Spotlight - Celebrating 50 Years!
Ray Scott-White and Barrie Hookins photographed in 1969.
Scott White and Hookins celebrates 50 years in business this year
To start our year of celebration we asked our founding partners, Ray Scott-White and Barrie Hookins, to recount their memories of the early days of Scott White and Hookins and how they setup their first office at 173 London Road, Mitcham.
Ray Scott-White & Barrie Hookins worked closely together at Travers Morgan & Partners for several years and respected each other’s technical ability and integrity. They decided that they would enter into partnership as Chartered Engineers, without any idea where the work was to come from, and gave themselves a year to succeed. Hence on 1st July 1963 the partnership of Scott-White and Hookins was established with their wives providing unpaid secretarial and book keeping support.
The firm’s first office was in Mitcham and consisted of three rooms above the Mitcham Building Society and from there Ray and Barrie set about contacting everyone they knew who might be able to help them. In those days work was obtained through personal contacts, fee tendering was not allowed, and the Professional Institutions held their members to a strict code of conduct and a published scale of fees.
The first small job was for a greyhound racing kennels for a client who was a director of Catford Greyhound Stadium and also a hotel owner. Next the firm was put forward for the extension of Croham Hurst School in Croydon which was clinched when it was found that the senior partner of the firm’s accountants was the Chairman of the Governors. Shortly after, a lucky meeting, with a partner of a large consulting practice led to the firm being asked to undertake all the detailed design and working drawings for a large provincial hospital and very generously being paid the entire scale fee for the work they undertook on a subcontract basis. This provided the firm with a base from which to progress and slowly work was obtained and cautiously the firm expanded. It is clear in retrospect that not only hard work and ability were required but also a lot of courage and good fortune.
In order to carry out the work and to be able to continue to seek more, young trainee staff were recruited and the firm moved to larger premises in Mitcham and then later on to Sutton. By this time the client base had increased with a major client, the South Eastern Gas Board, commissioning the practice to act as structural engineers for a number of area offices in the South East and eventually their head offices in Croydon.
The firm’s philosophy was to provide clients with a personal service and with an increasing amount of work in the Bedfordshire area a small office was opened in Ampthill and subsequently other offices followed.
50 years ago Ray and I were working for a firm of a similar size and nature to SWH today maybe about 50 to 60 staff and 5 or six Partners with two offices in London and much of the work we did was associated with Architects, and Quantity Surveyors working in similarly sized Partnerships. The professional personal responsibility which Partners had to accept was required by the specialised Institutions of which they were members and most were therefore required to work as unlimited partnerships. We were conscious of the fact that within many of the firms with which we worked, tensions existed between the Partners who did not get on well with each other! Ray approached me in mid 1962 with the suggestion that we should consider getting together to start a firm based on our friendship. The friendship and the firm have survived and, as long as we were both involved together in business we never had anything but a shared office.
Recent photograph our first office. It was on the 1st floor above what is now a Dallas food takeaway.
At the beginning of 1963 we had a meeting with our wives and agreed that we could afford to give it a go. At least our down side looked just about bearable, “three months with no work, three further months to get back into work for someone else”. Our first office was situated above what was then the “Mitcham Building Society” in London Road Mitcham. The directors of the society were prepared to let the unused first floor to us if we redecorated it and agreed to us having a lease which could be cancelled at one months notice. To say that we never looked back would be to minimise the help of many friends, the hard work which we and subsequently our staff offered.