of celebration – but given the five recessions, the nine Prime Ministers and nineteen governments, voting to join and voting to leave the EU, complete and constant changes in the industrial landscape – that have all formed the story of the last half century, it is fair to say that reaching the family firm’s Golden Jubilee is a milestone everyone involved can be proud of.