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Name of Norwich heritage builder WS Lusher – which worked on Sandringham estate – saved by businessman Roger Gawn

PUBLISHED: 08:05 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:02 24 April 2017

Mark Lusher of WS Lusher & Son building services. Pictured with his daughter Kim.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mark Lusher of WS Lusher & Son building services. Pictured with his daughter Kim. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

The name of a Royal Warrant-holding construction company will live on after a prominent businessman bought parts of the firm following its administration.

The first company photograph of WS Lusher Ltd staff in 1924 with owner WS Lusher centre holding the baby and the very first apprentice Gerald Bobbin in the middle of the front row.; Photo by Simon FinlayThe first company photograph of WS Lusher Ltd staff in 1924 with owner WS Lusher centre holding the baby and the very first apprentice Gerald Bobbin in the middle of the front row.; Photo by Simon Finlay

Sprowston-based heritage building firm WS Lusher & Son, which has a reputation for restoration of historic churches and stately homes, called in administrators last year after facing difficult trading conditions.

But its name is set to endure after Melton Constable-based property developer Roger Gawn bought its plant, materials, vehicles and intellectual property rights to form a new company, WS Lusher & Co. Five former staff will continue with the new business with Kim Lusher, the great-granddaughter of company founder William Lusher, among them while former director Mark Lusher will continue as a consultant.

Mr Gawn, who owns Melton Constable Hall as well as sites such as Tattersett Business Park, said: “WS Lusher had an excellent reputation and it’s that reputation that needs to be protected and enhanced, if that is possible.

“It is always sad to see a company get into difficulties.”

Developer Roger Gawn in the gardens of the former Bethel Hospital. Photo : Steve AdamsDeveloper Roger Gawn in the gardens of the former Bethel Hospital. Photo : Steve Adams

Administrator Chris Williams, of McTear Williams & Wood in Norwich, said high overheads, with a workforce of nearly 40 people and few sub-contractors, had led to the firm’s insolvency.

He said: “The firm had a couple of contracts which didn’t go very well, it had a highly skilled staff and wasn’t able to make the necessary cuts.”

Much of the workforce was laid off during the administration with a few staying on to oversee remaining contracts.

Mr Gawn said he was keen to build a core of high quality permanent staff. He said: “I am a bit traditional and I think there is a way to do it by having a lot of permanent employees, but also mixing and matching.

“Through the difficult times for the construction industry during the recession, many people went on their own so there are highly skilled people out there working independently.”

Mr Gawn said he could see staff numbers doubling to 10 but said the firm would pick and choose contracts and “walk before it tries to run”. He added the company was already working at Melton Constable and contact with former clients had been well received.

“It is not yet known if WS Lusher will continue at the former firm’s Sprowston site, which was put up for sale last year.

History of WS Lusher & Son

WS Lusher was founded in 1924 by William Lusher at his home in Tillett Road, Sprowston, before moving to the most recent site at School Lane.

In 1978 it was awarded the Royal Warrant of Appointment for annual maintenance at Sandringham House after building its reputation for restoration work of stately homes and churches.

The firm has worked on projects at historic sites such as Norwich Cathedral, Breccles Hall, near Thetford, and Blickling Hall.

Lusher even took part in the filming for blockbuster film Jack and the Giant Slayer, helping to build part of the set at the cathedral.

Before it entered administration the company had been run by four generations of the Lusher family with Kim Lusher, great-grandaughter of its founder, the most recent to take on its management alongside her father Mark.

Roger Gawn

Roger Gawn, director of the newly formed W S Lusher & Co, has a long established relationship with some of the historic buildings of Norfolk.

As well as owning Melton Constable Hall, he has owned the Customs House and Purfleet House, in King’s Lynn, and been involved in restoration projects at Bethel Hospital and Colegate in Norwich. Mr Gawn is also known for owning part of the land which makes up the Tattersett tyre mountain, near Fakenham. More than 600,000 vehicle tyres were dumped on part of the Sculthorpe aerodrome which is now part of Tattersett Business Park and the developer has proposed a recycling centre to remove the eyesore. The businessman previously was forced into bankruptcy by Norwich Union in 1995 after the collapse of his property development empire, which included the Merchants Court development near Colegate.

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