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From an interview by Rae Drage 15th September 2008. Transcribed by Jacky Lawrence
Brian Hill & Marriotts
Marriott's Offices in Higham Road Rushden
Marriott's Offices Higham Road

I must admit Monday 29th July 1963 certainly sticks in my memory, that is the day I started at Marriott’s. We weren’t Marriott Construction then we were Robert Marriott Ltd. and in fact the company then was Marriott’s through and through. The Managing Director was Colonel Marriott and he was a, shall we say a stickler for, well, I suppose you’d say for management, control and discipline. He was the sort of man that if he came into the room and he’d got Directors or anybody else with him you'd have stood up out of courtesy.

I started in the accounts department I suppose as the little office junior on about £3 10s a week. I lived in Wellingborough at the time, caught the ten to eight bus from Wellingborough into Rushden and got to the Lightstrung at about ten past eight. I walked along the High Street to Marriott’s offices which were then at the bottom opposite the Queen Victoria Hotel. There was Birch’s Buses, the railway bridge was still there and the trains, I think the passenger trains had probably stopped by then, but there was certainly a goods train in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the old house, in the cottages there, I used to enjoy sitting looking out the window watching the trains go across the railway bridge.

Good days, a lot of people in the offices then, no computers, it was all pens, pencils, scraps of paper but I did enjoy it, I really did. Completely different from what it is now, 1963 seems a long while ago and as I say I was in the accounts department I suppose doing well, mundane jobs. In the meantime we’ve changed names, from Robert Marriott’s we’ve been Marriott Ltd. French Keir Marriott’s, we’ve had lots of names but now we’re under the Keir Group banner. 1963 accounts department and I suppose I’ve been dealing with accounts all my life really in Marriott’s, passing invoices doing things like that. You’d know everybody: everybody wanted to stop and talk to you.

Luckily one of the first questions I was asked when I started at Marriott’s. ‘Have you got any hobbies?’ and I said. ‘ Well yes I do a bit of stamp collecting, match box tops things like that,’ and they showed an interest. Then, I said something that’s stuck with me right the way through my time here. I said, ‘I’ve just learnt,' or, 'I’m just taking up the hobby,' as it was then, 'of being a football referee.’ Ears pricked up and I’ve got to say too that Marriott’s did encourage me to be a football referee. I did reach the pinnacle of refereeing. Football League refereeing in the Premier League: refereeing international football round the world, FA cup finals. I’ve got a lot to thank Marriott’s for, they did sort of set me on the road to stardom, if you like, in the football circle. They were good, they encouraged me and I had as much time off as I needed for football. I suppose you could say certain managing directors were better than others. But I’ve enjoyed it the ups and downs, yes by all means.

Picture of The Cricket Team 1936 with the founder Robert Marriott far left
Marriott's Cricket Team 1936
I suppose there wasn’t as much to do at nights so we had a social club. For my sins I still run what is called the Keir Group Fellowship Trust which is for people that have retired from the company or have worked twenty five years plus. We do coach trips, we have weekends away, so we’re up to everything that’s going. The trips we did in those days would always be twice a year to Blue Circle Cement Bromley in Kent. We’d do that I suppose June time, we used to take a cricket team because the other thing I should say Marriott’s were very sport orientated. Marriott’s always had a cricket team, not so much football and they’ve also been good at sponsoring. They still sponsor I believe, or get involved with, the Saints rugby; certainly Rushden & Diamonds, when they were in the league, they were staunch supporters of them. When I started here they used to bring people from the North East of England and if they were any good at sport they’d play for Rushden Town football or cricket and certainly be given a job as a bricklayer, carpenter by Robert Marriott’s.

What do we do now is trips, well evening theatre trips and we certainly probably do three trips abroad every year. Last year we had a cruise, fourteen day cruise to Nova Scotia. Mystery trips, that’s one of the favourites that people like. You won’t believe that last weekend we were going on a mystery trip. We’d planned to go to the North of England to the Lake District but the weather was so good on the morning we spoke to the drivers and we changed it and went to Torquay and Brixham. Now how about that for a day out, 568 miles, people enjoyed it, and if you can get the support people want to be part of it, that’s great.

