Spotlight on ……….Thomas Bates & Sons

Thomas Bates & Son Limited was incorporated on the 3rd January 1927 by Percy Bates, naming the business after his Father with whom he had worked in partnership since 1919. Ninety-two years later the Company remains in family hands, our Chairman Michael is the son of Percy and our Managing Director, Joshua, is the son of Michael. Whilst family ownership has remained constant throughout this period, the business itself has evolved considerably. Having originally been established as Building and Civil Engineering Contractors, carrying out projects throughout London and the Midlands whilst employing over 1,000 staff at its peak, the Company now focuses solely on commercial investment property. It is this that brought us to Felixstowe.

As the Port expanded in the early 1980’s the local council identified a need for high grade office accommodation to support operations within The Docks. Trinity College owned an appropriate 7 acre site but, at the time, did not have the expertise to carry out such a development. Thomas Bates’ were subsequently approached and following our successful purchase of the land, Orwell House (at 72,000 square feet) was designed and built.

For 25 years Orwell House operated at full capacity with some of the biggest names in shipping using it as a base for organising their operations. Then, in 2008, the global recession dealt a major blow to the industry. As a consequence many small companies went out of business whilst several larger firms took the opportunity to consolidate their affairs. Simultaneous advancements in IT meant that container vessels could now be organised by a computer, previously this would have required a fleet of office based employees. In just over 12 months Orwell House went from having a waiting list to nearly 50% empty, suffering full Business Rates on all the vacant suites.

It has taken 10 years but the complex is finally starting to flourish again. We have had to adapt, offering much smaller offices over significantly shorter Lease periods at a rent 30% less than before. Our most significant move was to welcome a different use to Orwell House, Anytime Fitness opened a 5,000 square foot state of the art gym in September 2018. I believe The Chamber is trying to organise an evening there and if you are interested in fitness I would encourage you to attend, it really is a fabulous facility.

Joe Jackson
Thomas Bates & Son


Extract from Bates Brochure, circa 1985.


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Chamber Team

Chamber Team

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