Picture showing workers in Marriott's Yard
Marriott's Yard

The characters, a lot of them, we still meet up and a lot of them still keep coming. People like Frank Furlong, Ron Woodhams they were good craftsmen in the day and sadly that is what’s missing. The other thing of course is when Robert Marriott’s were going and I started we had one thousand five hundred plus direct men on the payroll and we did the wages for them all by hand, wonderful. Now we are probably down to twenty four direct actual workers because everything now is sub-contract. If we get a big job, and I mean jobs now are up to twenty million pounds, if we get jobs it’s all let as sub-contract packages.

We need ground workers, bricklaying gangs, carpenters, painters, finishers, plasterers, everything. All we’ve got now is what I would call, in inverted commas, gophers. One man, one van that’s on a site that goes to do the small jobs, fetching this, fetching that. Office staff, we’ve got plenty of them, and this is always the argument from the man on the site. But we have done some superb jobs, we’ve certainly got this accolade. Marriott’s, Robert Marriott, Marriott Construction, call it what you will, we are held in high esteem. When you think we’ve worked at Woburn Abbey, all the big churches in the area. We even built St. Peter’s Church I understand. Birch’s Bus Garage as it was, was part of Marriott’s. We’ve done work at Harrowden Hall, big estates. We’re still working now at Hanslope Park, we’re still working at Unilever, Colworth House at Sharnbrook. We have got a good record at all these places. Marriott’s to me has been good and I certainly remember those days when it was Robert Marriott Ltd. when I started in 1963 and I remember it with great affection.

We were doing big housing sites. We’ve done a lot of work in Milton Keynes I suppose you could say we were ideally situated for overspill, the London overspill. Wellingborough for instance great overspill, Peterborough was another and Northampton. When I started here Milton Keynes was a green field, a lot of green fields in fact, and now you think how big an area the city of Milton Keynes is. I was involved in the early seventies with the start of Milton Keynes. We had another little group, Marriott’s Combined with Drabbles and we set up a separate company called Milton Keynes Builders Ltd. at Sycamore Farm in Bletchley. That was probably one of the first major housing sites that we built.

We did a lot of work, a lot of factory units, a lot of building. I mean even today there’s a new town being built towards Cambridge and that’s Camborne. We’ve done a lot of work there, we are still. We’re doing a lot of work for Cambridge University but as I say over the years we’ve worked Dunstable, Luton, Huntingdon, you name it. We’ve been all round in fact we’ve even had offices, we’ve now got another office in Nottingham. Loughborough was an office, we even had an office up on Merseyside in Runcorn I know it didn’t last long and one in Wales at Penarth.

Yes, we’ve worked Sussex, Wiltshire, Lancashire, Norfolk. We did a lot of the RAF bases term contracts, Alconbury, Brampton, all those sort of places over towards Lincolnshire. And of course I suppose we’ve done a lot of Local Authority building contracts. Kettering Hospital, Northampton Hospital, Milton Keynes we built a lot of them. Now of course also we’re doing a lot of work for the prisons. We’re working at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes. Wellingborough Prison is an ongoing thing at the moment.

We were Beazer Construction as well. Beazer was part of Marriott’s and the older people listening to this will say, Marriott’s, the two words that went with Marriott’s used to be ‘Marriott Build Fast.’ Red vans with white lettering on the side ‘Marriott Build Fast’. And people used to say, yes they drive fast as well, Marriott’s. If you’re being followed by a Marriott van going to work they take it easy, coming home at night they’d want to get home as quick as they could .
A picture of one of Marriott's vans with the 'build fast' logo on the side
Marriott's 'Build Fast' Van
Marriott's Float in the Lord Mayor's Show
Lord Mayor's Show
We had certainly for three years, I would think that would be in the seventies and eighties, we had a float in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London which is good publicity. The Lord Mayor of London was also a Marriott director, Sir Murray Fox who lived at Braddon Lodge near Towcester. Yes, we’ve done a lot for the local community. Recently in the last five years we had an exhibition upstairs in Rushden Library with the history of Marriott’s because when you think Marriott’s have been in existence a hundred and odd years. I think everybody in Rushden or surrounding districts knows somebody or has somebody in the family that at some stage has worked for Marriott’s. Once again down through families, dad worked here, then the sons did, then their children did and that’s how it seemed to work. Loyalty, I’ve been here forty five years, forty five years and I’ve enjoyed it.

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